When talking fitness with my dad he asks, “What about physical labor for exercise?” He relishes the demands of construction, farming, and operating a plant nursery. In the information age a job that supports physical vitality is a rare “privilege.”
Although the human body is designed for rigorous work, we have engineered our way out of it. As a fitness trainer I’m paid to devise artificial labor for the desk-bound. One colleague joked that his clients should carry him around town in a rickshaw. (He acknowledged that wouldn’t be a sound business strategy.)
Desk jockeys often say they “don’t work with their bodies.” I contend that we all work with our bodies. How could you possibility report for duty without your body?
Regardless of our professional demands, exercise can be an antidote. Whether operating a PC or a hammer, our jobs take a toll on the body and mind. Repetitive tasks limit our movement variability and build habitual postures. Office work especially locks us into a narrow range of motion.
Unfortunately, modern gyms perpetuate many of our work patterns. We stay inside, stare at screens, and sit on equipment that supposedly makes us stronger. Exercise feels like work!
I suggest we reframe fitness by unplugging from the machines and inviting some playful curiosity. With introspection, our movement practice can reveal and reset our work habits. As we unclog chronic stress and address our tweaks we realign our muscles and mentality. We establish patterns to build strength and cardiovascular endurance. Most importantly, we’ll refresh our appetite for movement. When opportunities for manual labor or vigorous play come along, we take them with delight.
Without self-propelled transportation and manual labor we have lost the necessity and efficiency of movement. Eventually, we perceive both physical work and play as too arduous to handle. If we exercise to clear our minds and clarify our movements we may survive our affluence.