Assessing Your Current Exercise Program: Quantity Versus Quality

The study of human motion—quantifying the human body by measuring how much and how many times people can move—emerged as the industrial age took hold and virtually all bodies began to move in harmony with assembly lines and other machinery or equipment.
 
At this time, exercise as a formal discipline began to be studied as something quantifiable. Whether health-related or work-related, the key issues became how much, how many times, how far, how fast, how big, and how strong.
 
As research into the human body and exercise continued, it became more and more necessary for researchers to focus their studies on the quantification of movement. The question of how far or how long a person should run was researched endlessly, but how a person runs—the quality of the running—was not investigated. When we watch wide receivers on football teams who are famously graceful; or sleek, long-limbed guards in the NBA; or runners whose stride is beautifully smooth; the quality of their movement or their grace may attract our attention and capture our hearts. But today many people don’t value the same grace of movement in their own exercise: They focus on the quantity of their movement (“How far did I walk?” “Did I exercise enough?”) rather than the quality.
 
Aiming to achieve goals that are easy to quantify can create excessive tension in the effort to achieve those goals, which ends up being counterproductive. In the Change Your Age Program, I won’t emphasize the number of repetitions you need to do, but rather the quality of your movements and your awareness of them. Evaluate the role that quantity and quality of motion play in your current exercise routines.
 

  • Are measurable quantities—repetitions, time, weight, speed—more important to you than your quality of motion?
  • Can you assess your typical workout’s success to include your gracefulness in performing the movement?
  • When you move, do you feel you move more like a machine or an animal? What image of a graceful animal could you bring to your workout?


Excerpted from Change Your Age, Chapter 1: How to Assess Your Current Exercise Program