One of those is clearly "Exercise" and the other one is just sitting at a desk doing what most people who work in an office would refer to as "Working" so how can they both provide a stimulus for change and lead to adaptation in our bodies?
Our bodies, unlike our brains, are completely nonjudgmental. They do not distinguish or differentiate between the activities that we consistently do other than for the purposes of increasing our efficiency.
Your body adapts so that it can become more efficient and expend less energy doing your "normal" activities. Your bodies aim in all of this is to conserve energy while simultaneously putting you in the best overall position to survive in your environment.
If in your current environment your normal activities consist of sitting on the couch all day watching television then you get very efficient at doing that.
If, on the other hand, in your current environment your normal activities consist of doing a marathon every weekend then your body adapts to that stimulus as well and will get very efficient at running.
What does all of this mean to your health?
If you are concerned with changing anything about your body then it is imperative that when you are choosing your activities that you take into account what it is that you want the adaptations to be.
For some people that means regularly accounting for some of the repetitive activities that they do at work with some strategic "corrective exercise" which is simply activity that provides a stimulus to improve posture or deviations that occur with prolonged positions. For most people this usually consists of a few strategic motions and a greater level of awareness while at work.
For other people this means choosing activities that lead their bodies to adapt to a stimulus that effectively changes their body composition by supporting muscular growth and/or efficiency and minimizing their body fat stores.
Still for others this means strategically accounting for a previous or recurring injury by providing the proper stimulus to simultaneously strengthen the muscles that will keep that area well protected while minimizing the tension in the painful areas to minimize the body's pain response.
As you can see, regardless of what your chosen version of thriving health looks, sounds or feels like the exercise component is really as simple as selecting the proper stimulus for the change or adaptation you are looking to support.
The other very important implication when we shatter the broken paradigm of thinking about exercise as a means to an end with regard to health and fitness as opposed to simply another type of activity that provides a stimulus for change is how much of it needs to be done.
Most people are under the false belief that if a little exercise is good then a lot must be even better. This leads some people to actually begin forming an unhealthy addiction to exercise.
The reality is that when we know that exercise is simply a stimulus for change then we can recognize and acknowledge that the exercise in and of itself is not what leads to the results that we want to create.
What actually leads to the results that we want is the adaptation that our bodies undergo after we have provided the stimulus for change. So you actually improve your health through exercise not during the exercise at all...you improve your health through exercise during the recovery period while your body is adapting.
The other powerful implication that this has may have dawned on you by now, but if not it is definitely worth pointing out.
The reason why so many people hit times where the results seem to stop, what are commonly referred to as plateaus, as they are pursuing better health with regular exercise is because the body has done its job effectively.
The body adapts to the stimulus that you provide and becomes very efficient and this includes exercise as well.
Think about it like this...
I'm roughly the same size as Lance Armstrong so if we both jumped on a spin bike at the gym and rode for an hour at a moderate pace with some intervals mixed in the calorie calculator would say that we both burned about the same number of calories during that hour. It would end up telling us that we had burned somewhere around 500 calories.
While the equations for calculating calorie expenditure are pretty good what they can't take into account is the efficiency that we have for the activity that we've chosen.
Knowing that Lance Armstrong could ride roughly 2200 miles over the course of 23 days in the Tour de France do you think he would really burn the same 500 calories in an hour on the bike that I would?
It just doesn't add up because if that were the case then his body would not be able to sustain the effort for that type of event. Because of all of the time he has spent on the bike he is incredibly efficient at that movement pattern. Far more so than I am because I haven't spent decades on a bike.
The overall implication of this is that if Lance wants to create a change in his body composition riding a bike would be one of the worst ways to do so because his body is already so efficient at it. It will take him a lot more time and effort to create the proper stimulus for change to accomplish that adaptation on the bike than it would doing sprints or jumping rope.
This is all very exciting for you because when we know what it is that you want to accomplish and we account for what you are currently doing then we can select the appropriate stimulus for change that will lead to the fastest and most sustainable result.
Here are a few key points to summarize the Exercise Myth:
All exercise is simply a stimulus for change.
Your body is excellent at adapting to stimulus and becoming efficient at your chosen activities whether you like it or not.
You don't improve or even get any results during the time you are exercising, the actual changes occur during the time you are recovering.
If you've hit a plateau it is because your body is doing exactly what it is meant to do and it is your job to select a new stimulus for change.