What is healthy movement?
- Looking better or vanity/aesthetics?
- Weight loss?
- Moral righteousness? Gotta take those selfies after your 10mile run and post it on social media, right?
The truth is that healthy movement is all of these things and much more. Having a body that moves well is the answer to a life in which you feel more capable, confident, and free. And unfortunately, if you neglect it when you are younger, you may pay the price as you age.
Here is the most fundamental truth; as humans, we are born to move. However, in our modern day society, life has become structured in a way that makes it very easy to avoid movement. Examples:
- Sitting in cars during your commute to work.
- Sitting at your desk for most of the day.
- At night, sitting in front of a screen (computer, kindle, phone, tv, etc…)
As such, there is a huge disconnect in our modern world because we should be moving often, yet we simply do not. Is it any wonder that so many people complain about creaky knees, stiff backs, and other such ailments?
Why Movement Matters
According to Dr. John Berardi, here are several very important reasons why movement matters.
Movement is how humans interact with the world
As babies, we immediately start grabbing things, putting things in our mouths, reaching for things, and clinging to our parents. This is because we are tactile beings who must directly interact with physical stimuli, such as touching, tasting, manipulating, and moving ourselves around objects in space.
Movement helps us connect and build relationships with others
In one study, when people’s facial muscles were paralyzed with Botox, they couldn’t read others’ emotions or describe their own. We need to mimic and mirror the body language and facial cues of one another to connect emotionally and mentally.
Movement helps us think, learn, and remember
You might imagine that “thinking” lives only in your head, but in reality, research shows that we do what’s called “embodied cognition” — in which the body’s movements influence brain functions like processing information and decision making, and vice versa. In other words, this is evidence that movement and thought are intertwined.
- Movement helps maintain existing brain structures.
- Movement helps slow age-related mental decline.
- Movement helps us recover if our brain is injured or inflamed.
- Movement lowers oxidative stress.
- Movement increases the levels of a substance known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is involved in learning and memory.
Movement affects how we feel physically and emotionally
People of all shapes and sizes say they have a better quality of life, with fewer physical limitations, when they are physically active. The research is quite clear, showing that people who change their bodies with exercise feel better — about their bodies, about their capabilities, about their health, and about their overall quality of life — even if their weight ultimately doesn’t change.
When you aren’t able to move well, it is usually a sign that there is something off in your overall wellness, usually in both fitness and nutrition. The quality and quantity of your daily movement, which can be expressed as your strength and agility, should be thought of as markers for overall wellness.
When people make positive changes to take control of their health, losing weight and getting fit, they often find that one of the greatest benefits is simply moving better. I’ve seen the following over and over with numerous clients:
- more energetic and younger-feeling
- able to do things they’ve been putting off for years
- feeling empowered
- proud of their lifestyle
- free from many of the anxieties and limitations that used to hold them back
Simply put, fitter people are just plain happier. They’re happier because their bodies now work like they’re supposed to. They can now do things they know they ought to be able to do. So, what can you do to get a piece of this happiness?
Start working on getting fit by incorporating regular exercise and improving your nutrition. And by regular exercise, that doesn’t mean that it has to be running 10 miles, doing a 2 hour lifting session, doing a bootcamp, etc…All of that is fine, but it’s not necessary. Keep in mind that our ancestors didn’t go to the caveman gym and “work out.”
They walked, climbed, ran away from sabertooth tigers, crawled, swam, hauled around heavy stuff, dug, squatted, threw rocks, and carried heavy things to survive. They didn’t sit on the couch every night to watch “Dancing with the Stars,” but rather they themselves danced around the fire, while also sharing stories and celebrating rituals. As Dr. John Berardi has stated, “Working out is just an artificial way to get us to do what our bodies have, for most of human history, known and loved — regular movements we lost and forgot as we matured as a species.”
We may not hunt for dinner anymore, and we may opt for the elevator more often than not. However, movement is still programmed into the human brain as a critical aspect of how we engage with the world. No matter at what point you are starting from, the more you move, the better your body will function.
So, figure out what works for you and start moving a little more daily. If you are currently sedentary, then it’s pretty easy to move more. Just get off your duff and do it!!! On the other hand, if you are already a ritual daily exerciser, then perhaps one thing to consider is to go for a short walk during lunch time. It doesn’t have to be much, but if you walk 1 mile at lunch, that will accrue to 365 extra miles walked annually. That will burn a few more calories. And you’ll feel more alive!