Point Counterpoint: Movement vs Exercise

There is a trend emerging in the fitness community and that is replacing the idea of exercise with the idea of movement. Really Im not sure how I feel about that. On one hand moving regularly and being aware of how much you move can be eye opining and is a great place to start. But pretending it’s the exact same thing is actually a lie. Is it a lie that really matters though? For example Honey and I both work physically all day long.  Not just on our feet but 10 000 steps a day is no problem, we lift heavy things walk up all the hills and climb all the staging. That’s all movement but it’s not exercise. I Exercise outside this regularly too, he doesn’t. But does that matter in the long run? So what are the pros and cons of embracing movement in your life?

What is exercise?

Let’s keep this short and sweet really since we all instinctively know what working out truly means. For the purpose of our argument exercise means doing an on purpose workout. Something like running, soul cycle, going to the gym or a nice brisk walk. We’re all on the same page here right? Cool.

How is it different from movement

Now this gets a little trickier. Overall the idea us that you don’t really have to go out of your way to get a full on workout in. Instead putting a focus on movement all day everyday in your regular life. This can mean so, so many things to different people. It could be those old hacks like taking the stairs or parking far away but it might also mean taking a walk after supper each night. You may find that like me your work, covers you for movement or you might cover it with friends on the weekends. Some people may even pace around their house to get their steps to a certain point each day. The idea is pretty vague but moving more than you do now or a lot in life overall and that counts. Frankly, I think ‘movement” or ‘moving your body’ might be so poorly defined that it makes the term somewhat irrelevant.

Point: Sitting is the new smoking moving a bit is still healthy

Movement makes you feel like you’re doing something for your health and you are. Studies show that little bursts of movement during the day do add up. Nothing says you have to sweat it out for an hour straight to do something good for you body. That’s the idea behind stand hours too. Getting up and walking around for a few minuets every hour really does make a difference. More movement will always lead to more health. Putting a focus on moving more in your life is always a good thing and will likely yield results. Once you decide to embrace moving more it will become a self fulfilling prophesy.

Counterpoint: Yes except it doesn’t have all the benefits of exercise 

As good as more movement is it will almost never give you the health benefits of being a regular exerciser. Most government health agencies recommend at least 30 minuets of vigorous exercise 5 times a week. These levels remember are the minimum level of activity suggested for good health. I’m hard pressed to see someone making a conscious choice to ‘move more’ reaching these levels without adding something akin to a ‘real’ workout to their schedule. This level of sustained activity boosts your cardiac, pulmonary, endurance and really every type of health there is. Unfortunately if you don’t make it a point to exercise regularly on purpose you’re just not going to reach the optimal level of health that fitness can offer.

Point: Movement is less intimidating 

There are lots of reasons people don’t exercise even though they know they should. One of those reasons is that it can be intimidating to start. Lots of dedicated exercisers forget how much of a big deal it once seemed to go to the gym, try to run or pick out the perfect bike. It can even feel scary to get out in your community and walk for some people. Asking people to join a gym, get there regularly and work out is a big ask. Asking them instead to value movement in their life and get more of it in their life isn’t nearly as intimidating. That means more people are likely to embrace it and that’s a great thing!

Counterpoint: People tend to way overestimate how much they move

Here’s the thing most of us think we are way more active than we are! Let’s take today for example I would tell you I worked a 12 hour day on my feet save for a 2 hour trip to town. That sounds like a lot right? We were supervising a furnace install then off to return some brick and do errands. I watered an acer of lawn and I mixed the concrete for a chimney cap, sent it up 3 floors and cleaned up the site. Sounds like a big day right. Well am I right, nope I didn’t hit 10 000 steps or get even 15 minutes of exercise in, yet I’m still pretty tiered. The next day was about the same but I created the garden for and spread a pickup tuck load of mulch. With much different levels of movement that day. Most of us are way more sedentary than we think we are. About 20% of the population reports that they get 30 minuets of exercise in every day, it turns out only about 4% of the population does. If we were to put a number on that it could be argued that we are 5 times less active than we think we are. So without exercising on purpose for at least half an hour the vast majority of us aren’t able to meet minimum guidelines without trying. If you want to check yourself buy a (potentially used) fitness tracker and see.

Point: Its more fun to ‘just’ move

As much as I love to run, bike and swim once I’m doing it, it’s not nearly as much fun as ‘just moving’. It usually involves getting up way too early, wearing a series of lights, only eating half my dinner or turning down work. Sometimes all of that. Truthfully it can get a little stressful. Binding my knee up, changing my clothes, finding all my stuff and packing it up always seems like a chore. None of that is a whole lot of fun really. But when honey suggests a walk on the beach or I’m chasing a 3 year old around the lawn (or house) it is just a really great time. Taking opportunities to get moving when they come up is a lot more fun and rarely stressful. Because of that ‘just moving’ you body is clearly the winner.

Counterpoint: Exercise has more mental health benefits 

Moving more is good for your health every time you do it and yes fitting workouts into you life can be hard and a bit stressful. However, the mental health benefits of a good and proper workout are greater than just not being able to park your truck close to the door on a regular basis. Regular vigorous exercise has huge, huge benefits for your metal health even if you don’t really suffer with any real condition. Research has also proven than for many mental health conditions including depression and anxiety among others exercise can be just as effective as medication. So many start an exercise regime for the physical health benefits and stay for the mental ones. If you ‘just move’ you might be missing out!

Point: Movement is easy to do

When you’re looking for movement in you life it’s easy to find it whoever you are. There are just so many options and they are everywhere you look. It can be engaging in active play time with your kids, taking up a hobby like gardening or taking a stroll on your lunch break. Really anything goes. You could clear time to do something active, change a few habits or just take the opportunity when it presents itself. I would argue that anyone can take up almost any type of exercise with modifications if necessary but lots of people won’t. If you ask someone to do something simple they probably will, which is a great thing! Some of those people will even go on to make it a regular habit and that is also known as being a regular exerciser! 

Counterpoint: Movement isn’t specific enough

Here’s the problem with movement when anything goes any counts. It’s easy to start to count things you have to do anyway or ‘over-count’ pretty basic stuff. For example today I unloaded the truck and put stuff away where it goes today it took me 20 minuets and I had to lift 4 things which were roughly half my body weight and lots of steps around the yard. Surely that counts as movement right. It does but I only burned 64 calories that hour compared with 88 per hour I was spreading mulch compared to about 10 calories per hour eating supper on the couch. If I were running that number would have been well over 450 calories. Maybe that’s good enough but does it count? I had to unload the truck anyway so is it even ‘more’ movement then I would regularly get? There are just so many questions about what it means to ‘move more’. While I totally support telling people to move more I’m not sure that is a specific enough call to action.

After thinking (and writing) this through I’ve realized there is no need for either or thinking on this one. Both and more is probably the best thing to embrace in your life. Have a regular form (or three) of exercise that you schedule into your life but be open to adding to that or making substitutions from time to time. Have you decided to move more in your life? Leave it in the comments below!

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