The conventional approach to getting fit, joining the gym, is failing us. Who enjoys going to the gym? Very few. The International Health Club Association reports that 50 percent of all new health club members quit within the first six months of signing up and 90 percent of those who join health and fitness clubs will stop going regularly within the first three months.
But what, then, should be the best exercise?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a number of different answers. Some will say the squat, deadlift or perhaps sprinting uphill. Or, according to CrossFit athlete Rich Froning, the barbell thruster (squat with an overhead press). Still, do these fill you with motivation to get active and fit?
It seems there is a fundamental flaw in how we think when it comes to activity and fitness. The best exercise is the one you will do consistently and regularly. The challenge is to find something that you enjoy and compels you to participate. Adherence is the most important factor in the effectiveness of a fitness regime.
With this in mind, I do believe there is a type of exercise that is better than others: play. I classify ‘play’ as an activity that you enjoy and actively want to participate in. As we get older we tend to forget the art of play.
Leading professionals also agree. Stuart Brown, a leading psychologist, proved that play continually shapes the human brain throughout our lifetime. Mark Sisson, a world leading health and fitness professional, states that “when we embrace play, we claim a better quality of life for ourselves” by decreasing stress and connecting with others.
There are many benefits to play and this is prompting a change in how some cities are dealing with health issues related to inactivity. Much like in Saigon, New York is building adult playgrounds to get people active. Dr David Ludwig, a Harvard Medical School professor, says “the point is to make physical activity fun, easy and accessible, so it’s the normal thing to do.”
Are gyms failing us, or is it just a simple question of finding something that you enjoy? Zumba, dance classes, kickboxing, ultimate frisbee, whatever activity it is, when you include a social element where you develop friends and a sense of community, you will get fitness rewards and more.
How we approach and think about fitness as a society needs to be adjusted to focus on social aspects to drive adherence and make people remember how fun it is to move your body.
Phil is a health practitioner and expert in body transformation. His services are available at Star Fitness (starfitnesssaigon.com), online or at your home. Contact him though his website phil-kelly.com or Facebook.com/BodyExpertSystemVietnam.