Our health is directly related to the amount and the type of movement that we do. We are born to move. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle choices limit, or remove, any need for us to move like we used to.
This is just a small list of what is considered normal today:
- We drive everywhere – sitting while we do it.
- We sit at our desks
- We come home and relax on the couch
- We sit while we eat
- We go to bed and sleep
- We sit for a long time looking at our mobile devices
- We go out for dinner and sit
- We go out to the movies and sit
Why Do We Need to Move?
Good For The Brain
The antidepressant. Numerous studies have shown that movement, such as walking, running and other aerobic exercises, have an antidepressant effect in the body. Movement boosts our mood and causes our brain to flood our bodies with feel-good chemicals. These feel-good chemicals, the endorphins, are also natural analgesics – pain relievers!
Movement helps our brain plasticity by causing growth and new connections between cells in a wide number of important areas of the brain1. Chiefly, aerobic movement has been associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory2 ! The hippocampus is also an important part of your limbic system, the area of our brain which regulates our sense of motivation, our emotion, learning, spacial navigation and memory function.
Unfortunately, the hippocampus is also the most fragile part of the brain and is the region that suffers the most when we “don’t look after ourselves” (alcohol, drugs, poor diet, hours of television viewing, etc.)
In other words, movement increases brain function and improves brain health.
Movement done in the morning before the work day increases our attention span and mental clarity throughout the day, and helps us be more resilient to any mental stresses that may occur. Movement is also one of the main reasons that “active” people (ones that move a lot on a regular basis) maintain a healthy brain longer as they age. This in turn results in a higher quality of life during our later years.
Good For Your Joints
Motion is lotion, as the saying goes. The joints in our body, including our spine, are surrounded by a soft tissue called the synovial membrane, which produces a very important fluid that lubricates your joints and allows them to move smoothly. Physical activity (movement) is one of the best ways to help that fluid circulate! The increase in heart rate during movement also helps blood circulation throughout your body – including your joints. As a result, your joints, muscle, ligaments are exposed to a steady supply of nourishing oxygen and nutrients, helping them to stay healthier.
Are you noticing you are in pain? So long as you have the all clear from a professional (your Chiropractor or your GP), exercise is actually highly recommended for pain management! It is a common misconception that “resting” is the best way to relieve pain, however, in most cases the opposite is true. Movement is healing. In fact, these days, even surgery patients are encouraged to get up and about as soon as possible after their surgery.
Good For Your Heart
When we move, our heart rate increases so as to increase the circulation of blood around the body. This increased blood flow is required to feed the organs in our body and flush toxins out. Our heart is programmed to regulate this flow to meet the bodies various demands. Our heart is a muscle too and having a strong heart allows us to change from rest to activity and conversely recover back to rest when the activity stops.
Since our heart is responsible for feeding the brain with oxygen and nutrients, we have a relationship that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain.
What Happens When We Stop Moving?
Things start to go wrong in so many areas. Some of the ones you will notice include:
- Our brain (especially the hippocampus) starts to shrink. Connections decrease. Our mood depresses (the feeling of being “flat”or “low”). We remember less. We are slower or reluctant to change. We lose interest in things.
- Our joints start to “dry up”.
- Our muscles start to wither (atrophy).
- We start to experience more pain, aches, and stiffness.
How Much Movement Is Enough?
There is no golden rule for movement. Remember that before technology, we, as humans, moved a lot and most of it was simply walking from place to place in search of food.
In fact movement doesn’t have to be intense to be effective. Anything that seems manageable to you right now is great – whether that’s a 20-30 minute walk, a session of yoga, stretching or Tai-Chi on YouTube, or for those needing a bigger fitness challenge to stay motivated, a high intensity dance class in your living room (there’s a lot of new classes for almost anything you can think of available on YouTube!).
Regardless, daily movement IS IMPORTANT- and you should choose an activity that you can manage a little of each day.
We know from research3 that to maintain health, we need to do some heart rate elevating exercise for around 30 minutes a day, every day. Please do remember this is different things for different people. For people with injuries or older people, low intensity is best. But for those already into fitness, feel free to experiment with running, dancing, riding bikes, weight training (body weight training if you don’t have any equipment at home), the list is endless.
Does It Mean That You Have To Do A Workout?
To summarise. No. All we need is movement, preferably of all of joints in the body and an elevated heart rate.
Movement is key to resilience to the daily physical and mental stresses of life. Start a Movement today!
- Voluntary exercise increases axonal regeneration from sensory neurons
- The antidepressant effect of running is associated with increased hippocampal cell proliferation
- Development of Evidence-based Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults (18-64 years) – Department of Health Australia