Fitness Made Simple (But Not Easy)

Every month, popular men’s fitness brands release magazines. Each cover—adorned with a strapping machismo in a shirt that screams ‘two sizes too small’—broadcasts one or several life-changing exercise routines, newly developed this month. Sister brands for women do the same—a sporty, chiseled beauty with pearly whites and biceps stands next to the headlining promise of a new and improved exercise regimen.

I, like many other health enthusiasts, weekend warriors, and amateurs, read these magazines. I comb through the articles inquisitively, wondering whose job it is to rehash the same workouts month after month—each subsequent time matching a workout to a new celebrity face and a catchy title. 10 minutes to bigger arms! 4-week abs! Spartan shoulders!

And of course each iteration has a respective diet plan to boot. There is a standing promise to seemingly superimpose muscles atop muscles so long as you follow their ever-changing fitness prescription.

A cursory shuffle—as if done via roulette wheel—of promissory headlines and handsome cover models keeps our attention secured. Many readers seem convinced that the workouts in this or that particular magazine issue would, as if by natural right, transform them into an Adonis or Aphrodite.

The flux of workouts suggests that fitness is something to be pursued on a whim like a casual game of cards or an afternoon stroll; consistency and stability are dismissed in lieu of expedience. If an exercise routine can change as often and easily as a mercurial wind, the implication is that fitness in itself is more so a fickle hobby than a lifestyle. Varying routine to such a degree that it stops being a routine and instead becomes some vague amalgam of ‘activities I sometimes pursue’ would reverse headway and land one squarely upon a plateau.

Popular fitness magazines for men and women advocate a new routine each and every month. (Can one even call something a routine that changes upwards of 12 times a year?). Frequent deviations in mode or level of exercise can lead to injury; magazine routines sometimes entail challenging, technical movements that are geared toward trained athletes.

To be facetious for two sentences: for a long and belaboured health journey, by all means, treat fitness as such. Leave consistency out of the equation and opt instead for a pattern built upon the current (nonetheless arbitrary) vogue and caprice.

Years of studying fitness and health has shed some light on the trends and fads that seem to so effectively grip public attention. In truth, an effective fitness routine is one that can be maintained over long stretches of time, such that fitness becomes not a month-to-month hobby but a lifestyle. To approach fitness and exercise with a temporary mentality places you firmly in disadvantaged territory: rather than building, committing, and leading a long-term project—and your health is the very longest of term projects—you dally and dawdle about in the realm of inconsistency.

To reiterate: rather than fighting to keep up with the most recent fashion in the health world, the best option is to pursue something that can be maintained over time. The first step would be to find something you would be willing to do every single day. This could be a calisthenics routine, a swimming or running routine, a weightlifting routine—find some combination of variables that would create a manageable addition to your lifestyle.

Before I arrive at The Chinese University of Hong Kong for work, I exercise first thing in the morning. It helps me begin each day alert and I can easily stop at my gym on the way to work. The routine is convenient for me and enjoyable; most importantly it is something I can and have maintained for quite some time.   

On the university campus, the recreation centre, running track, or even the mountainous terrain provide an array of options to help integrate fitness into day to day life. Or at home, create a routine you can do first thing in the morning or perhaps each evening. Find something convenient to better ensure you commit to it with regularity and long-term intention. 

For health matters, consistency reigns supreme. Consistency simplifies and automates your life and begets efficiency. Imagine if your work schedule changed each month. The consequences would be extraordinary, beginning with disorientation and a lack of habits, and culminating in a professional collapse altogether.

Without consistency the same thing can happen with your health.

In short: fitness happens every single day, not every sometimes.

Phil Rosen

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exercise habits fitness health