My work involves researching leisure activities in the Yukon. I noticed that many survey participants who identified themselves as being “moderate” to “very active” didn’t go to a gym or do traditional sports. Instead, a top summer activity was berry picking—a form of exercise that would never show up on a traditional physical activity scale.
These preliminary results made me reflect on what being physically active really means. We have a sense of: “Oh, I know I should be going to the gym, but I just can’t fit it in. I don’t have time, or I don’t have the energy.” There’s also a performative aspect to how we work out, like going for a walk in leggings instead of jeans. But we could reframe physical activity to say,
“Hey, I chased my -year-old around all day. I don’t need to go for a run, I already did that.” There are so many innovative ways that we can keep people moving without loading on expectations.
Taking a dog for a walk or strolling on the beach and picking up shells counts!
I know there will be people who will say that leisure activities don’t carry the same physical benefits as traditional exercise. My response is, while it may not get your heart rate to a particular level, these activities offer significant benefits, like time spent in nature and reducing stress. The debate around sports and access to fitness facilities is also a privileged debate. If you’re worried about where your food or rent is coming from, you’re not worrying about how much time you’ve logged at a gym.
By reframing our idea of physical activity, we can recognize that if you’re on your feet all day, walking to the bus or chasing your kid around the living room, that is still movement. And ultimately, movement—not calories burned or heart rate—is the goal.—Aggie