Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What is your Toothbrush Level of Exercise?

Do you enjoy brushing your teeth?

I mean really enjoy it? Do you relish the time that you take to do it, or are you brushing because you value the outcome (clean teeth, non-scary breath) enough to happily put in the 4-6 minutes a day it takes?

I'm guessing it's the latter.

I've met many folks who reportedly can't stand exercise....and I can't help but wonder if they're simply trying to brush their teeth for hours.

What I mean to say is that if you've got it in your head that unless you do "X" minutes per day of exercise it's not worth doing, that'd be akin to thinking that unless you brush your teeth 30 minutes at a shot it's not worth brushing.

My eight word exercise manifesto is straightforward, and given all of the data piling up on the risks of sitting and the benefits of small bouts of exercise, I'm willing to go out on a limb and suggest it's probably even supported by evidence.

The eight words?
Some is Good. More is Better. Everything Counts.
So rather than focus on big blocks of time, if you're an exercise avoider, why not take a few minutes and figure out your "Toothbrush Level".

What's that?

Well you know exercise has tremendous health benefits. So what amount of exercise do you think you'd be able to regardless of likeability, add to your day?

5 mins? 10 mins?

And then, as with tooth brushing, figure out when you're going to do it.

Maybe it'll simply be parking 5 minutes away from work so that you get 5 minutes of walking on either end of your work day. Maybe it'll be a brief 10 minute weights or calisthenics program when you wake up.  Whatever you decide, do figure out when you're going to do it, because simply aiming at a nebulous "more" isn't likely to help.

Next, set up a reminder system. Smart phones, outlook reminders, text messaging services (like oh, don't forget)- use them, because here you'll be trying to remember to do something you're not accustomed to doing, and reminders count. How many times do you think your parents reminded you to brush your teeth before you simply started doing it automatically?

I know more is better, but truly, everything counts, and who knows, as your fitness improves and you grow accustomed to intentional daily exercise, perhaps your toothbrush level will grow too.

Now go brush your teeth!

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  1. That's a really good way of looking at exercise in everyday life, especially considering exercise CAN actually be fun. Good point well made and illustrated!

  2. Or, looked at from a different angle: we brush our teeth every day even though it's not particularly fun in the moment. Some people brush after every meal, AND floss - but most just brush once a day, no floss.

    Perhaps we should stop trying to transform exercise into entertainment and simply conceive of it as one more small activity of daily living: it doesn't have to be fun, you do it anyway, just like a number of ADLs, and there's an acceptable spectrum of frequency/duration that's beneficial.

  3. Anonymous3:45 pm

    Who only brushes once a day??? yuck!

  4. Great post!
    It's so easy to feel overwhelmed, and as though if you don't do an hour of yoga, or running, or gym workouts, it's not going to count. But five minutes, especially if you can sprinkle several five-minute sessions through your day - I brush my teeth at least three times a day - can make a real difference to how you feel in your body, and eventually to how likely you are to take on longer periods of exercise.
    The other great thing about tooth brushing is that it's a habit. If you can attach a five-minute exercise habit to something you do as often, and inevitably as brushing your teeth, it's a bonus.

  5. What an excellent approach to motivation. Somethings we just have to do, we can make them a habit. And then, because if we chose well, exercise IS fun, we get all kinds of benefits and more exercise becomes a habit.
    Thanks - remembering, on those blah days, that "some is good, more is better, everything counts" - is going to help a LOT!

    (I'm putting your manifesto everywhere I'm likely to need the reminder: above my shoes, on my schedule, over the exercise machine...)

  6. Brushing is okay, but FLOSSING! That gets me going. Is there anything more satisfying than pulling out gunk from between your teeth? Like, that was in my mouth?