“Regular Exercise” is a mantra we have all had drummed into us but has the idea of exercise been packaged and marketed into something that has become too hard for a lot of people to do on a regular basis. If we feel we aren’t doing it “right” or “enough” to get any benefit, sometimes it can make us feel like we shouldn’t bother at all. Exercise is pushed as a way to get the perfect body shape or to burn calories as a punishment for enjoying life, so if the end result feels too hard, too painful, exhausting or just too far away, it is very easy to give up and feel like doing nothing at all.
But what if exercise is not just black and white, I’m all in or all out. What would happen if we shifted how we thought about exercise and simplified it down to movement. For those that are struggling with the idea of exercise, by changing your mindset and simply trying to incorporate more movement into your day on a regular basis, and understanding that movement has a plethora of short term positive effects on your body and mind, as well as positive long term effects, moving more can be the first steps to feeling better, moving better and in the end moving more.
Movement can be as simple as:
- Taking the stairs instead of the escalator
- Putting on your favourite song and dancing around your house
- Going for a walk during your lunch break instead of sitting at your desk
- Doing some arm and/or leg exercises whilst sitting at a desk
- Doing some stretching/tai chi outside in the sunshine
- Walking around the block
If pain is stopping you exercising or moving, modifying your movement and finding the movements that you can do within the limitations of your pain and injury is important and will actually help with your recovery. Talking to your osteopath can help guide you as to what movements will be beneficial and which ones to avoid.
Lacking energy and motivation due to poor mental health can be another huge hurdle for people to get moving. Start small, set achievable goals and be kind to yourself. Finding movement that you enjoy is important. It can be as simple as putting on your favourite music and doing some simple stretches or tai chi.
Movement that increases our heart rate and challenges our muscles with resistance comes with its own benefits that most people are aware of. But for those that find it hard to “exercise”, simply starting with the idea to move more in a way that feels fun, is easier to do on a regular basis and that moves our joints and muscles out of their everyday range, will have many positive short term effects on our body that can help make us feel better in the here and now. Starting small can be the change that makes the biggest difference.
Here are 6 amazing and maybe little well known facts about movement, exercise and getting outside that may help to motivate you to move more in a way that works for you.
1. Movement releases Myokines – dubbed “The Hope Molecule”
During regular, repetitive movement of any muscle in the body, our muscle cells release a group of chemicals called myokines into our blood stream. Myokines have been shown to have positive effects on our body, including the brain. They have been shown to improve mood, memory and learning and help to improve our resilience against stress and have been dubbed by some scientists as “the hope molecule”.
2. Regular movement improves gut microbiome
Studies have shown that regular exercise has been shown to increase the amount of good gut bacteria that produce a fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate can help to repair the gut lining, reduce inflammation and can therefore help protect against chronic disease such as inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Other studies have shown changes in the gut microbiome reducing bacteria that aggravate the immune system increasing inflammation in the body linked with obesity and atherosclerosis.
3. It’s never too late to start moving!
Studies have shown that movement such as walking on a regular basis improves the size of our hippocampus. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that is involved in memory and spatial memory. The hippocampus is an area of the brain affected by dementia. One study showed that sedentary 70 year olds that started walking 3 times per week, for 2.4km, improved the volume of their hippocampus after 1 year and showed improvement in their memory and mood. It’s never too late to start moving!
4. Moving helps you connect with people
Whether it’s walking around the block or dancing in your lounge room, moving with other people releases endorphins and cannabinoids in the brain, which are bonding hormones. It’s been shown that if you move with other people you will like them more, trust them more and it makes it easier to resolve conflict with them. Studies have shown that in the 24 hours after engaging in movement, your brain chemistry makes it easier to interact with other people due to changes in how you feel about yourself and positive changes in your mindset and outlook.
5. Movement reduces the wrinkles on the inside!
Have you heard about hyaluronic acid? A lot of moisturising and anti-wrinkle creams contain this substance which is like a moisturising lubricant. The fascia within our body is an amazing web of connective tissue that sits beneath our skin, envelopes our muscles and bones, and surrounds and supports muscle groups and organs. It gives integrity to our body while allowing our tissues to move and slide around as we move. When our body is immobile or recovering from an injury or surgery, cells called fibroblasts become overactive and produce more collagen fibres that make our fascia matted and sticky. This can cause restriction in movement and pain. When we move our body and move our joints and muscles through their full ranges of movement, we stimulate a substance called hyaluronan, which is a lubricating and moisturising substance that allows our fascia to move well without being tethered. Think of movement as an anti-wrinkle cream for your insides. Regular movement of our fascia helps to maintain healthy tissue and allows us to move with freedom and without pain. When our lifestyles often dictate that we sit or stand in the same position for long periods of time, it can affect the health of our fascia. Simple stretching and movement can help.
6. Going outside and looking at the horizon reduces anxiety
How many of us spend all day inside or in front of a fixed screen where our vision is fixed on objects close to us. Research has shown that getting outside and using our long distance and peripheral vision has positive affects in the short term and can reduce anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety or if you are aware of your stress levels rising, getting outside and going for a walk can help reduce anxiety and the cascade of physical and emotional outcomes that are associated with anxiety.