How Frequent Movement Makes you Stronger, Healthier & Happier
What type of regular movement, exercise or activities do you enjoy to keep your body mobile, flexible and healthy?
Frequent Movement: The 1st Pillar of Wellness
What did you do when your parents put you on the floor as a little baby? You learned to crawl. Everything was worth exploring, smelling, touching, and putting in your mouth. With time you attempted walking to the gleeful excitement of your parents.
As you became more skilled at moving you tried new and more complex movement patterns. You might have played a sport. Have you ever watched five year old kids playing soccer? It’s funny to watch as one kid grabs the ball and starts running the wrong way. Meanwhile the parents and the coach try to show the child the right direction (and with the ball on the ground).
As you matured you learned what movements you enjoyed that challenged your body. You began to make your own choices for play or sport. You practiced, you improved, and your practiced some more.
What if sport wasn’t part of your childhood?
Maybe your family couldn’t afford for you to play on a team. Or perhaps you had a health condition, or you suffered bullying in team sports or gym class.
Kids can be both cruel and kind. I was always an outcast, sick with allergies, an ADHD crazy child who was out of control. I was picked on for my lack of physical prowess and often picked last for the team. As a result I grew up disliking gym class and wanted to get out of it. Now here I am decades later helping people improve their health and fitness in a holistic and supportive way.
We Need to Move More
An object at rest stays at rest. You are not tree or a rock. You can kick a rock, but what happens? It comes to a full stop. Stupid rock!
What happens when you sit like a rock all day at your desk? Do you hunch over at the computer? Do you tilt your head to one side to squeeze the phone between your ear and shoulder while making notes?
What happens when you finally stand up?
If freaking hurts, doesn’t it?
You feel stiff and slow. It’s almost as if you have to straighten yourself out. “Oh be careful, if I stand up too fast I’ll pull my back again.”
This is not funny, but it’s typical of our modern society. I know too well what this feels like.
My Sciatica Story
20 years ago I developed severe sciatica on my left side. It got to a point where I could barely sit, stand, or sleep in any position for longer than 15 minutes. I took a lot of Advil and spent a lot of money on chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage. Percocet was the only drug that would dull the searing, knife-like pain that would shoot from the back of my hip, through my butt, down my hamstring, and into the top of my calf.
I met a strength coach at a one-day seminar who offered a solution. After an assessment and testing he advised variations and frequency for a hip-flexor stretch. I did the stretches several times per week for a few months, 15-30 minutes each time and I began to feel relief. I added a posture practice, continued with massage and acupuncture, as sat on a stability ball instead of an office chair at work.
It took about six months of constant attention to repair my “Pillar of Movement,” but since then I have been sciatica-free. Trust me on this one, if you’ve never had sciatica you have no idea how overwhelming the pain can be. This is not something you want to live with.
The point of me sharing my story is not for you to feel sorry for me. Instead I want you to understand that you can improve your wellness. You can heal your life (which is the title of a beautiful book my Louise Hay that I think everyone should read). You can take an assessment of what wellness pillars need work in your life. Figure out how to fix them (on your own or with my help), and then take action on your “health improvement plan.”
Movement Matters & Supports Wellness
Remember earlier in this post when I said that, “We need to move?” My sciatica was a result of sitting too long, which I started to do more of in my full-time job after university. Even though I worked out 4-5 days per week, walked, rode my bike, and danced up a storm at the clubs on weekends, I still developed sciatica.
Sitting for hours on end at a desk is slowly killing us. There’s a lot of new research demonstrating how long-term sitting is unhealthy for our body. Yet getting in a regular workout doesn’t solve the problem.
There are options like sit/stand desks, as well as ways to improve your posture while at work. I’ll provide some useful links and resources for you to investigate as part of the bonus in the 4 Pillars of Wellness Video Program.
We Are Human Beings, Not Human Sittings
Consider the evolution of the human species. We evolved to move and we rested when we were tired or for sleep. We sit to eat so that the our body can relax and more easily digest a meal.
Sitting at your job all day in an office is not natural. Have you ever noticed how most tradespeople are in shape, e.g. construction workers, landscapers, farmers, and so on? This is the work and movement of our ancestors; this is the sort of movement our bodies were designed to do.
