When someone you care about truly needs your help, what do you do? Jump in and do what you can, right?
If you are reading this, I’m guessing you care about your body and mind. Even if your motivation waxes and wanes, well being is important to you.
Science tells us movement activates well being. So when we choose to move, we are simply giving the mind and body what it needs to be well.
Here are a few examples:
The heart is a muscle pump with four chambers. When we move, more blood fills the chambers and they are stretched. This stretch stimulates the heart to pump stronger and harder, sending more nutrients back to working muscles. When the heart is challenged this way regularly, chamber size increases, heart muscle is stronger, sustained movement becomes easier.
Blood vessels need the stimulation of muscles and blood chemicals (released when we move) to trigger a dilation or opening, allowing more blood flow to working muscles. This relaxed state even hangs around for a while after exercise, lowering blood pressure for up to 22 hours post exercise!
Bone growth is stimulated when muscles pull on them. The force tells the bone to make more cells, replacing, possibly even exceeding, the amount that die each day. Muscle force activates stronger bones.
Blood sugar (glucose) makes blood “sticky” and wreaks havoc all over the body. So the body uses two systems to move sugar from blood to cells. We are best designed to use the preferred method – movement. When the body has been still for a while, it must rely on its back up system – insulin. The preferred system only requires only that we move often to keep it activated.
Cellular “waste” is removed by the the lymph system when stimulated by muscle movement. This creates an environment for each new cell produced to get what it needs to be healthy and function well.
Healthy body alignment is created by the nervous system making healthy nerve pathways. When we regularly practice natural movement patterns – such a proper squat position – the nervous system creates a strong pathway to make this movement a “no brainer”. This ease of healthy movement patterns reduce the risk of wear, tear, injury and pain in the body with daily activities.
Metabolism gets a big boost when muscle fibers are challenged. Through a healthy dose of “tear and repair,” muscles worked to fatigue burn more calories for about 24 hours while they strengthen during repair.
Muscle strength is built similar to bone – when the muscles are challenged regularly by the aforementioned “tear and repair” they repair stronger. Without this stimulus, the muscles unnecessarily lose strength with age, weight loss, menopause, certain medical conditions, and inactivity. In ALL of these cases one can maintain or build strength instead of losing it- by simply activating with proper strength training.
The brain is triggered to release “feel good” chemicals such as norepinepherine, serotonin, and dopamine when we move. Like blood vessel relaxers, these chemicals stick around a while after exercise, improving mood, focus, and confidence.
Muscles relax and reorganize after proper stretching. Without this activation, muscles can be tight and in protective mode – ready to spasm with small movements (ever pull your back out by doing just a simple movement?). Stretching can return elasticity to muscles, making them more adaptable to daily movements.
Mind body connection is strengthened in this relaxed state as relaxed muscles signal the brain that it is OK to relax too.
If you are interested in reading more about how exercise gives the body what it needs, see the series on this topic in the UMass Memorial Weight Center blog , Keep Moving Weekly.
Keep Moving and Activating Your Well Being,
Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC