When we think about MOVEMENT, we may automatically think of structured exercise, as in: hitting the gym, hiring a personal trainer and doing crunches until miraculously, a six-pack shows up in our abdomen. But moving our bodies is about so much more than trying to look a certain way or hitting a target heart rate. Movement is liberating and confidence-building because, as we develop a body that moves well, we see and feel our health and well-being improve.
MOVEMENT IS EMBEDDED IN OUR DNA
When I encourage people to MOVE, I’m not suggesting they avoid the gym or give up on their spin or Zumba classes. What I mean is, we should try to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and make movement a daily priority.
Our bodies were designed with movement in mind, and we are not meant to sit in a car for hours in traffic, or at a computer for eight hours at a time. Humans are hunters and gatherers by nature. During the Stone Age, we were either chasing after our next meal or running from a predator to avoid being someone else’s dinner. Our bodies are really just a huge pile of interconnected levers where movement of one lever affects movement of another.
WHY NOT SIT?
Working out is just another way to get our bodies to do what we know is engrained in our DNA: to move. Although we move a lot less than our ancestors, movement is still programmed into the human brain, so when we are sedentary for too long, we interfere with the body’s way of keeping all systems running smoothly. With inactivity and lack of movement, we invoke the ‘Use it or Lose it” rule. Any joint or muscle that is not used will lose part of its function, and movement will become difficult and eventually painful. When we lose flexibility in our muscles, joints and ligaments, we get creaky knees and stiff backs making us feel a lot older than our chronologic age. There is no way I want to feel older than I am!
Studies show that those who sit most of the day either at work or at home have:
- Slowed metabolism
- Chronic lower back pain
- Varicose veins
- Problems associated with poor posture
GET UP AND GO
When we move, we contract our muscles and apply a healthy load to our connective tissue, which helps to maintain the integrity of our bones. We also improve our circulation, which releases ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins. They act as a trigger for other healthy body reactions. When our brain senses movement, it tells our body to use fat as energy—and any extra energy will be used for repair and will not be stored as fat.
Movement also has a positive effect on our immune function. Since our lymphatic system does not have a heart to keep lymph moving, it relies on breathing, walking, and any activity that causes muscles to contract and relax. So if you’re hoping to avoid getting sick during flu season, leading an active life all year long is the way to go.
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
While aging is inevitable, we can slow the decline that comes with age by being active and staying active for the long haul. The good news? It’s never too late to get started. Movement at any age is possible and necessary. Below are my tips
on how to feel younger longer and more energized at any age:
- Minimize the amount of time spent being sedentary and break up long periods of sitting as often as possible.
- Use everyday activities as opportunities to be active. Walk to the mailbox, choose the stairs over the elevator and park farther away from a building so you have to walk. Plan active weekend activities like hiking, biking or swimming.
- Find time for some regular, vigorous exercise for the extra health and fitness benefits. I recommended 20 to 30 minutes per day.
- My favourite is a stretching routine that you can do before and after any type of movement. Ask for help from a professional if you don’t know where to start.
CHOOSE THE COMBO PACKAGE FOR COMPLETE BENEFITS
When it comes to movement and exercise, every little bit helps. Regardless of age, everyone needs a combination of various movements to help us age healthfully. So if you can’t get to the gym and crave the movement your body needs, here is what you can do:
- Aerobic Training: This type of movement raises your heart rate to condition your heart and your entire cardiovascular system. Try walking, running, hiking, cross-country skiing, swimming as well as the StairMaster.
- Resistance Training: This type of movement uses your own body weight in order to add force to a movement. Try gardening and lifting pots of soil or exercise using resistance bands at home—you’ll be applying a healthy stress to your muscles that will make them stronger and your bones tougher.
- Stretching and flexibility: When you stretch a muscle to its full capacity, you promote elasticity that helps maintain a normal tone and tightness so that you feel strong and supported. A daily stretching program or a yoga class will help you stretch each muscle group.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS, JUST DANCE
If you love to boogie, you are in luck. One recent study followed a group of generally sedentary individuals in their 60s and 70s who started dancing three times per week and the results were impressive. After incorporating dancing into their lives, the group reported less pain with movement, more flexibility and a brighter outlook on life. Brain scans also showed improvements in the part of the brain associated with memory. So if all else fails, just dance like no one is watching.
CHOOSE MOVEMENT OVER EVERYTHING
Movement is essential for every aspect of health, so the more sedentary your life is, the more important it is to intentionally move. When thinking about movement options, select activities that will complement your lifestyle. The key to keeping up any form of physical activity is to have fun. So get off the couch and enjoy moving. If you move well, you will think, feel and live well.
About the Author
Dr. Claudia Machiella owns and operates one of the GTA’s leading chiropractic clinics. Since 2001 Dr. Claudia Machiella has grown and built her practice and has been a Chiropractic advocate in her community. Most recently she has opened a second location in Vaughan in order to provide increased accessibility to chiropractic so that more people […]Read Bio Read Posts