One of the 5 aspects of Evenstar 5 Star Wellbeing is Movement. I prefer the word ‘movement’ to the word ‘exercise’ for numerous reasons, not least of all because the word ‘exercise’ seems to polarise people into 2 groups -
- Those who love it and can’t live without it, and
- Those who hate it and see it one of life’s many evils that they try to ignore as much as possible.
Also the fact is that the human body is designed to move. It’s not necessarily designed to do 5 HIIT classes a week but it’s definitely not designed to sit at a desk 8 hours a day and sit in a car or on a train for 1 hour either side of that. One of the many problems with the modern western lifestyle is that it involves very little movement and as a result the population is becoming more and more unhealthy, with lifestyle factors a major contributor to increasing chronic disease levels.
As I write this, we are in the midst (well really just the beginning according to the experts) of the COVID-19 Pandemic and this is having a huge impact on human movement. Many, many people are being asked or required to #stayhome. Gyms, sports clubs and even playgrounds have been closed. From what I observe in my local area I see MANY more people than usual purposefully moving along the walk/cycle trail right near my house. No doubt many of these humans are unable to participate in their usual exercise regime of gym classes or sports training, and have simply transitioned from one type of movement to another. But I am also pretty sure that one of the silver linings of the current situation is that many other people now have the time, and the desire, to prioritise movement into their day. There is nothing like endless days stuck at home with your only your immediate household for company to make you want to get out for a walk, and social media is rife with endless comedic posts about dogs who are exhausted by the unusual number of walks their owners are taking them for!
Reasons Why You Need to Move
The simple truth is that the human body is designed to move! So this is not about exercising to become super fit or super slim this is simply about moving because that is what your body needs in order to function properly, and then to function well!
- Essential body operations – movement increases circulation allowing more efficient and effective delivery of nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the food you eat to all parts of your body.Even more important than increased circulation is the fact that if your muscles don’t move then your lymphatic system can’t operate. The lymphatic system is a one way waste removal system that allows your whole body to constantly detoxify, but it only works if you move your muscles. The contraction and expansion of muscles literally moves the lymphatic fluid. So what happens if you don’t move? Wastes build up, literally poisoning your system. Think about what your neighbourhood would look like if the garbage trucks were unable to move through the streets and collect the garbage – piles of rubbish everywhere! That is what your insides look like when you don’t move!
- Use it or lose it – no doubt you’ve heard this term before but have you ever thought about the fact that your heart is simply a big muscle? So what is going to happen if you are not exercising and ensuring that your heart gets a workout? Just like you, it will become unfit and lazy, and may just stop working completely way sooner than it should!
- Immune stimulation – movement stimulates the immune system, causing changes in antibodies and white blood cells and allowing your body to have a fighting chance against illness and infection. Especially at this time therefore, movement is absolutely key to preventing and reducing the symptoms of Covid19.
I think it is absolutely wonderful that so many more people are undertaking movement outside in the (increasingly) fresh air, in sunlight, near trees and grass.
There is so much science to support the benefits of these things alone – getting away from electronics to improve our ionic balance, having our eyes look into the distance, seeing the colour green, sunlight giving important information to the brain for our sleep/wake cycles, etc. I have always previously been a bit dismayed at the number of people running, walking and cycling at the gym in what is really an environment that is so far removed from that in which we were designed to thrive i.e. on the earth and in close contact with the rest of nature.
Of course the weather can impact our motivation to get outside but on the weekend we had a very cold, rainy day here in Melbourne and there were still so many more people out moving than would normally be the case – yippee!
Reasons why you will be glad that you moved your body
- Natural Happy Drugs – movement stimulates the secretion of natural feel good substances called endorphins. Perhaps this is another part of the reason that so many more people seem to be moving at the moment. The current situation is greatly anxiety inducing and pretty depressing and when we have the time to listen to our bodies they will tell us to move! So if you want to feel better this will get you on the way! Even when you are mentally exhausted you will feel better for moving. So don’t let having a really tough day be an excuse for not moving. Let it be a reason for moving!
- Sleep Improvement – movement improves both the quality and quantity of your sleep. We all know that feeling when you are physically tired because you have worked all day in the garden or painting your house or shopping! That night you have a long and deep sleep because your brain can’t fight with the body’s desire to rest!
However, exercise is very stimulating so it’s actually not recommended to exercise too late in the evening. The problem is not only those natural uppers, endorphins, but also that moving your body raises your core body temperature and this will prevent you from falling asleep. If the evening is your only window to exercise then make sure you have a nice hot shower or bath before getting into bed, as this will pull the heat out of your core and into your extremities. Now that’s a hot tip!
