Foundational habits need to be established within each of us because they will function as the edifice to all subsequent habits. Think of foundational habits as a mix of your default settings and held beliefs. This essay is the first of this series that will include Movement, Nutrition, Stress Management, and Sleep all of which are necessary to building a life of health and happiness.
In modernity these foundational habits function as quasi religion for most. When you don’t know where to turn, you turn inward, and hopefully when you do, you have a something there to guide you on the path of health wealth and wisdom. In short, distill what you do in times of uncertainty. When you have time to reflect mentally sketch out what you will do each day in an ideal world. This allows you to take the current certainty you possess in your thought experiment (I will go for a 30 minute walk rather than distract myself with social media) and transmute it to something useful, a personal default, when you are in a state of uncertainty (what do I do with this found 30 minutes because my meeting was cancelled). You just made an investment in yourself, which will serve you well.
“Religion, therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”- William James
The most successful people know the things they are not good at; therefore, a happy and healthy life starts with awareness of what one is good and bad at. Habits and routines are driven by either pleasure or pain. Very Dionysian, I want to have my cake and eat it too all the while I still get in my high intensity interval training. Dessert after dinner is a pleasure; the inability to put on your favorite jeans is pain. Benjamin Franklin followed a daily ritual of 13 points to aid in his productivity, Michael Phelps’ regimen allowed him to become the greatest Olympian of our time. Both of these people spent the time to create personal rules to follow, which in turn, allowed them to establish foundational habits to become wildly successful.
Movement encompasses exercise, mobility, endurance, and recovery.
The human body is an amazing machine; its ability to adapt and grow being among its greatest attributes. Most people overestimate the amount of exercise and time needed to yield optimal health results. The reality is that many people can achieve their health and wellness goals with as little as 3 hours of exercise per week along with consistent movement throughout each day. Humans are built for short bursts of maximal energy like sprinting and long bouts of lower energy expenditure such as walking.
The typical American adult spends the majority of their time sitting. We sit in the car on the way to work, we sit at our work desks, we sit when we eat our meals, we sit on our way home, we sit at our kids sporting events, and we sit at night in front of the TV. This sedentary lifestyle has been shown to increase insulin resistance, increase lipids in the blood, decrease lean body mass and increase in body fat accumulation. Ultimately lack of movement can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Simply exercising for 60 minutes a day will not negate 10 hours of sitting. It’s imperative we get consistent movement throughout each day to maintain a healthy metabolism and state of well being.
Not only is sitting bad for your metabolism, sitting terrible for nearly every aspect of your health. Sitting for long periods of time can negatively influence the length tension relationship between opposing muscles in the body. What? Think about how at times your left glute is tight and so is the right side of your neck. Overtime your body will begin to develop muscular imbalances that can lead to aches and pains, with some of the most common areas being your hips and back. An excellent example of this is in the lower extremities and core. Sitting all day can create tight hip flexors, and weak gluteal muscles. Your gluteal muscles are the strongest muscles in your body and when they are not working correctly it leads to a myriad of deficiencies. This imbalance can lead to anterior pelvic tilt and an excessive curve in the lumbar spine. With this can come low back pain, knee pain, hip pain, shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
Pairing consistent movement with the right kinds of resistance training will ensure a fully functional body. Resistance training can improve hormone balance, bone density, insulin resistance, blood lipid profiles, stress levels, muscle tone, and increase your resting metabolic rate. However, it’s important to have a structured plan and clear objectives.
An effective training program should first ensure that your individual needs are met. Before trying to overload your body with reps, sets, and weights it’s important to make sure that your body moves optimally. Our bodies naturally move through 7 primary movement patterns. We push, we pull, we bend, we twist, we squat, we lunge, and we press overhead. A productive program will have appropriate progression throughout these 7 movements. Once the body moves optimally through these 7 movements it’s time to press intensities and force the body to adapt.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of possibilities within a training program to overload the body and force adaptations. If you are uncomfortable creating and executing an effective program connect with a health and fitness professional for initial guidance.
Below is a list of habits one can incorporate in ones life to establish foundational habits that promote movement.
Habit 1: Take 10,000 steps per day. Several studies show the metabolic benefit of consistent movement throughout the day.
Habit 2: Incorporate resistance training a minimum of 3 days per week.
Habit3: Engage in HIT training 2 days per week.
Habit 4: Schedule your weekly workout sessions. Having a schedule increases the likelihood of execution.
Habit 5: Take the stairs whenever possible. This is an excellent way to get additional steps.
Habit 6: Go on a relaxing walk after dinner. This can enhance metabolism as well as assist in daily movement.
Habit 7: Spend time doing physical things you love. If you love it you are more likely to do it.
Habit 8: Park farther away from your destination. This is a great way to get in additional steps.
Habit 9: Master the 7 primal movement patterns before you progress to more advanced training.
Habit 10: Do a 10-minute warm up every training session. This can help prepare your body for the training process as well as improve metabolic output.
Habit 11: Get a training partner or partners. This can increase accountability and motivation for training sessions.
Habit 12: Have an exercise program and track the results. Having a progressive program is an essential component to any training session.
Habit 13: Stretch after every training session.
Habit 14. Stimulate don’t annihilate. Remember that it doesn’t take much to yield asymmetric results. Move daily, move in short intense bursts or long sustained bouts.
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” - Viktor Frankl
The next essay in this series will cover the vital aspects of nutrition in ones personal health edifice. All four components are vital to live a happy and healthy life. Movement, nutrition, stress management and sleep - master these and you will master your health.