Focus on your core
In this photo I am dragging a fairly large branch to the trailer, and it works most of my muscle groups, including my core, legs, shoulders and arms. It also involves coordination as I’m walking backwards, which is important for cognitive function.
Squat for mobility
Here, I’m squatting, one of the most important functional movements and something we do far too little of these days. Squatting is crucial for the mobility of our hips, knees and ankles and it’s also important for our lower back. Much of our lower back pain comes from excessive sitting, which causes a shortening of our hamstrings (those big muscles in the backs of our legs) and this pulls on our pelvis and puts pressure on the lower back. Squatting lengthens these muscles and works our joints in the hips, knees and ankles, improving flexibility and range of motion. And we can practice squatting anywhere, even at our desk – or waiting for the kettle to boil!
Lift heavy things
Here I’m lifting branches onto the trailer. This works the core and also the arm and shoulder muscle groups. We do very little of this kind of lifting in our daily lives and some form of strength training is essential, especially as we age and start to lose muscle mass at an alarming rate. We can do push ups and pull ups to mimic this movement, but lifting branches is more fun!
Bend the knees and keep your back straight
Slightly larger logs and a bit of heavy lifting.
As we age, it is so important to lift heavy things but we tend to be put off by the risk of injury. Ironically, there is a GREATER risk of injury if we lose muscle mass and our bones become brittle.
Most hip fractures in the elderly are caused by this kind of frailty. By working our muscles, we are also strengthening our bones and joints.
Look at those guns
Carrying heavy things also improves our cardio. There’s nothing like carrying something heavy to get your heart rate up.
I know it’s not every day that this kind of opportunity for functional movement presents itself, but the point is we need to look for these kinds of physical activity and try to build more NEAT back into our daily lives. It’s the most natural form of movement and it has a huge impact on our health and overall performance. It’s also fun!
But how does this translate into numbers? For about an hour and a half of work, I racked up 57 zone minutes (i.e., the number of minutes when my heart rate was in zone 2), I also burned about 573 calories and had over 5,000 steps (a lot of them from walking backwards). This is roughly equivalent to a rigorous workout in the gym for me and I felt much better afterwards, having been outside on a sunny day, breathing lots of fresh air. This activity also combined all three movement types, cardio, strength and mobility.
So what kinds of activities will you start doing to increase your NEAT and improve your overall health and performance? Leave us a comment below.
Bonus: Even our goats benefitted! My youngest son, Daniel, and I built them an obstacle course out of some of the logs from our fallen trees. It was quite an effort rolling and dragging these bad boys into position (the logs, not the goats!).