The miracle of flight was without question one of the single most significant achievements of the 20th century.
Of all the technologies that make modern flight possible the one that most fascinates me is by far the jet engine. Inside that simple looking aluminum cylinder you see on the wing sits an incredibly complex machine.
Inside a jet engine are a series of blades spinning at tens of thousands of revolutions per minute in temperatures well over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Those blades are kept from crashing into the engine walls by air gaps about as thick as a stack of 3-4 dollar bills.
Yet almost nobody on a plane (except the pilots and curious engineers) gives the engines a second thought.
The engines just work.
Of course they can’t pull off this miracle indefinitely. The rigorous physical demands put upon an engine require that it be maintained properly. Regular inspections must be performed, worn parts have to be replaced and the proper fluids must be used to ensure that the engine continues to operate at its peak levels of efficiency and safety day in and day out, year after year.
The consequences of failing to perform this maintenance would be disastrous.
A Jet Engine Has Nothing On You
So why am I talking about a 70 year old piece of technology that now seems commonplace and unremarkable to the average traveler?
Because, I want you to think about a machine that’s infinitely more complex than a jet engine, that similarly requires careful maintenance and can easily be taken for granted and neglected.
That machine is you, or more specifically your body.
The human body is, in my mind, the most extraordinary piece of engineering anywhere on the planet. A human body makes a jet engine look like a child’s toy.
Consider some of the incredible things your body does:
- Your heart beats over 100,000 times per day
- Your lungs take approximately 20,000 breaths per day
- Your organs create in excess of 20 billion new cells every day
- Your brain sends and receives something like 20 quadrillion (that’s 15 zeros) signals per second regulating dozens of organs and bodily functions
Unless damaged by disease or death your body will continue to do these things for decades on end without your giving it a conscious thought.
Maintaining the Machine
Just like a high performing jet engine, your body requires regular maintenance if it’s going to continue performing at its highest level.
So this week as we continue our physical freedom marathon let’s discuss one of the key factors in keeping your body tuned up and running properly: regular physical activity.
Why is exercise so important?
Physiologically, I have no idea; I’m an engineer not a doctor.
You don’t need to understand why exercise is so important from a science standpoint to experience the benefits.
That’s good enough for me.
Just Do It
If you’re anything like me, you know you should be exercising but find it easier to make excuses than to make time for it. You may be discouraged by the thought of the effort and discomfort. You may just generally not enjoy it.
So, let’s not spill any electronic ink discussing the necessity of exercise. I’m going to just assume you already know you should be doing it and skip to some practical things you can do to actually start, or increase, the amount of exercise you’re getting.
Keep in mind that the point of this exercise is not to build a movie star physique or a super model body. The point is to build physical freedom; the assurance that your health will not be an impediment to your ability to accomplish your most important goals.
Will You Commit To Spend 5 Minutes A Day?
If you are not currently doing any exercise at all, then lower the bar and spend five minutes a day exercising. Where exercise is concerned, something is better than nothing and something is enough to start feeling the benefits.
You don’t need a gym membership, you don’t need to go buy a bunch of workout gear, you don’t need a jogging suit or expensive running shoes and you don’t need a workout video to follow. All of those things present opportunities for excuses to not get started.
Find some loose clothes, put on a pair of shoes and pick 5 minutes
What Should You Do With Your 5 Minutes?
That’s up to you but I’d recommend you include the following:
- 1-2 strength building exercises
- Something aerobic to get your heart going.
My 5 minute workout consists of about 1 minute of stretching, 50 pushups, 40 situps and 100 jumping jacks.
This is great because I can do it right in my living room and get right back to the other things I want to be working on.
Do whatever works for you. Maybe you aren’t able to do pushups or jumping jacks. That’s fine. Go outside, stretch, walk to the end of the block at a faster pace than you normally walk, go back home and give yourself credit for the day.
Benefits of the 5 Minute Workout
The 5 minute workout is not a great workout but that’s not the point.
The point of the 5 minute workout is that it’s easy. So it serves to help you overcome the dread of working out so you can start building the habit of exercising into your daily schedule.
Additionally, doing these couple of exercises is enough to get your lungs working and your heart rate up briefly. Even this minimal effort will leave you feeling stronger, more energized and your mind sharper.
Other Ideas for the Busy and Ambitious
Once you’ve established the habit of exercising here are some other ideas for workouts that offer a great combination of strength building and aerobic exercise. These will get your heart and lungs working and can be done in 5-10 minutes per day.
The 7 Minute Workout
This is an app available from Johnson & Johnson. I enjoy this workout because it offers a good total body workout. The app walks you through the workout demonstrating the proper technique for each exercise and keeps time for you. It can also be done quickly and doesn’t require special equipment so it’s a great option for travelers who want something they can do in a hotel room.
Tabata Intervals consist of doing an aerobic exercise at maximum intensity for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated 8 times for a total workout time of 4 minutes.
After I finished grad school I started doing Tabata Intervals on an exercise bike. Over the course of 5 months, doing nothing more than eating better and a daily 4 minute bike workout I lost 25 pounds and had more energy than at any time since high school.
This is an extremely easy way to score some extra exercise points. You’ve gotta walk anyway, pick up the pace a little and burn a few extra calories.
I recently started parking where I have to walk about 5 minutes to get to my office. I just walk as fast as I can to my office and find it’s enough to get my heart and lungs going again. During the day as I walk to other people’s offices or to the factory I walk as fast as I can and get the same benefit. I’ve been surprised at how much better this makes me feel throughout the day.
Get a Free Bonus by Getting Outside
A few weeks ago my friends at Family Unity Adventures posted a great piece about the benefits of playing outside. Among other things they pointed out how much better you feel when you’re breathing outside air. I had never really noticed how stale the air can be inside but I decided to give their suggestion a try.
So for the last few weeks I’ve started stepping outside in the morning to do my jumping jacks on the front porch. The results have been amazing. Spending that couple of minutes outside, breathing in the cool morning air leaves me feeling so much more exhilarated, refreshed and almost clean inside. It’s been an incredible and completely free boost to my workout.
So get outside. Whenever possible get outside and breathe fresh air into your lungs and see how much better you feel.
A Huge Difference
Forget scientific studies or medical reports about the benefits of exercise. Like so many things in life the real benefits of exercise must be experienced to be understood.
So just do it.
The benefits will be apparent within days. You’ll feel stronger, you’ll have more energy, you’re mind will be sharper, your heart will feel healthier and you’ll carry yourself more confidently.
Don’t kill yourself. Don’t start extreme workouts that will burn you out and discourage you from continuing. Commit to spending just 5 minutes a day. Start experiencing the benefits of those 5 minutes and then decide how you want to expand from there.
I can promise you that before long you’ll consider those 5 of the most valuable minutes of your day.