This post by almost-polyphaser Marco Calvo Cruz (I know, somebody won the name lottery, right?) has a bit of information in it that I feel kind of Duh for having never focused on before (at least, I don’t think I have) — and this excellent post over on Minding Your Way fits right into it, too.
The lesson is “light exercise”.
Yes, I do mean “light” exercise in the sense of “gentle / not intense” — I feel I should clarify that, because I rarely do anything “light”, at least not on purpose; and I certainly mostly don’t like my exercise that way. But it occurs to me after reading both of those blog-posts that I do get a lot of exercise that way, and it has surprising benefits.
(I’ll never spell it “lite” again — I did that to make a point, but I fucking hate that misspelling, thank you corporate brandvertising, ew.)
(Bill Hicks break to feel better about that for a second…aaaaaah. Okay, moving on.)
What is “light exercise” anyway?
I, at least, hadn’t pondered this much. But upon doing so:
Light exercise is when you’re moving, but not panting or sweating.
Light exercise is getting a thing done, or practicing a thing, or traveling under your own power.
It’s taking a long walk, or playing ping-pong, or slow-dancing, or balancing on a thing, or re-shelving all your books. It’s doing the stuff that it’s easy to overlook the physical component of (unless or until, gods forbid, something happens that makes doing that physical part difficult — dancing or shelving books is a whole different ball of wax with, say, a broken leg).
But it’s sooooper useful, for many reasons.
…is a huge reason light exercise is handy. Heavy exercise wears you out and makes you tired, whereas light exercise just keeps your blood moving, your breath bellowsing; light work is moving at cruising speed, and it helps keep you aware and functioning smoothly even when you’re tired. That makes it an awesome way to stay awake when you’re sleep-deprived but don’t want to sleep right now — either because you’re changing sleep-schedules, or simply sleepy at an inconvenient time (hopefully not because you’re on the wrong sleep-schedule for you, because if you are, you’re better off being sleepy because you’re changing schedules!).
For polyphasers developing lists of things to do to stave off tiredness during schedule-adjustments (BFLs as I call them), I’ve been recommending loading those lists with light exercise for years, without quite seeing or calling out the pattern. Some of the best BFL items are things like:
Cleaning the house (mopping, sweeping, sorting, scrubbing, etc)
Doing all the laundry
Re-organizing things like books and tools
Taking long walks, or shorter walks that are difficult in some way (balancing, “silly walking”, etc.)
Health & Fitness
Light exercise is why we need about half of the calories we consume — it may not burn as much per hour as heavy exercise, but most of us do it nearly all day.
Or rather, we should, because our bodies are meant to work that way. Health experts have been saying for some time that being sedentary — being at rest for extended periods, instead of in a state of light exercise — is one of the most damaging possible things for our systems. Healthy people are those who move around in some way pretty much constantly.
A total or near-total lack of light exercise is also a failure to burn 500 or more calories a day, so basically if you’re sitting around instead of moving, you might as well be eating an extra fast-food meal every day, fat-gain-wise. In all seriousness, if most sedentary people got 3 hours more of sustained light exercise per day, and cut out the one junkiest food from their diets (for most people I know, it’s soda), they’d be svelte as deer.
And let’s not forget that second link I put up above: I adore the point that article is making, that we have this fucked-up tendency to view our lives as being periods of unpleasant work done for the goal-purpose of being able to eventually laze around and do nothing. It’s sick, right? But look at our big life-goals to see this writ large: Take vacations, retire in old age, die and go to a place where everybody just sits around on clouds sipping tea. And we break up our days like this, too, habitually: We pine for “getting enough done” that we can “finally” sit down and put our feet up and watch TV, surf, or play video games until we have to sleep. The goal of all that work was to stop moving.
Except that it isn’t: Work, moving, doing things, IS the goal; it’s the healthy way to be. We intersperse moving with rest as our bodies and minds need it — sleep, sitting down for a minute, reading a book — but this is all part of our natural state of moving with periods of rest. We aren’t being dragged into moving and if things were perfect or “all done”, we’d just lay around — at least, we sure shouldn’t.
Light exercise, seeing it and valuing it, is a great way to re-program this thinking, to, as the article puts it, recognize that “the ground state is in motion”, that being alive should involve being in motion most of the time. Consciously making light exercise the majority of your day — or just realizing that it is, and that that’s awesome and good for you — is reminding yourself that you’re alive and moving, that the work you’re doing is not just some terrible thing you’re getting over-with so that you can lay around, retire, or die; it IS life; it is itself the goal. And that point of view brings with it more present-mindedness, more respect for the task at hand, and more recognition that if you hate what you’re doing right now, you probably ought to change it. Hell yes.
Now go do a thing! I’m gonna. :D