It’s another new year, which some see as an opportunity to change their behaviour and incorporate healthy new habits into their daily lives. Can you relate? Have you set a new year’s resolution to, for instance, join a gym and get fit? When I used to teach group fitness classes, I’d often see a bump in attendance figures at the beginning of a new year.
Instead of new healthy habits, I’m pausing a long-standing habit. This new year, I’m taking a break from exercise. You can too and still feel good about yourself and your physical wellbeing.
Let me explain. Although I’m not exercising per se, I’m still staying physically active. How is it that possible, you ask?
Physical activity is not an all-or-nothing thing. In fact, physical activity lies on a continuum, from NEAT to elite. Let me break it down with a few definitions first.
Physical activity encompasses all activities, at any intensity, including exercise. What’s the alternative to exercise? NEAT, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or incidental activity. NEAT is all the ways your body burns energy that is not eating, sleeping, or dedicated exercise.
NEAT relates to moving about in daily life. Our bodies need both exercise and non-exercise activity, but much of that non-exercise activity has been lost to technology and labour-saving devices.
So, you see, I’m taking a break from exercise, but I’m still moving lots every day. My exercise break isn’t permanent; it’s just a temporary pause while I recover from an injury. I’m still staying physically active with lots of NEAT/incidental activity, because I know that all activity leads to benefits for both physical and mental health. That’s because I don’t live to exercise; I exercise to live. And I want to live a long time.
If you’re not up to joining a gym this month, if you don’t want to live to exercise, you don’t need to.
Let’s reframe physical activity: All exercise is movement, but not all movement is exercise. No special equipment, change of clothing, fancy exercise sequences, or location changes are required to just get off your butt and move more. If you move more, you will feel better. Guaranteed.
Want more tips to help you incorporate non-exercise activity into your life? Check out my first book, Move More: Your Life Depends On It.
Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.