This is an overview page about exercise. I have several pages about exercise, depending on what you’re interested in:
Exercise: What do you really need?
Nortin Hadler, MD isn’t impressed with all the exercise benefits—he says there can be many other factors contributing to health that exercise seemingly creates, for example, socioeconomic factors. Regardless, he does think that exercise is extremely important to prevent decrepitude.
In addition to Nortin Hadler’s take on exercise, we can look to groups like Seventh Day Adventists, the Sardinians, and the Okinawans who put more emphasis on an active life and diet than they do on any specific exercise. We need to think about what the reason for this might be (i.e. perhaps our culture overemphasizes exercise).
Still, having been influenced by people who possess a certain degree of strength and having attained a certain degree of strength myself, I think that strength, combined with mobility and endurance is very useful—especially since our lives do not typically generate enough activity without supplementing with exercise.
The simplest, most effective way that I have generated all three of these attributes is by using the kettlebell. The kettlebell is a tool which teaches you how to use your body. Along with the kettlebell typically come a class of exercises not seen in commercial gyms and these exercises target many muscles at once, and can develop either strength, mobility, or endurance—or all three. Therefore, the kettlebell is an efficient exercise tool for busy 21st century lifestyles.
In addition to the kettlebell, the simple act of walking is extremely important. Think of it as a skill you don’t want to lose. Therefore, practice walking by—what else?—walking. Make it leisurely, go fast, use it to commute (if you live in the city), and use it for bonding with your family. Walk, walk, walk.
The point is that your exercise should support your life—not become it. A program of kettlebells and walking meets that goal effectively and efficiently.
Get it Together: Movement Versus Muscle Isolation
A common question asked by people lifting weights or doing calisthenics is what muscle am I working out. A human body has roughly 300 skeletal muscles. You are not going to individually target them. So, people think of targeting their back and their biceps and chest and triceps, etc. This is flawed. The human works in movements and the body never isolates muscles—it integrates them. Integrating your muscles to accomplish movements not only makes you stronger, it makes exercise safer.
Which movements should I focus on? Horizontal and vertical pushes and pulls, quad and hip dominant level changes, locomotion, and rotation is one solid approach. This approach develops a well-balanced body. Make sure each week incorporates all these movements and you’re set. Refer to movement-based training for more information.
Fewer is better. My preference is bodyweight and kettlebells. Again, see why kettlebells for why I emphasize this particular tool.
Where do we go from here?
Are you a fire fighter? A soldier? Or are you an office worker? What percentage of your time do you need to spend on exercise? If you’re living an active life, and you have a job with low physical requirements, the answer is very little. I’m not writing to professional athletes or soldiers or fighters. The advice here is for the general public. If you fall into that category, why not select exercise that gives you a high return on investment? A movement-based program with kettlebells and bodyweight exercise works perfectly.