Fitness: Keeping it Simple

Nowadays, keeping fit has become a key issue for all of us. Our jobs increasingly involve long hours sitting a desk in front of a computer, sitting round the conference table, sitting through meetings. Sitting, sitting, SITTING. Even with more physical employment like nursing or teaching, time must be spent at a keyboard, writing reports, reading reports, collating data. Travelling to and from work we still sit (if we are lucky!), on trains, tubes, buses, or in cars. (The eco-conscious can use bicycles to get around, inhaling large amounts of carbon monoxide and risking fatal traffic accidents.) And to shop or talk to a friend all we have to do is pick up the mobile or go online. Go back a hundred or two hundred years and you generally had to walk to get from A to B, to buy food, to socialise. Our present obsession with exercise is the direct result of the technological advances which have made it unnecessary.

So now exercise has become a ‘thing’. We have to make an effort to do it – we have to make exercise choices. How many hours a week can we spare from the exhaustion of work and the total collapse of leisure? Do we opt for the gym, zumba, tai chi, jogging round the park, warming up for a marathon? Often, we decide to go on holiday to exercise: skiing, swimming, trekking. For a daily workout, you can keep dumbbells at home or even have a treadmill or exercise bike in front of the television – if you have the space and the self-discipline. But simplicity is key.

What we all want is exercise that’s fun, exercise that can easily be incorporated into a busy lifestyle, exercise without making the effort. That, of course, is the catch. Even if you only manage it once or twice a week, a Pilates class gives you the best whole-body workout. Supplement it with a change in your habits. It is difficult to jog to the office – unless your chauffeur can follow you in the Rolls with your tablet, briefcase etc – and the disadvantages of the bicycle are mentioned above, but the best exercise as rated by experts is still to walk. Wherever you need to go, if it’s within a reasonable distance, get on your feet, get walking.

Our old friend Stone Age Man knew all about it. He walked out of the Rift Valley some half a million years ago on the road to evolution. Subsequently, he walked all over the world. Ok, when he learned to ride horses, build boats and invent the wheel other methods of transport came along, but the basic means of travelling was always on foot. Animals do it too: the vast migrating herds in Africa don’t gallop, unless predators drive them into a stampede – they walk. We sprinted to hunt or run away, but long distance running didn’t come along till the Greeks invented marathons. Walking is simple, largely stress-free (provided you look where you’re going), and keeps the muscle groups in the lower body in practice. Those are the muscles we don’t use ensconced at a desk, tapping at a keyboard, picking things up, putting them down, waving our hands, clutching our heads, gesticulating, masturbating… Walking is what legs are for.

In these days of public transport, of Uber, of multi-car families, the most many of us walk is to and from the bar. Our excuse is generally shortage of time – but that’s just an excuse. Your heart-rate and your metabolism need time too. It’s easy to miss out on the gym because I’m too busy this week. But getting around is part of your daily routine. WALK IT.