Maybe you’ve recently made an effort to hit the gym more often. Maybe, like me, your car knows how to find a coffee shop easier than your nearest gym. If you’ve been successful at your gym goal, congratulations. The intense burst of exercise the gym provides definitely has its advantages for your health. But, maybe there is an easier and potentially more impactful way to improve your health that doesn’t require a gym? What if instead you focused on increasing movement throughout each day instead of short intense spurts of exercise on gym days? Let’s first explore what movement is.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, movement is defined as changing place, position, or posture. Exercise on the other hand is defined as regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ. My experience in the health field has left me defining movement as any activity where I am not sitting still, and my heart rate is even slightly elevated. Exercise for me is defined more as a planned specific activity with a distinct beginning and end where one’s heart rate becomes elevated and/or my muscles become specifically engaged, and some kind of colorful outfit, spandex (oh my), or sweat wicking clothes are changed into. Often times exercise includes movement, but movement does not always include exercise.
According to my definition, movement can happen throughout the day, in spurts or for extended periods and rarely requires a special neon outfit (unless that’s your thing, of course). It can involve many or just a few muscle groups and my most favorite movement captures my need for multitasking by also helping me accomplish something else on my to-do list. Movement does not often raise my heart rate to maximum intensity for long period of time but frequently uses multiple muscle groups at a time. Classic examples of daily movement are walking, stairclimbing, cleaning, picking-up (parents are always picking-up something, am I right?), shopping, running errands, cooking, and getting ready for the day (showering, shaving, hair beautifying, and all over skin care). Classic examples of exercise to me are jogging on a treadmill, weight training at the gym, taking a pilates or yoga class, or swimming laps in the pool.
So, why would I be suggesting movement is the better way to go? First, let me say, exercise has it’s time and place. Cardiovascular health requires a focus on getting your heart rate up on a regular basis, and when else can we wear neon racerback polyester tanks? I am a fan of movement, as defined above, for the following reasons:
1. It’s inexpensive. Movement does not demand a fancy gym membership. It can typically be done in whatever we are wearing in whatever location we happen to be at.
2. It uses various muscle groups. This can help strengthen all the little supporting muscles we need for good posture.
3. It’s often not acutely intense. This can cut down on injury (how are we to get our mile-long parent to-do list finished if we have an ankle brace on from our recent sprain?). Lower intensity activity also keeps our bodies in an anaerobic energy-burning state (oxygen-requiring). If we are not needing to use the oxygen to keep our muscles going (as is the case with intense exercise) the body can use that oxygen to burn energy. Guess what type of energy your body likes to use when it has ample oxygen? You guessed it fat stores. How else am I going to burn off that second mocha coffee drink I ordered this morning?
4. It sparks creativity. Research out of Stanford University found that our creativity gets a 60% boost in output while we are walking versus sitting. Although the exact cause is still under investigation, my theory is that our brains are getting more blood flow and the logic side of the brain has something to focus on allowing our creative side of the brain to not get bogged down by the logic side.
The obvious next question is how can you get more movement into your daily routines? I suggest first warning your neighbors that you’ve not lost your mind, but you and the family will be intentionally outside the house more often walking, biking, gardening, playing, and enjoying each other’s company. Next, plan out a few goals to increase movement throughout the day. Here are some suggestions:
1. Park in the farthest reasonable parking spot.
2. If stairs are available, take the stairs.
3. Plan an evening walk with the family after dinner most evenings.
4. Walk the dog on a slightly longer route most mornings.
5. Walk up and down each aisle at the grocery store to explore new menu options. Carry a basket instead of pushing a cart.
6. If you choose fast food for a meal, do not use the drive-thru but enter the building and stand while your order is being made.
7. Set an alarm to go for a quick walk around your office or home at the top of each hour.
8. Put some of your favorite clothes in a closet furthest away from your bedroom, forcing you to walk there each day.
9. Play a game with your child at least once a week that requires movement such as hide-and-go-seek, duck-duck goose, soccer, basketball, ping-pong, bike riding, tag.
10. Beautify your house by focusing on organizing one room each night before bed or vowing to make your bed each morning before heading out for the day.
Enjoy the improved strength, balance, toning, weight loss or maintenance, and creativity your new goals will provide.