FYI Friday: Active Living vs Purposeful Exercise.

I love to talk about all things health, fitness, and food… as you know. I also like to read about it. One of the greatest things about my graduate program has been exposure to areas of public health that I find fascinating and interesting, as well as relevent to my future career. I have read tons of research articles, sometimes handpicked by professors that I was voluntold to read, and sometimes purely out of curiousity about health initiatives, public health, nutrition, chronic disease, and the benefits of exercise. Linking up with Jen @ Pretty Little Grub, I am using FYI Friday to talk about the difference between active living and purposeful exericse.

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Public health in general has a really really tough job of advising people how to be healthy. In a society that is consistently coming up with new ideas on how to sit more, be less active, be less social, and eat more food, it’s tough to tell the general population to “just don’t do those things.” The obesity epidemic that has plagued most, if not all, of the developed world (and now even in less developed countries) has come from what most public health experts have summed up as ‘eating more and moving less.’

The diet and exercise industry make billions of dollars each year from our growing population. Purposeful exercise has swept much of North America in a major way, and I am no stranger to gym memberships, spin classes, Barre fitness passes, and drop-in recreation fees. It seems gym memberships and purposeful exercise are on the rise, but somehow, so are our waistlines?

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One thing a large proportion of the population has forgotten about is Active Living.

Active Living is NOT purposeful exericse. It is not 5am gym sessions, it is not personal training or 20 mile training runs. It isn’t 30 minutes a day of intense exercise, it is 24/7 active living. Purposeful exercise, you know I love it, so I’m obviously still doing it and so should you, but one thing I want to try and increase this year is my active living.

Standing, not sitting.

Walking or cycling, not driving.

Gardening, not watching TV.

Reading a book outside, not glued to my computer.

Taking the stairs, not the elevator.

Cooking, baking, and creating, not buying.

Smiling and socializing, not isolating.

Hiking, not Pinteresting photos of mountains.

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It’s these super easy, common sense things that keep people healthy, but often get ignored because there are “easier” ways of doing things. A particular example of why active living is important comes from a study that National Geographic did of the global ‘blue zones.’ This study searched the globe to find the healthiest populations in the world. They found 5 groups around the globe that had the longest living, healthiest, and seemingly happiest people (Sardinia, Loma Linda, . These groups had the highest number of cenetarians and the researchers asked a simple question… why were blue zone populations healthier than the rest of the world? They came up with a few commonalities between the populations that seemed to explain the wellness of these people. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, these commonalities were not all food based or exercised based.

  1. Get regular, habitual physical activity. Researchers noted this didn’t mean intense and sweaty exercise, but as simple as walking, hiking, and gardening.
  2. A majorly plant-based diet. Low animal protein intake was common among populations, with the majority of protein coming from plant sources.
  3. Portion control. Small servings of a variety of fresh, local food.
  4. Keep busy. People in each blue zone had a reason to wake up each morning and a sense of purpose.
  5. A social network for stress relief and support. It’s not all about the food, surround yourself with positive people who support you, help you, and hug you – then do the same for others. Mental and emotional wellness play an underrated role in human health.
  6. Vitamin D. Not even kidding… sunshine or atleast supplemental D!
  7. Regular napping. SIGN ME UP. The average napping rate for all ages in this population was 3 – 30 minute naps weekly in order to relax, rest, and have more energy throughout the day!

The modern world craves a fast and easy solution to health and wellbeing but it turns out the entire active living lifestyle plays the largest role in health. Though Canada’s Public Health recommends 30 minutes of daily exercise to keep healthy, it might just be what your doing the other 23.5 hours of the day that is impacting your health status more! Keep up the purposeful exercise because running is fun and spin classes are awesome, but take a walk, cycle to work, and enjoy socializing with others.

Don’t take my word for it, as I scientist (in training) I know that cold hard facts and research speak louder than an amateur blogger’s words. Check out some of these links to round off your FYI Friday!

The Habits of Blue Zone Populations

The Blue Zone website!

The research that started it all – The Longevity Expedition

Alberta’s Active Living Initiatives and Information

Public Health Canada – Active Living Ideas

What do you do to living actively?

What is your favourite healthy habit that you have developed?

8 Comments

  1. Am I allowed to say my favourite healthy habit is running? (You know…my 1 hour per day intense exercise. lol)
    Seriously though, I try to be as active as possible but it is definitely a challenge given my job…ie, sitting at a desk from 7:30ish to 5:30ish. So, I try to get up and move around as much as possible during the day, even if it’s just a walk to the coffee machine 😉

  2. Great post Kris. I totally agree that this is one of the biggest problems in North America and I’m even guilty of it. I exercise regularly but its easy for the rest of the day to be sedentary. That’s the thing I notice the most when I travel is those differences in peoples daily lives and the weight difference is astounding.

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