The Importance of Movement
Some of the simplest lifestyle strategies can seem challenging to fit into your daily routine.
Take movement. We all move, but do we do it enough?
This article will emphasise the importance of movement, as well as bringing you some easy ways to move more.
We are Designed to Move
Throughout evolution, nature has designed us for activity. Originally hunter-gatherers, we have legs to walk and run, and arms to lift objects.
Nowadays, our sedentary life is structured so it’s very easy to pass the whole day without moving much at all. We’ve made an art out of sitting still, hunched over computer screens for hours on end, sitting on public transport which delivers us to our homes, opening the door to the supermarket delivery person then relaxing in front of the television until we lie down to sleep.
All this lack of activity is at odds with our genetics.
Our inactive lifestyle has developed fairly recently, because even in the 1700s, roughly one half of the UK population would have been engaged in agriculture, and therefore very active. Even our parents and grandparents moved more than we do, with fewer labour-saving devices available, more people employed in manual labour and far less time sitting at computers.
On average, it’s estimated working–age people sit for 9 and a half hours per day, and even longer when they retire.
What Happens when we Move?
Moving causes our muscles to contract, and blood circulation and breathing to increase. Certain chemicals are released, telling our body to use stored energy.
Exercise also strengthens tendons, bones, muscles and ligaments. Increased blood and lymph flow boosts the removal of waste products. Feel-good endorphins are released, improving our mood.
Health Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Although we might connect exercise solely with fitness and losing weight, movement is about so much more.
Sitting still for long periods appears to be associated with health risks independently from the amount of exercise taken during the rest of the day.
Sitting has been linked to many different health conditions like high blood pressure, muscular-skeletal problems, especially neck and back pain, blood sugar imbalance, obesity, poor sleep, and low mood and other mental health issues.
Benefits of Moving
Reviews of studies have discovered movement improves both physical and mental health and perceived quality of life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
In fact, fitness as measured by the ability to run on a treadmill has been found to be correlated with life expectancy.
Employees who are physically active at work are more productive. Exercise leads to better blood flow to the brain and in turn increased alertness, attention and memory. Physical activity can benefit children’s grades, particularly in maths and reading.
When you move more, your body will work as it’s designed to. Include movement in your life and you will no doubt find you have more energy and flexibility, improved mood and better balance and co-ordination.
How to fit Movement into your Day
You don’t need a workout to get you moving. In fact, breaking your goal of increased daily movement into small steps will help it to be more achievable.
- Get up from your computer screen for five minutes at least every half an hour. If you’re watching TV, walk around during the advert breaks.
- At work, stand instead of sitting whenever you can
- Walk up the last three flights of stairs rather than take the elevator
- Get off the bus a stop or two earlier than usual in the evening
- Take a stroll in your lunch break
- Walk the kids to school rather than driving
- Take the children to the park on their scooters – keeping up with them will make you move faster
- Pop on your trainers and power walk with the pushchair
- Meet friends for a walk in the local park instead of sitting in a café with a coffee
- Move in ways you enjoy – join a dance class for example
- If you simply can’t see a way to find time to incorporate exercise into your day, set your alarm for half an hour earlier and exercise while the rest of the house is sleeping. Yoga is ideal because it improves posture and flexibility for the day ahead, while reducing anxiety.
As your body becomes used to moving more, you’ll notice the physical and mental health benefits which will motivate you to continue.
Functional Medicine and Movement
Functional Medicine believes lifestyle plays an incredibly important role in supporting optimal health. If you would like to explore how lifestyle and nutritional strategies can help you reach your health goals, a Functional Medicine consultation will consider your health history, nutritional status and any imbalances in your organs or systems which are contributing to your symptoms. Contact me for more information.