We have known for a long long time that physical activity is an important part of health and well-being. More recently, with the reliance on technology in our lives, we have a whole new appreciation for the importance of movement. Based upon comments I hear about what counts or does not count as exercise, we could use some clarity to stay motivated to keep both a regular part of our daily life.
In the last blog, we defined exercise as practicing the physical skills needed for living life well. That means spending 3-5% of waking hours practicing stamina, strength, balance, and agility to train the body for well-being.
Movement is any physical activity. Whereas exercise is practicing specific qualities in a structured way to improve those qualities in the future, movement provides well-being benefits instantly! Inactivity physiologists (scientists who study the effects of stillness on the body) have discovered that when we are sedentary, we are not just missing out on the benefits of movement. The fact is, stillness changes our body in many of the ways we typically chalk up to “normal aging” or genetics.
Every living thing moves – from the tiny hairs called cilia on the outside of a cell to the more complex movements of a gorilla using tools to search for food. Everything needs to move to live. Even trees need the movement inside their trunk to transport nutrients. When a part of the body is paralyzed, it needs to be moved or cells in that area break down and die. Every living thing needs movement to sustain life and we are amazingly designed to move well.
When we talk about “getting enough exercise,” we are limiting our potential for being well now. Let’s start considering both structured and unstructured movement as catalysts for the healing process in the brain and body.
- creates a chemical cascade that improves function of brain cells maximizing the ability to learn, focus and create.
- stimulates the growth of new brain cells, to a much greater degree than anything else we have available.
- triggers chemicals in the brain that improve mood (the same chemicals released when we eat comfort food).
- signals cells that line blood vessel walls to relax. Constricted vessels are part of the cause of elevated blood pressure.
- satisfies what the body is preparing for during a stressful event. Movement is the antidote to stress, helping to switch the brain and body from Alarm Mode to Recharge Mode.
- is what the lymph system relies on to do its job of clearing waste products in the body. When waste products build up, inflammation increases in the body. Inflammation is the precursor for many diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
- initiates the body’s natural use of blood sugar. Receptors in muscle cells open up and allow sugar (glucose) to move from the blood to muscle cells to be used. When sugar levels are elevated in the blood, it affects every cell in the body.
Yet moving is about more than just getting enough steps in a day! In the next blog, we will clarify the importance of paying attention to the quality of our movement versus just the quantity.
Be Well Now!