Sisters pushing back against dire fitness data
Last updated 1/31/2023 at Noon
If you get in about 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a day, and do some lifting a couple of times a week — congratulations. You’re meeting the minimum recommended standards for good health. And you’re ahead of nearly 75 percent of Americans.
In a study that may dismay fitness professionals, but certainly doesn’t surprise them, the Department of Health and Human Services reported last week that only 28 percent of Americans are meeting basic physical activity guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The lack of activity tracks with rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and depression — all of which can be mitigated by getting a healthy amount of exercise. So how do we motivate the vast majority of Americans who get very little to no exercise at all?
“That’s the question of the century when it comes to fitness in this generation,” said Ryan Hudson, who operates Cascade Fitness and Level 5 Crossfit in Sisters. Both he and Tate Metcalf, who operates Sisters Athletic Club, note that, while most people used to have some level of physical activity in their day-to-day lives, technology has allowed people to eliminate most of the “work” of everyday living.
“Our society is set up right now for unconscious living,” Metcalf said. “It’s just been detrimental to us — the ease of everything in our society.”
“Basically, we can operate our whole life without moving our body,” Hudson said.
That easy, unconscious living means that most folks have to be intentional about getting enough physical activity — and most people just don’t want to do it.
“I think a lot of people view exercise as non-pleasurable, and not fun, so they don’t do it,” Metcalf said.
“A lot of people have a negative connection with working out — it hurts, it’s hard… it’s going to be miserable,” he said.
People tend to treat exercise as a kind of penance.
“They go to the gym to punish themselves for eating poorly,” Hudson said.
Discipline and frustration with yourself might get you into the gym for a while, but it doesn’t sustain a routine of activity. It doesn’t have to be that way. Trainers know it can be an uphill battle, but people can discover that, as Hudson puts it, fitness is fun.
“Bottom line is, you’ve got to make it fun for people,” Hudson said.
Metcalf thinks it’s helpful to stop thinking about “exercise” and focus on “activity.” Go for a walk with a friend. Then it’s not about the “work,” it’s social.
Just a couple of 10 minute walks in a day, and you’ve hit that minimum standard for aerobic activity — without really trying.
“We just need to make activity routine,” Metcalf said.
Sisters and Central Oregon in general likely outperform the average across the nation — but even if we’re beating the average by 10 percentage points, that still means that well more than half of us aren’t getting the minimum level of activity each week.
Gyms are more vital than ever in providing a place to get physical activity, since it’s not a big presence in every-day life. Hudson says that once people get into a routine of going to the gym, it can become an activity to look forward to.
“It can be a fun, positive experience and [they] can actively enjoy the hour that they’re there,” he said. “They look forward to it; it’s the best part of their day… they all have certain movements and workouts that they love doing.”
That’s the key: finding movements that you enjoy for their own sake.
Take the time to explore a variety of activities, and Hudson says you’ll surely find things that you like doing. And if you like doing them, you’ll keep doing them. Time at the gym can also be time with friends.
“Anybody who does 20 workouts with a buddy in the gym is pretty much hooked,” Hudson said.
As a coach, Hudson prefers to focus on performance rather than on appearance or weight loss (or gain). Getting stronger, fitter, and more capable is the most important thing, and when you’re doing that, everything else falls into place.
Weight and body composition? “That’s just a side effect of chasing performance,” Hudson said.
Once activity becomes routine, the benefits become pretty apparent — and it’s easier to stay motivated.
“They understand —‘man, I feel better when I move,’” Metcalf said.