No, I am not talking about stock market movements, I mean physical movements. In this day and age, people are moving less and sitting on their asses more. I don’t mean being lazy, but the demands of today’s work are so different from the previous generation’s that we are getting much less physical activity than is required. The reason I bring up this topic is because I routinely hear people complaining of lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain or any of the numerous body pains associated with tight muscles. To fix this, they have undergone surgery or got needles inserted.
Another growing concern is reduced activity in the sun and consequently not receiving enough vitamin D naturally. Some of those people who became aware of these issues started working out, which basically is just jogging. Don’t get me wrong, that is better than not doing anything, but it is such a inefficient use of time and does not even hit all the muscle groups. Is there is a better way to exercise then? I don’t know, but here is what I am doing.
What are machines doing to us?
These days we depend on machines to do a lot of things for us. Washing machines, vacuum cleaners, dish washers, leaf blowers, electric saws etc have replaced what we normally do using our muscles. They free up our time so we can do more of “sitting on our asses”. I have nothing against technology and we definitely need them to improve our lives. But think about it, people these days use machines and then go to yoga classes (the physical form of yoga, not the spiritual one) or gym (talking about the people where the doctor ordered one) to awaken the sleeping muscles. Instead, if they use the time spent in gym, or cycling or running in a daily physical activity, you would be better served.
I am not sure if this is true for everyone, but I remember the days when my parents used to wash clothes by hand every Sunday. Before the mixer grinder time, they used to grind masalas and dal for idlis or dosas on stone. I remember them pounding on sesame seeds in a stone vessel with a heavy stick, churning curd to make ghee and many other physical activities just to keep the house running. And this while both my parents were working and that too they used to have a 6 day work week, unlike our modern 5 day work week. Just imagine how hard they worked? After a 6 days work week, they had energy to wash clothes, clean the house, cook and what not on a Sunday and still be energetic to go to work on Monday.
Eventually mixer grinders, washing machines, whippers, etc replaced the physical activity and thankfully reduced their work load. But they are fit even today because of the physical activity done in their younger days. These days, we people complain of tight neck or lower back pain and don’t even have the flexibility to bend and touch our toes, let alone touching our head to knees. You can thank the machines for it. Granted that today’s work is more stressful on the mind than in those days, so we need help, but we have to do something to fix the muscle atrophy and loss of flexibility.
I am sure there are other good solutions to this problem, but this is what I do. First thing to do is to move, move a lot. These days we use a motorized vehicle to go anywhere from a few meters to several kms. Instead, consider walking, running or cycling up to the place, if time is not of concern. I almost always walk if the place is less than 2 kms away. So back and forth is 4 kms in total and hardly takes 25 mins in each direction. And this walking should not be the lazy boring walk. It should be a purposeful brisk walk. If you don’t break a sweat on a cold windy winter day, then you are doing it all wrong.
Next, you can try doing some household chores. Up until Dec 2017, we used to have a maid. But she quit because of some reason and I thought it would be a good opportunity to start bending our backs :). The sweeping, mopping and washing dishes lets us use our long forgotten muscles. Of course, there is the stigma associated with doing household chores in India. Unlike in the western world, where people doing their own work is not looked down upon, here in India, if you don’t have a maid and you clean your house and car, people give you the look for some strange reason. I never understood the status symbol associated with it. Nonetheless, as usual, I don’t care about what people think.
It was a wonderful experience. Who needs a Jefferson curl when you can get a nice stretch by bending down to wash a wet cloth, to mop the floor. Why would you need duck walks when you can duck walk your way to mop the floor. I won’t even enumerate the many benefits of sweeping including good shoulder and lower back workout (when both hands are used), obliques stability etc. Dish washing is the only thing I did not see a lot of benefit apart from forearm workout.
With just these two changes, you stand to gain a lot. Not only will you not need to waste time on a boring treadmill run, but you can target a lot more body parts, burn off calories, lose weight and feel great owing to the endorphins released as part of the workout and enjoy better sleep. As I previously mentioned, I never understood the concept of taking out time to “get into shape” at the gym while you can exercise in so many ways just doing the daily chores. But if your goal is aesthetic (build muscle) or sport specific (jump or kick higher), then you definitely need to train. But for the vast majority of the tech world who indulge in casual gym visits, this does apply.
There is also the advantage that kids will start to learn doing the household chores too. Like every kid including myself when I was a kid, they follow what the parents do and not what they tell them to do.
Disclosure: While we did not have a maid for one and a half years, we recently had to reinstate one a couple of months ago (July 2019), because of some family reasons.