Newton was a smart guy. Knew a lot about physics and why things move. Little did he know that I would take is exquisitely simple, yet effective laws of motion and apply it to not just why things move…but why we move, or not. Today is his first law, which states: “Every body [he always knew!] persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by force impressed.”
Common interpretations are:
- “A body at rest stays at rest until another force acts upon it; inertia”
- “A body in motion stays in motion (at the same rate) until another force acts on it.”
The parallels to physical activity are amazingly straightforward. What’s the hardest part to becoming active? Getting off the couch and getting started! Usually once we’ve started it’s a lot easier to keep going. That’s why you only need to convince yourself to be active for three minutes. The other 27, or 57 minutes will usually take care of themselves once you start. And once we’re regularly active, it’s much easier to stay active. Next time you’re tired and don’t want to work out or go to the gym, just ask yourself to do three minutes of work and then re-assess how you feel.
Typically significant changes have to occur to knock us out of our exercise routine: a new job, a baby, a new relationship, etc. Those are forces. Of course, there are forces that can push back in the other direction: training for a race/sport, wanting to set a good example for your kids/family, a less-than-ideal doctor appointment, seeing someone you care about become ill due to inactivity/obesity. The stronger forces win, so consider which forces are impacting you more: the ones that keep you at rest or the ones that keep you moving. The best way to tell is ask yourself, “Am I as active as I would like to be?” If the answer is no, then start determining how you can get your body into motion more.
In the end, applying Newton’s first law to physical activity is simple, but not easy: Get moving. And then keep moving. Start small: Get off the subway/bus a stop early, park further away from work or take the stairs. Everything adds up…because you’re now in motion. Then make a commitment to performing physical activity on a regular basis and prioritize it. Make it as easy as possible for you to stay in motion through motivation, planning or support. Strive to make every force that acts on you a positive one. Just keep moving.