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Beacon blog: Get up and move!

Despite all of our modern conveniences and all of our carefully thought out philosophies and all of our civilized contrivances ... our clothes and cars and technology ... we are, in the end, mammals. It's a fact we seem to forget.

Among the most significant impacts of civilization on our animal existence is that we have become freakishly sedentary. No other animal sits around us much as we do.

(Even the incredibly slow moving sloth is strong enough to hang from tree limbs for an entire lifetime, so don't even go there.)

Our bodies were born to move and yet so many of us don't do anything more than lead our modern lives and seemingly think that walking from the house to the car and from the car to the office is enough to stay healthy. It's not.

"Hey man, I'm really busy!" I've heard that before.

Or what about this one: "My uncle was healthy as a horse and died early anyway."

For me, both of those viewpoints miss the mark. Busy is a matter of priorities. And health should be more about current quality of life than some effort to live forever ... it's not a fountain of youth, after all.

So what's a busy, modern human to do?

Well, for starters, we are designed to walk. If you are still able to walk, I recommend you do more of it.

I have a dog, so naturally I walk everyday. You'll find me and Dozer in Tower Grove Park around 6:30 every weekday morning. I won't enumerate all the benefits of walking, but I can tell you that I rarely experience lower back pain and my resting heart rate is just this side of dead.

So set your alarm 30 minutes early, lay out some shorts and walking shoes and try it tomorrow morning. I choose mornings because walking elevates your metabolism for the rest of the day and my evenings are generally busy, but do whatever works for you.

While walking is great, my fitness level really changed a year and half ago when a dance instructor friend talked me into taking his African dance class.

Just so we're clear, I'm a 43-year-old white guy with no dance experience whatsoever.

I was skeptical at first, but the instructor is a really wonderful person and the whole reason we became acquainted was that a mutual friend introduced us so I could provide some pro bono advice about fund raising. I figured it would be a good idea for me to have a little first-hand experience with the organization if I was going to advise them about development.

At first I felt awkward. There was the drum to listen to and the steps to follow and me with no experience and my tremendous fear of public humiliation.

"How is this gonna work?" I asked myself.

But I quickly appreciated what this very athletic form of dance was doing for my stamina, flexibility and overall strength. My posture is better, I carry myself with more confidence, and I figure if I'm ever challenged to a dance-off I may stand of chance of winning.

Dance is a great way to move your body and its fun. Its exaggerated movement and the required coordination mean your body gets a great workout; the fun of it means you don't really pay attention to how much you're sweating.

Unlike daily walking, which I think everyone who can walk should start doing, dance is my example of how you can find something fun to use for your work out. Whether you take up jogging, racquetball, tennis, swimming, biking (another one of my favorites) choose something you enjoy and stick with it.

Being physically fit is a way of life that doesn't necessarily guarantee longevity, but will certain improve your life while you live it. You don't have to be a swimsuit model or an elite athlete. Whatever you do that improves your fitness level will improve your life. Don't get discouraged, but don't let yourself off the hook too easily either.

When all is said and done, your body was meant to move. Now, MOVE IT!

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.

Peter Franzen