When we think about MOVEMENT we automatically think of structured Exercise, as in hitting the gym, hiring a personal trainer and doing crunches until miraculously a six pack shows up in our abdomen. But moving our bodies is about so much more than trying to look a certain way and hitting our target heart rate. Movement is liberating and confidence building because as we develop a body that moves well we see and feel our health and overall well -being improve.
MOVEMENT IS EMBEDDED IN OUR DNA
When I encourage people to ‘MOVE’ I’m not suggesting they avoid the gym or that they give up on their spin or zumba classes. What I mean is we should try to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and make ‘Movement’ a daily priority.
Humans are hunters and gatherers by nature, so during the Stone Age we were either chasing after our next meal or running from a predator to avoid being someone else’s dinner. Movement and exercise were part of daily life. Our bodies were designed with movement in mind and we are not meant to sit in a car for hours in traffic, or at a computer for eight hours with no time or energy left to be active. Our bodies are really just a huge pile of interconnected levers where movement of one lever affects movement of another. By that I mean stiff knees and ankles can affect movement of the low back.
WHY ‘NOT’ SIT?
‘Working out’ is just another way to get our bodies to do what we know is engrained in our DNA- to MOVE. Although we move a lot less than our ancestors, movement is still programmed into the human brain so when we are sedentary for too long we interfere with the body’s way of keeping all systems running smoothly. With inactivity and lack of movement we adopt the ‘Use it or Lose it” rule. Any joint or muscle that is not used will lose part of its function and movement will become difficult and eventually painful. When we lose flexibility in our muscles, joints and ligaments we get creaky knees and stiff backs making us feel a lot older than our chronologic age. There is no way I want to feel older than I am!!!
Studies show that those who sit most of the day either at work or at home have:
- Slowed metabolism
- Chronic lower back
- Varicose veins
- Problems associated with poor posture
GET UP AND GO!!!
When we ‘Move’ we contract our muscles, we apply a healthy load to our connective tissue which helps to maintain the integrity of our bones. We improve our circulation which releases ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins. They act as a trigger for other healthy body reactions. When our brain senses movement it tells our body to use fat as energy and any extra will be used for repair and will not be stored as fat.
Movement has a positive effect on our immune function since our lymphatic system does not have a heart to keep lymph moving. It relies on breathing, walking, and any activity that causes muscles to contract and relax. So if you’re hoping to avoid getting sick during flu season leading an active life all year long is the way to go.
Depression and Anxiety have both been linked to inactivity. Regular ‘movement’ is another way to stimulate those natural feel good chemicals within the brain which enhance feelings of well-being. We can reduce the effects of stress on our body by moving it. I believe that movement is mediation in motion because when you engage in movement the mind is focused on the body, leaving little time for stressful thoughts. So when your mind is taking control over your body……’get up and go’. Go for a walk, do a few stretches, climb the stairs two or three times consecutively.
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
We are never too old to move our body to keep healthy. Since aging is inevitable and the alternative is no better, we can slow the decline that comes with age by being active and staying active for the long haul. The good news is it’s never too late to get started.
Movement at any age is possible and necessary. Below are my tips on how to feel younger longer and more energized at any age:
- Minimize the amount of time spent being sedentary and break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
- Use everyday activities as an opportunity to be active. For example: Walk to the mailbox, climb the stairs instead of use the elevator when possible, park farther away from a building so you have to walk. Planning weekend activities around hiking, biking, swimming etc. is a great way to get muscles joints and ligaments moving as they should.
- Find time for some regular, vigorous exercise for the extra health and fitness benefits (I recommended 20 to 30 minutes per day)
- My Favourite is a stretching routine that you can do before and after any type of movement. (Ask for help from a professional if you don’t know where to start)
CHOOSE THE COMBO PACKAGE FOR COMPLETE BENEFITS
When it comes to movement and exercise every little bit helps and whether you are 20 years old or 70 years old we all need a combination of various movements to help us age gracefully. So if you can’t get to the gym and crave the movement your body needs here is what you do:
- Aerobic Training: this is the type of movement that raises your heart rate to condition your heart and your entire cardiovascular system. You can achieve this with walking, running, hiking, cross-country skiing, swimming as well as the stair-master.
- Resistance Training: this type of movement requires you to use your own body weight in order to add force to a movement. So whether you are gardening and lifting pots of soil or using resistance bands at home you are applying a healthy stress to your muscles that will make them stronger and your bones tougher.
- Stretching and flexibility: when you stretch a muscle to its full capacity you promote elasticity that helps it to maintain a normal tone and tightness so that you feel strong and supported. A daily stretching program or a Yoga class will help you stretch each muscle group.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS JUST DANCE
I came across a study that confirmed that movement at any age is good for your health. This study concluded that Dancing has the same effect on your health as walking and other activities. A Group of generally sedentary individuals in their 60’s and 70’s started dancing three times per and the results were convincing. The group reported less pain with movement, more flexibility and a brighter outlook on life. Brain scans also showed improvements in the part of the brain associated with memory. So if all else fails just Dance like no one is watching.
CHOOSE MOVEMENT OVER EVERYTHING
We learned that for the body to move freely and easily different types of movement are required on a daily basis. Movement is essential for every aspect of health so the more sedentary your life is the more important it is to intentionally move. When thinking about movement options, select activities that will compliment your lifestyle. That means if you have a sedentary job, choose an Aerobic exercise that will increase your daily activity. Many find it difficult to stick to some form of movement protocol, others have no idea where to start. How well we move and how much we move determines how we engage with the world. The key to keeping up any form of physical activity is to just have FUN…. get off the couch and enjoy moving. If you move well, you will think, feel and live well.