Siting a serious modern problem that seems to be a result of the information economy. If every office offered sit/stand desks and a variety of furniture to allow its workforce to move and change position as often as needed, people would be happier, healthier and more pain-free.
The image to the right is a helpful visual tutorial of how to sit with good posture. (Source)
Simple Strategies to Move More at Work
While I can’t tell you, specifically, what you should do for exercise, I can offer a general prescription.
If you feel stiff, sore, physically tired, have pain during or towards the end of the day from sitting, get up and move. Seriously, it’s that simple.
Set an alarm on your phone as a recurring event in your work calendar. Use a Pomodoro timer app to remind you to stand up for 60-seconds once every 30 minutes.
When the phone rings, stand up to talk. This does two things: it gets you up from your chair and it puts you in a power position. Standing makes it easier to think and (might help) to keep the conversation shorter.
If you organize meetings, make meetings under 20 minutes standing only. Standing at a meeting will make everyone in attendance more efficient and the meeting will move along more quickly.
For breaks and lunch, step away from your desk and go for a walk outside if possible. While not perfect, these simple strategies will help you to feel better.
If you need help with a custom-designed fitness and exercise plan click here to contact me.
If you’ve been reading this post sitting down I want you to stand up, right now. I want you to do a simple series of stretches that will only take about three minutes. You can read and do the stretches at the same time, or watch the video below.
While standing take notice of how you feel. Do your feet hurt? What do your knees feel like? Your hips, low back, and shoulders? Move you head and note how your neck muscles feel. If you’re wearing heels please step out of them, now, for this exercise.
Reach your right arm upwards as straight, long and as far from your body as possible. Feel the muscles stretching. Which ones feel tightest? Now lean over to the opposite side of you upward arm to lengthen the stretch down your lats into your hips. Take a deep breath in and as you slowly release bring your arm slowly down. How does that feel? Now do the other side.
Let’s do some shoulder shrugs and rolls. Standing up nice and tall raise your shoulders up to your ears with your arms loosely at your sides. Slowly roll the shoulders back and down, then straight up again to your ears, then back and down. Do this five times.
Next, let’s stretch the neck. Stand tall with your shoulders level. Slowly lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Gently rest your right hand on the side of your head. You can press down lightly if it feels comfortable for you to stretch your neck more deeply. Stay there for about 20 seconds.
Now with your right hand slowly assist your head back up to neutral. Next, lower your left ear to your left shoulder. Gently rest your left hand on the side of your head. You can press down lightly and stay here for 20 seconds. Again, used your left hand to slowly assist you head back up to straight.
Last stretch: stand tall and put your hands on your hips. With your chest up and your abdominals tight, slowly bend over from your waist while keeping your back as flat as possible. Bend your knees if needed to accommodate. Notice and feel the stretch. What do you feel in your low back, your buttocks or your hamstrings? Hold that flat back position a bit longer.
Now, allow your arms and hands to dangle in front of your legs. Slowly release your abs, relax your back and try to touch your toes or put your palms flat on the floor in front of your feet. Bend your knees more if needed to reach the floor or if you feel any back pain. Take a deep, slow breath in and as you slowly exhale straighten up your back one vertebrae at a time.
Take another deep breath in, hold it for one, two, three, and exhale.
How did that sequence of stretching make you feel?
A little light headed maybe? Refreshed? Calmer? Relaxed? At peace? If you feel any those that is proof of why you need to move more often.
Movement Is All Around You
Whatever you like to do for movement simply move often. Some people think that they have to lift weights as a form of movement. While resistance training offers incredible health benefits like fat burning, a more efficient metabolism and bone strength, there are other sports and exercises that offer similar health improvements. If you’re looking for a comprehensive book on weightlifting, I highly recommend The Book of Muscle.
At this point you should be feeling great. I’m happy that you’ve joined me in this simple movement exercise.
In the next video I’ll share with you how the Pillar of Healthy Eating works to optimize your health.
The 4 Pillars of Wellness
This post is part of my free, 6-part video program, The 4 Pillars of Wellness. When you sign up for the free course you’ll get access to additional resources and worksheets specific to each lesson.
Click the button above to get access to the worksheets, resources, as well as life-long access to the course. Stay tuned for the next instalment, Healthy Eating: The 2nd Pillar of Wellness.
Eat healthy, move often, be well