Hate exercise? You might just be much more unfit than you think

imageWho hates exercise?

I’ve written about non-responders, people who exercise but who don’t get any fitter here.

That would be so sad. I’m very glad I’m not a non-responder.

I’ve written too about people who hate exercise but who have to do it anyway. See What’s love got to do with it?

You don’t need to love it, though it’s easier if you do. (And I’ve got to say that I’m temperamentally inclined to think that everyone could come to enjoy some form of physical activity. I feel the same way about liking the outdoors. I tend not to believe people, at first, when they describe themselves as indoors people. But I can be convinced. They’re your preferences after all.)

But today’s post is about another category of non-exerciser, the person who hates physical activity because it’s too hard. For this sort of person baby steps are essential. Today I’m writing about where to start when you do nothing and exercise seems too hard.

In our society doing nothing, absolutely nothing, turns out to be much easier than it was for generations past. If you work at a desk and watch television for entertainment and don’t make a conscious effort to move, it turns out you can get very very unfit. I’ve worried about this before when I wrote about chosen immobility and the trend to home elevators.

There’s a great article about the variety of people who don’t like to exercise, Hard wired to hate exercise?

They talk about a a range of reasons to hate exercise but the group that interested me were people for whom your typical exercise starting point, say walk one minute, jog one minute, is way too hard.

“Many sedentary people push beyond their intrinsic range when they try to exercise too quickly or intensely, which can make them hate the activity and want to stop, says Dr. Ekkekakis.The idea hinges on something called the “ventilatory threshold.” Normally when people breathe, they expel an amount of carbon dioxide that is equal to the amount of oxygen taken in. But beyond the ventilatory threshold, the release of carbon dioxide begins to exceed the body’s intake of oxygen. This excess release of carbon dioxide is a sign that the muscles have become more acidic, which the body finds stressful.For most individuals, the ventilatory threshold is around 50% to 60% of the way to their maximum capacity, though there is tremendous individual variation. For elite athletes, the threshold may be as high as 80%, while sedentary people may hit it at 35%.”

It turns out that very unfit people can hit that threshold after one minute on the treadmill or even after doing the dishes. For some people, the researchers go on to say, just making dinner can be a workout.

That’s depressing, on the one hand, but it also suggests a way out. Such people should start small, baby steps, and not feel at all bad about it.

Start with everyday exercise: garden, take the stairs, clean your house, hang laundry on the line, make dinner, wash dishes, just get up and move.

And then add some fun movement: dancing, sex, hiking in the woods, whatever floats your boat.

And then, if you’re still keen to try, then go back and try the walk one minute, jog one minute route to learning to run. You might not hate it so much on the second time round.

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