Woman does yoga as a holistic fitness practice in front of sunset

Holistic Fitness: What it is & How it May Help You!

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“Holistic fitness” is a term that has come into fashion in recent decades with more and more people seeking ways to combat the compartmentalization of modern life with organic supplements and holistic living. Today, we have our “home life,” “work life,” “social life,” “gym life,” and any amount of other “lives” that are largely separate and keep us run off our feet trying to keep up. A holistic view of health tries to reverse this separation by rediscovering age-old traditions that build us up as a whole person and work your entire body while also feeding your mind and soul!

What is Holistic Fitness?

When you see an advertisement for a “holistic fitness” program at a gym or club, the term will often refer to a regime that includes the three main aspects of physical training: Cardio (aerobic) training, strength training, and flexibility training. In any fitness program, it’s vital that these three components be included so that you are truly able to perform at your peak and avoid injuring yourself.

However, many of those who are interested in a holistic view of healthy lifestyle habits want to take this integration even further and pursue an approach to fitness that sharpens their mind, enhances their relationships, and inspires their spirit. We can find these types of activities by looking at our ancestral roots: How did our ancestors move and why?

A man with a backpack leaping over rocks in the desert

The Primal Blueprint

According to the book The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, our ancestors rarely ran for hours on end. Why? In a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, it’s essential to conserve your available energy for out-running a predator or catching your meal.

The more common rhythm for holistic fitness in a hunter-gatherer community is to spend a lot of time walking outdoors (this builds strength and stamina) and to sprint in short bursts. By alternating between low-intensity movement and high-intensity movement, this kind of interval training is actually efficient than standard workouts and helps you to burn more calories.

Get Your Interval Training On

If you’re interested in a holistic view of health and would like to incorporate some primal interval training into your holistic fitness regimen, here are a few easy ways to get moving and enjoy the mind-body connection of the great outdoors:

Walking and Hiking Outdoors

Walking outdoors is the simplest and easiest exercise regimen that works your entire body, sharpens your mind, and feeds your spiritual connection with nature. You can walk to work, walk to the shops, or walk anywhere else that you usually go.

Depending on the terrain where you live, you’ll likely encounter mild-to-moderate inclines and descents, uneven sections of ground to navigate, and you’ll keep your senses sharp with the need to keep an eye and an ear out for oncoming traffic. If you’re walking to the bus stop, there might even be a free sprint included at the end to make sure you don’t miss the bus!

To increase the intensity of your work, try carrying a weighted backpack (water bottles, small children, and the groceries you’ve just purchased work great!) and step up the pace. For even greater intensity, a hiking trail up a slope or mountain provides steeper inclines, longer endurance, and a greater need for balancing when navigating uneven steps, slippery mud puddles, and rocky sections of the path.

Walking in nature also provides the benefits of fresh air and the peaceful sounds of bird calls and running water. As a way to develop your holistic fitness, hiking up a mountain is pretty hard to beat!

Cycling

For those who are fortunate enough to live within riding distance of work or school, getting yourself a set of wheels and cycling there could provide a great workout for the day and reduce the amount of money spent on bus tickets and gas. Another form of holistic fitness, cycling works the upper legs and calves through pedaling, the arms through supporting yourself on the handlebars, and your balance as you keep yourself upright around curves and bends. Varying speeds and cycling up inclines also help to make cycling an excellent way to increase your strength and cardio fitness.

Woman swims in the ocean as part of her holistic fitness plan

Ocean Swimming

If you’re looking for a way to challenge your overall level of holistic fitness as part of a holistic view of health, ocean swimming in safe waters combines the whole-body benefits of exercise with the enjoyment of the beach environment. The combination of saltwater, sand, and sun provides a fantastic way to keep your skin clear, and standing with your bare feet on the sand increases the flow of free electrons in the body—providing many additional benefits for your health.

Art Forms that Train the Whole Body

Creative types will be happy to learn that there are also several kinds of holistic fitness that integrate creativity and/or artistic movement along with strong mental and physical discipline and enriched holistic views of health.

Yoga and Tai Chi

Yoga and tai chi involved highly controlled—and often slow—movements that are designed to connect the participant with the divine and/or increase the flow of chi (qi) through the body through the use of flows and forms.

Martial Arts

Inspired by a holistic view of health, martial arts developed partly for fighting and in part as forms of artistic expression (hence “martial” + “arts”). As an example, taekwondo teaches kicks and punches that are used in fight challenges as well as slower, pre-defined sequences called “poom saes” which develop memory skills and coordination. As ancient forms of exercise, martial arts disciplines combine intense physical training (cardio, strength, and flexibility) with mental strength and an awareness of surroundings for an integrated, holistic approach to fitness.

Dance

Our final example of holistic, creative movement is dance which encompasses everything from classical ballet to tap dancing, hip hop, social dancing, and traditional cultural and folk dances. In addition to giving the whole body a thorough workout, dance develops creativity and coordination skills as well as social connection and—in many cases—has an underlying spiritual or narrative purpose as well.

How Can Holistic Fitness Help You?

While we have mentioned a wide range of holistic fitness ideas and options here, most of these activities take exercise beyond the development of muscle and include other dimensions, including:

  • Fresh air and a connection with the outdoors
  • Friendship and teamwork
  • Mental attention, memory, and creativity
  • Spiritual significance and storytelling
  • Achieving a practical goal, such as obtaining food while hunting and gathering

Of course, taking a holistic view of health includes holistic approaches to physical training not touched upon in this article. Activities such as farming, hunting, building, and team sports are also types of holistic fitness because they provide food, shelter, and entertainment while keeping you in good shape.

Enjoy getting out and getting fit, and make sure that you sign up for our newsletter to receive regular tips on how to live a healthy, holistic lifestyle!

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