There is actually a beautiful synergistic relationship between movement and sleep that is worth mentioning here too. Delving deeper into the functions and processes of the brain, we understand that lack of sleep means that our cells hold onto fat – your body remains in fight or flight mode and doesn’t know when it might need fat to survive – making weight loss much more difficult. Lack of sleep also reduces our motivation to move, again the brain is telling the body to reserve energy because it is tired and is being hyper vigilant about impending danger that you may need to escape from. Then indeed if you do push yourself to do some movement despite being tired, you are much more likely to injure yourself and the efficiency of respiration is depleted so your work out is more difficult and less enjoyable! Bottom line: prioritise sleep and movement and they will begin to prioritise themselves!
Food is the energy that you put into your body. Poor diet is one of the biggest killers worldwide (#1 for men and #2 for women) and obesity causes more death than malnutrition because unfortunately a human body can be malnourished even if it is overweight, if it is not being fed the nutrients that it needs to survive, and thrive. There is an important relationship between Food and Movement as well then. Think about it like your body being a your cherished vehicle (take a moment to consider if you take as good care of your body as you do of your car?) When you fill the fuel tank of your car you are careful to put in the right type of petrol for the vehicle model because if you don’t the car won’t run properly, if at all. You may even have played around with the premium fuels available and found that you get better mileage out of your car with a higher quality petrol. Your body is exactly the same. When you fill your own energy tank with nourishing, fresh, quality whole foods your engine will run a lot better. Ingesting highly processed, sugar laden foods does not provide quality fuel for your engine and often in fact introduces substances that the body cannot process and will go on to store as toxic waste. To have the energy and motivation to move your body, eat well! For more information check out my Blogs: That Sugar blog, Clean eating #1 and #2.
How Much Movement is Enough?
It is not likely that you will move too much! If you’re just starting out with a movement practise, make sure that you set yourself a time goal that is achievable, because you don’t want to have any excuses for giving up entirely! Ideally you should elevate your heart rate for at least 30 minutes at least 5 days a week but if that is not possible then build up to it gradually.
We also don’t want to have a situation that you do all the right things whilst you’re enduring lockdown but once you get back to your ‘normal routine’ movement will move back down your list of priorities. So why not start to think now about how you can bring movement into your normal day rather than adding on to it? (This could also apply if you’re an essential service worker now). Can you perhaps walk for some of your commute – get off the train a stop earlier or park the car further away from your workplace? Can you walk to the supermarket to get those last minute things for dinner? Can you ride your bike to work once a week? Wherever there is an option to use your legs take it – climb the stairs instead of taking a lift, walk from the station instead of catching the bus, etc.
What Type of Movement Should You Do?
The short answer is whatever type of movement you enjoy and will want to keep doing! This is all about making movement a part of your life – changing your attitude and your routine in order to prioritise it. There is no point in deciding to take up running and finding that you hate it and then quitting moving altogether, just try something else instead! There are so many options out there – some you might not even consider being exercise like dancing or martial arts or kite boarding! At the time of writing there are obviously restrictions on many types of movement that you would generally do with others but there is still sure to be something that takes your fancy and the availability of many things through online instruction is growing daily!
Ask yourself some questions about what might work for you:
Do you want to move indoors or outdoors?
Do you want to exercise in or near home or go somewhere to exercise?
Do you want to exercise with others or alone?
What will motivate you to keep on moving (put in place some goals and rewards to assist with this)?
What equipment is required and can you afford it?
How much time do you realistically have to ensure that you can incorporate movement into your routine most days of the week?
The easiest form of movement to take up that doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere, is of course walking.
I want to give a special mention to yoga because it is a form of movement that benefits your mental, emotional and spiritual health as well as your physical body.
Despite what you might think from scrolling through Instagram, yoga is not about being upside down in lycra on a beach! Yoga involves holding a series of poses that stretch and strengthen the body. Because these poses are physically challenging yoga also teaches your brain that it can deal with stress! Your stress management integrity will be improved and your stress levels will drop! How awesome does that sound?
There are many different types of yoga – from those that are more gentle and relaxing like Hatha or Yin to those that are much more intense like Vinyasa or Bikram. There is definitely a yoga for everyone.
If you feel a bit self conscious as a beginner yogi now is the perfect time to take it up online in the privacy of your own home! I highly recommend the YouTube channel Yoga with Adrienne because the wonderful Adrienne is a fantastic teacher, has 100s of yoga videos for all levels and to suit all moods, including things like 30 day challenges and she just knows the right thing to say to always make you feel great about yourself. I have also seen in the last few days that a number of fabulous yoga studios that I know of are doing Zoom classes: Soul State, Laya Yoga, and Kyo Yoga.
Don't forget to have a listen to the 5 Star Wellbeing Podcast, with interviews this month on the topic of Movement.
If video is more your style then you'll find the latest Movement related interviews also on my YouTube channel.
Don't forget to Like and Subscribe, pretty please! Enjoy!