When thinking about overall health, two of the biggest players are what you eat and how much you move, i.e., nutrition and exercise. That’s how we think as adults. When we were kids we didn’t really think about it; we ate when we were hungry, stopped when we were full, and moved because it was fun. There weren’t rules, it was mainly just natural, easy, and fun. Somewhere along the way to adulthood, our minds got cluttered with society’s messages about what health is and isn’t and also what it looks like, i.e., a certain size, a certain weight, a certain BMI, a certain number of cardio minutes, lifting reps, or exercise classes. We forgot how much fun it is to just move. To take the body God gave us and just be active and enjoy it and stand in awe of all the miraculous things it does every day. So as we bask in the wonder of the seasons and enjoy the warmth and beauty of summer, it’s a perfect time to try and take a step back and rediscover the sheer joy of activity, movement, and exercise.
There are parameters with exercise, but no steadfast rules. In other words, there’s no “right” way to exercise. The goal is for it to be enjoyable and fun rather than a form of punishment. The American College of Sports Medicine has some basic guidelines for us to follow including: cardio exercise of moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week; resistance training of each major muscle group two to three days per week; and finally, incorporating flexibility work two to three days per week as well. That’s what I mean by parameters, beyond that, the world is your oyster in terms of applying those recommendations in ways that are fun and rewarding.
When thinking about ways to move your body, a good place to start can be thinking about what types of activities you did as a kid. Did you swim, play tennis, play little league, and more importantly, do you have fond memories of those activities? Here at the University of Notre Dame, we have beautiful facilities and opportunities. Through Rec Sports you can take tennis lessons, exercise classes, or learn to rock climb. If you are a student you can play an intramural sport. If you are a staff or faculty member, you can play on a departmental team. With the Lime Bikes you can easily explore ND or South Bend. We have two indoor pools and a lake for swimming, sailing, or paddle boarding. We even have yoga classes at the Snite and on the St. Joseph Lake’s dock! Barre classes are all the rage across the country, and Rec Sports offers that too.
In the end, it’s about what makes you happy and helps your body stay healthy. If you are a "gym rat" and that’s what is fun and fulfilling for you, keep doing it. If you haven’t found your place in the world of exercise yet, consider looking for activities that connect you to the people and memories you cherish the most. With the sun bright in the sky, there’s no better time to find your exercise groove than during summer. Have fun!