We need to “Move” more than we need to “Exercise.”
Our bodies need to move during waking hours.
The frequency of movement is more important than intensity.
Movement during the day is more important than an hour of exercise.
The Why: In this age of people movers and vehicles, the self-propelled movement seems a thing of the past. We’ve been (and our ancestors have been) moving on two feet for millions of years. Our bodies want and need to move throughout our waking hours. Most of us are proud when we do our hour at the gym three times a week, but our hunter-gatherer ancestors would be on the move for 8-12 hours a day. Science confirms this obvious fact.
Simply, stress is allowed to accumulate during periods of awake non-movement, so long periods of quiescence between movement or exercise is detrimental to our health and our stress levels. The solution: Move more frequently!
Movement vs. “Exercise”: The distinction to be made is that movement is so much more than exercise. Movement includes exercise but transcends exercise alone. So often people do exercise in the morning and sit for the remainder of the day. This has negative effects on our DNA, and while exercise is unquestionably beneficial to our health, the frequency of moving our body is the most important factor. Being mindful of how often you are moving is essential and there are endless ways you can get moving, even at work! Try getting up from your desk and walking for a few minutes every half hour or stretch your arms and twist your spine every time you take a drink of water.
Bottom line: If you exercise, great! Keep it up. But many of the benefits will be moot unless you move frequently during the day. If you don’t do formal exercise regularly, it is even more important to move throughout the day (as well as to consider ramping up some exercise).
Check out our list below for inspiration:
- Walking is the secret sauce. Walk more throughout the day. Research suggests sitting behind a desk for hours a day, in a single position, decreases the range of motion in our joints and a litany of other deleterious effects on our body. Even taking 3 minutes every half hour to stand up and walk around will help cultivate the idea that movement actually helps us feel better and you can find time for movement. We not only feel better overall but are more creative, more centered, and can lower cortisol levels when we go walking outside. Think parking far from the grocery store (bonus* no dings on your car from other drivers) to get extra walking or taking the stairs.
- Sitting is the kryptonite. Sitting for long periods has been compared to smoking as a health threat. The difference: Any smoking is dangerous, but some sitting is not. However, prolonged sitting may be just as dangerous.
Sitting all day and then exercising for an hour at the gym and thinking you are healthy is nonsense. Exercise is encouraged, but it must be a part of the movement during the day.
Movement during the day may be more important than an hour of exercise and we all can work it into our current schedules with or without a trip to the gym.
- Do small or “micro” movements when you can. At work, oftentimes people don’t feel as though they have the space for much movement. NOT necessarily true! We have to find opportunities for dynamic movement. Small or “micro” movements like stretching your calf or flexing and pointing your toes contribute to the dynamic movements we can work into our day. Adding small steps can have a huge impact on our overall well being when we either can’t or have no desire to run a marathon. Choose standing over sitting when waiting, listening, and during other activities. The frequency of movement is the key.
- Get outside more. It can be easier to get outside and run around when you are making the day of your pet. Throw a ball, take a walk or skip with a dangling string. The adoration in your pet’s eye will make you forget all about the little sweat you are working up under your collar AND all the stressors you have in your mind. Let your pet take you for a walk. Or just take your own self for a walk! Find any excuse to get outside.
- Chores vs. Gifts. Household chores/tasks don’t typically inspire joy, but they do get you moving. One has to move to get these done. More importantly, consider the to-do tasks as “gifts” or opportunities for movement rather than “chores.” They are the perfect activity your body really needs. Be grateful for them. Performing these gifts and the movement they demand will inspire satisfaction and provide much of the movement you need. And, you need the movement. These gifts (aka chores) will also get your mind off all of the stressors that keep popping up unexpectedly in your day.
We need to be cognizant of the amount of movement we get in a day and the reasons why we want to be more active. Your why is as important as the how. Research has shown that people who only exercise to lose weight actually work out less and less consistent than those who work out to increase overall health. Focus on what positive benefits will immediately follow an activity, things like improved mood, clearer focus, feeling more centered, and less stressed. Exercise is movement but not all movement is exercise. Find ways to be more active in ways you love, so get out and try some new forms of movement and see what you like!