The World Health Organization has identified the lack of physical activity as the fourth leading risk factor for mortality, being responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths each year globally!
Along with the new year, many resolutions are accompanied by commitments to exercise more or harder. To be clear, exercise, although highly beneficial, is not a weight loss tool. The number of calories you actually burn exercising compared to sitting and doing nothing is not really that much. While diet changes will make the largest contribution to shifts in body composition, it is important not to ignore the health benefits of exercising and moving your body more.
Physical activity routinely shows up as health-protective in studies, and many mechanisms as to why have been identified. Getting regular moderate exercise decreases risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. Exercise could even be considered your hormone management strategy. With such strong science supporting its role in your life, regular physical activity is a clear pillar of a Paleo lifestyle.
The Benefits of Exercise
Some of the benefits of exercise are obvious. Increasing muscle mass causes an increase in metabolism, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Most people prefer how their body appears when their muscles appear strong and defined. Furthermore, it is beneficial to be stronger, faster, more flexible, and more agile. There are some additional benefits that might not immediately come to mind when contemplating adding in more or different types of activity to your routine. Regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity, modulates cortisol levels, stabilizes mood through the release of endorphins and can even help normalize your circadian rhythms!
Exercise also reduces inflammation by reducing levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (the chemical messengers of inflammation) in fat tissue and inhibiting important inflammatory mediators. This makes living an active lifestyle key for preventing and managing chronic disease. The anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of activity are evident immediately, even after gentle exercise (this could include a 90-minute yoga practice). These benefits also accumulate over time (another study showed that secretory IgA continues to increase over 3 years with walking for 45 minutes five times per week). In reality, you can reap the big rewards simply from moving more throughout the day and avoiding prolonged periods of inactivity. Something as simple as scheduling a short movement break every 20 minutes of otherwise sedentary (like sitting) time can completely negate the health detriments of inactivity.
Ancient man was not likely have had access to complex weight lifting machines, Pilates reformers or a membership to a fancy, high-tech gym. Although there are certainly advantages to these modern-day fitness conveniences, it is possible to reap the positive impact as well as obtain impressive results in regards to strength, fitness and body composition using a range of movements that are referred to as ‘functional’ or ‘multi-joint exercises. These exercises fit well into the concept on Paleo movement as they incorporate the same types of movements your primal ancestors would have had to perform in order to survive in an unpredictable environment, whether being chased by a predator, throwing a spear, moving heavy logs or rocks, carrying water or a hunted animal or fighting.
The Seven Functional Movements
Paleo-type exercises can be broken down into the following seven movements:
- Running (and other gait exercises).
Incorporating these movements into your daily and weekly routine, whether in small bursts or longer sessions will ensure you are supporting your efforts in Paleo eating and living. Although some may seem obvious, a few suggestions at how to move more will provide inspiration for your aspiration:
When it comes to exertion as your ancestors might have, adding weights into your workout routine will ensure you gain strength and muscle tone. Lift heavy weights with low repetitions to build the sort of physique that could be an asset for hunting (or any other physical activity). incorporating bodyweight exercises that involve the whole body at once are functional, complete movements too.
If going to the gym (or building one at home) is unappealing to you, invest in one kettlebell. This simple piece of equipment will allow you to perform a series of exercises with just the right amount of weight for you. The kettlebell swing works multiple parts of the body with one exercise and provides a cardiovascular workout too You can always trade in for a heavier weight if you outgrow it.
There is no denying that Paleolithic man spend a great majority of his time outdoors. This is in stark contrast to the way most people now spend their days, especially in the cold, dark winter months. Take every chance you get to get outdoors and commune with nature.
Sport and play
A new sport could be the perfect compliment to your Paleo diet. Paleo nutrition is beneficial too and can be modified to support all athletes, no matter the sport.
At the same time, it can be easy to get too serious about it all and forget to take time out to play and enjoy your movement. If you find yourself not enjoying or even dreading a sport or activity, it might be wise to reconsider and explore alternate options.
Have some fun each day, play a sport, play a board game, get involved with others and lose yourself in the moment.
Train with intervals
Interval training is a more effective way to train your cardiovascular system, and it taps into your innate need to feel a burst of adrenaline as you push yourself to a limit. Try intervals where you sprint for 30 seconds and jog lightly for 30 seconds to a minute.
Get an activity tracker
You can make the whole Paleo process more fun by getting an activity tracker. Today’s models not only track your steps, but can be used to track other activities like stair climbing. They are also able to monitor your sleep and some even track heart rate variability.
Fuel your muscles
Paleo meals are perfect for providing energy before a heavy exercise session and replenishing depleted muscles and energy reserves after. Pete’s Paleo meals are chef prepared, well-sourced, delicious and delivered straight to you – no extra shopping, cooking or prepping require. To support you on your goals, enter our draw for 5 meal giveaway to get you started.
Paleolithic man moved and you should too, even if modified to suit your current environment. Modern lifestyles afford you the comfort of sitting in one place all day, whether that ne in an office chair, car seat, or sofa. Moving and exercising need not be a chore, you can make it fun and enjoyable (and if it does not feel that way, change it up). Committing to more movement is committing to your health and longevity. The more you move the better you will feel and the positive cycle will continue.