Are you a sedentary fitness buff? Sure you may go to the gym several times a week, but what are you doing outside of the gym? Famous physical therapist Grey Cook once pointed out that most fitness people get almost no physical activity outside of the gym. The gym was never meant to be your only source of physical activity. If you want to maximize your health, body composition and performance, you need to look not only at what you are doing inside the gym, but what you are doing outside the gym and how that impacts your health, training goals and quality of life.
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Physical activity should be divided into 2 distinct categories: structured & non-structured. While very different, both are an essential part of an effective weekly plan.
Structured Physical Activity
Structured Physical Activity
Structured physical activity is what we call training. It is the official stuff you do in the gym to build muscle, burn fat, get stronger, increase mobility and improve conditioning. It is where you keep track of things like sets, reps and PR’s (personal records). It is what takes you to your goals.
Non-Structured Physical Activity
This is the movement you do outside the gym. It can include things like going for walks, playing sports, outdoor recreation, dancing, playing with your kids and even doing various forms of house chores and manual labor. When you do non-structured activity, you don’t think about target heart rates, sets, reps or times. You just go out and your move your body. While it may not deliver the fitness benefits of structured physical activity, it offers a host of other benefits that are too good to miss.
The Benefits of Non-Structured Physical Activity
Who cares if you are strong, jacked and ripped if you are not healthy. Health is something we tend to ignore and devalue – until we don’t have it. Then it becomes one of the most important things to us. If you have not done so yet, please check out this 9 minute video. In it, Dr. Mike Evans gives an excellent (and enjoyable to watch) review of the scientific literature of the amazing health benefits to just walking 30 minutes a day.
Low-intensity exercise can be a powerful recovery tool. It increases blood flow to your intensely trained tissues and this can speed the healing process. Next time you have an intense leg session, try following that up with a light outdoor cycle the next day.
Important note: make sure that the amount of non-structured physical activity is appropriate for your goals. For example, if you are trying to build muscle, don’t follow up your session with 3 hours of pick-up basketball.
We were not made to sit in an office building all day. Being outside, getting some vitamin D, enjoying some natural sunlight and breathing in some fresh air is incredibly refreshing. It makes you feel alive.
Charles Staley once offered this gem: the best way to recover is to do the opposite. Getting out and moving your body is a great way to melt stress away – especially if you have a sedentary, mentally-intense job.
Over the years, there has been an increased move towards fitness entertainment. Instead of people coming to trainers to learn more effective ways to reach their goals, they come to trainers demanding new, fun, creative and entertaining ways to exercise. Over time effective training methods are replaced with silly fitness toys and creative ways to get people tired. The result is no results and few things are more un-fun than exercising and having nothing to show for it. Also, as much as I love training, there are many more things in life more fun than exercise.
I believe one reason for this trend in fitness is that people are not going out and doing fun things with their bodies. Instead of trying to make your workouts fun, find some really fun things (e.g. sports, dance, outdoor recreation, etc.) and do them on a regular basis. Then, when you are in the gym you can get down to business and do some intense, focused and very productive training. The result is the best of both worlds – a better body and some truly fun experiences.
Less time sitting
While it is not as important as the training, this extra physical activity will use up leisure time that most of us would spend being sedentary. As a result, you burn a few extra calories which help to get or stay lean and get you away from that dreaded sitting position.
Non-structured physical activity can help you maintain functional movement and be a great compliment to the movement you do in the gym. For example, even a trip to the park with my kids can provide all of us the chance to run, climb, roll, hang, jump, land, balance and crawl.
When you work hard at the gym, it is fun to enjoy the fruits of your labor. For example, let’s say you have improved your strength and explosiveness in the gym. Then you play a game of pick-up basketball with friends. You keep getting comments about how much higher you are jumping and how much faster you are moving. How much more fired up will you be the next time you are in gym doing squats and power cleans?
Hard, intense training rocks! However, be sure that your weekly training plan includes both structured and non-structured physical activity!
How about you? What is your favorite out-of-the-gym form of physical activity? I invite you to comment below or on my Facebook Page.