fitness

When it comes to fitness, we've been sold a lie.

There is something I ought to confess.

I never, not once, want to do another squat.

It’s not that my exercise regime has ever been particularly squat-heavy. All up, I’ve probably done 40 squats in my lifetime – each not quite right in their own, unique way. For me, every dip is akin to torture.

My body was not designed to squat. It’s also an intensely boring exercise that requires you to stare at a spot on a white wall, while trying to mentally transport yourself to a time when you weren’t squatting.

But it’s not just the squat.

I’m not particularly enthusiastic about the gym, either. There’s something that doesn’t feel natural about running on the spot for thirty minutes, moving nowhere, with the dull hum of a rubber track spinning beneath my feet.

The treadmill was designed in the Victorian era, as a form of punishment for criminals. Prisoners were made to endure hours of hard labour by walking on treadmills that worked to grind flour.

In the late 19th century, the treadmill as punishment was abandoned because it was understood to be too cruel to the prisoners. 

In the 21st century, we pay to use them. Or more accurately, we pay to have the option to use them, and then avoid them at all costs for three months before we accept it’s time to cancel our gym membership altogether.

That, after all, is the fitness industry’s business model. Last year, a study by Canstar Blue found that 54 per cent of members barely attend the gym they pay for, if at all.

POST CONTINUES BELOW: Listen to this week’s recommendations, including how I finally found an exercise regime that worked. 

Speaking to NPR, American gym chain Planet Fitness said they sell about 6000 memberships for a 300-person gym. “Gyms want to be this product that everyone buys but no one uses,” NPR concluded.

We buy in, quite literally, to the idea of extreme exercise.

We pay exorbitant amounts of money for a personal trainer, and splash out hundreds for a pre-Summer boot camp. We sign up to the best gym, with the most equipment, and choose the highest package, because we don’t want to be half-assed about this. 

We’ve been sold a lie when it comes to fitness: That it’s all or nothing. To go hard or go home. That we need to sweat and cry and hurt the next day.

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And that simply is not true.

In order for exercise to be beneficial, you do not need to join a fitness cult. You do not need to pay $30 a class to do CrossFit. Of course, you can if you like. But it’s not compulsory.

For some of us, slow fitness is what works.

A recent study identified a strong correlation between a decrease in physical activity and a national spike in anxiety, and when interpreting the findings, Dr. Helen Brown had one recommendation.

She said physical activity isn’t about going for a 10km run. It’s about “making sure you’re active throughout the day, like using the stairs instead of the lift.”

Nowhere in the literature does it say you must do squats. Image via Getty.

We've drastically over-complicated it.

So I developed my own fitness goal, and it hasn't cost me a cent.

Everyday, I complete 10,000 steps. That's it.

No squats. No treadmill. No membership. Just my iPhone in my pocket, and putting one foot in front of the other.

It might not sound particularly impressive, but according to CARE Australia, 93 per cent of Australians aren't walking nearly that. The average Australian walks approximately 4,000 steps - less than half of what's recommended.
To be classified as 'active' an individual should walk between 10,000 and 12,499 steps a day. That's what the research says.

And why aren't we walking enough? Perhaps it's because we're injured from lifting weights. Or it's not physically gruelling enough. Or we're better off to just go to the gym... tomorrow, of course.

The Australian gym industry is worth an estimated one billion dollars, and despite existing in a culture with gyms on every corner, and more personal trainers than we could possibly need, at least 70 per cent of us aren't doing enough exercise.

If extreme exercise worked, simply, we wouldn't be in the midst of a nationwide sedentary epidemic.

If I never want to do a squat again, despite what pseudo-experts might tell me, I don't have to.

There is no trick. No secret. When it comes to exercise, "go hard or go home," is the wrong motto.

Simply, experts have been telling us the same thing for decades.

Just move.

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here.

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