Moving On: A Personal Account on Physical Exercise

Published: Jun 28, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

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Until I was about twenty-three years old I did quite a lot of physical exercise. It was an integral part of my life. I biked, practiced karate, skateboarded, climbed the trees, swam, walked, ran, and hiked. In fact, by growing up in the midst of the Amazon my youth was characterized by living the active outdoor life.

When I was fifteen, I moved to Europe. I continued doing quite some physical activities, although it was rather ice-skating, ice hockey, roller-skating, and soccer. In addition to that I still did plenty of walking and biking.

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Starting my studies in college (by then I was eighteen years old) things changed. I moved to another city, and what was left only included walking and biking. Then again, it was on a daily basis, several times per day, and it kept me fairly fit.

Actually, until the end of my studies I felt healthy, energetic, and strong, and my weight was pretty much under control, which had stayed about fifty-five kilos since I was sixteen years old.

Yet, after my studies things changed drastically. When I was twenty-three, I started my job as an IT-Engineer. It meant that I bought car and commuted a total of about four hours per day (sitting in the car) and then spending about ten hours at the job (mostly sitting in front of the screen of my computer). Thus, suddenly I had entered the sedentary lifestyle.

Outside my working and commuting hours I didn’t do much in a physical sense. I was always too tired, and back home I went to sleep or alternatively vegetated on the couch watching television, or I did again some computer work to further my IT knowledge.

Gradually, I started to gain weight, became sluggish, lost flexibility and vitality, and I increasingly experienced muscle spasms and cramps when I used my body a bit differently. This went on for about seven years. Then one day (I was about thirty) while in the car driving back home, I “went through my back” as it’s called.

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It was a very painful experience. Scans of my spine showed that one of my vertebral disks in the lower back region had a tear and was flattened, which made it protrude out of the spinal column and touch some nerves.

The doctor prescribed pain killers and muscle relaxers and I took three weeks of bed rest. I couldn’t sit without pain, and walking was excruciatingly painful. After three weeks I started a physiotherapy program. I was taught some exercises for the back to do at home, and in each session the physiotherapist massaged and stretched my lower back and “cracked my spine.”

Things indeed improved (I could again walk normally), but I still couldn’t sit without pain and not without a special orthopedic pillow for the lower back. Six weeks after the incident I returned to work but for the next one and a half years I worked standing in front of my computer screen. Bit by bit, I could sit for longer periods, and after about two years I could again sit without pains if I used an orthopedic pillow.

Strangely enough I didn’t really adapt my lifestyle much. I think that my work was too demanding and I saw no way to actually make a change. Yes, I kept doing the back exercises the physiotherapist gave me (about ten minutes per day) and I regularly went for a walk after my work, which I managed to do quite frequently for about half an hour to an hour.

I suppose it prevented a new episode for my lower back, but I still felt chronic tiredness, had no physical vitality or energy, I ate too much sugars and fast food, I often had muscle spasms and cramps, knee pains, and back pains, and when I was thirty-three years old I had gained twenty kilos compared to when I was twenty-three. I suppose you can imagine that I didn’t feel so “peachy” at all.

Anyway, by degrees I became increasingly unhappy with my life. In addition, relationship troubles added to my woes, and in 2008 (by that time I was thirty-nine) it was over; I just burned out. In sixteen years’ time I had ruined my physical and mental health.

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At the time, there was not much left than to quite my job. I finally decided to take a sabbatical year in Southeast Asia to clear my mind and maybe get some fresh ideas. I first went to Thailand, stumbled upon Thai Massage and Reusi Dat Ton (Thai Yoga), and got hooked. I cancelled the rest of my travelling plans, stayed in Thailand, and took about six months of training courses.

After three months of training I had lost a surprising fifteen kilos, had gained muscle mass and flexibility, felt fit and full of energy, well, I felt so alive. I knew then and there that I would never return to my former work or lifestyle.

On returning to Europe, I started offering Thai Massage and Thai Yoga treatments and training. I did this about ten years and in 2018, I again changed my direction. I stopped giving treatments and classes, and subsequently launched (the website you’re now visiting).

Today, I again sit a lot in front of the screen working on the website but I do things very differently. I never sit more than an hour at a time. I get up and do “something physical” for about ten minutes before continuing my deskwork.

I also regularly use Thai Yoga to stretch my body, I now and again do some gardening, I bought me a bicycle and bike about once per week, I mostly walk to do errands, and as I have chosen to live in an environment with lots of mountains and forests around me I hike as much as the weather allows it (which is typically about two times per week), usually doing hikes that take three to five hours.

Another thing I do is integrating physical exercise into my daily activities. That works best for me because I’m actually not much of a disciplined person and I don’t manage well to do exercise at set moments. Besides that, exercising while doing other stuff is just a very efficient way to “keep on moving.”

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To be honest, since I again started deskwork I noticed that I need to be very careful with my lower back. It’s still a weak point and I guess it will always stay that way. I also feel less fit than when I was professionally giving Thai Massage and Thai Yoga. But life has changed for me and if I want to live away from big cities and close to Nature it’s convenient to do work that can be done over the Internet. That means quite some sedentary work, but that’s how things are, which is fine.

Nonetheless, I’ve become very much aware of my body and how it reacts to sedentary behavior, and as such I continuously aim at keeping an appropriate balance between sitting and moving.

I’m now fifty-six, and I would say that I feel much better, fitter, more vital and healthier than when I was thirty-six years old. I find that still amazing. Yet, I know that I still don’t live the healthiest life possible; I could certainly do more, and I keep trying to serve my body and mind to the best of my abilities and opportunities.

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