We hear from people every day who tell us that they’ve put movement and exercise on the back burner during restrictions due to lockdowns etc. Of course, many of us don’t have access to gyms, equipment, space, and it’s hard to feel motivated when we’re dealing with a stressful pandemic.
But regular body movement might be exactly what we need right now.
Research shows that there is a powerful link between the amount of exercises we incorporate and how healthy (or not) our immune system is. Even in non-pandemic times, having a robust immune system is crucial to keep us well.
We know that aerobic exercise strengthens our cardiovascular health and keeps our hearts in tip-top shape, but even slow and mindful practices like yoga and tai chi decrease blood pressure and cholesterol.
Exercise strengthens our memory and makes us sharper, happier, and more resilient. Studies show that vigorous exercise can be a better antidepressant than Prozac (note: medications can be needed and you should always work with your doctor to ensure whatever protocol you are on is the best fit for you).
When you exercise, your brain becomes more elastic which helps to improve your mood, boost your energy, and reduce overall stress in your body and mind.
One of the many benefits of exercise is that it improves insulin sensitivity, which is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health span and lifespan. Exercise actually makes your cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin so you don’t need as much. Less insulin means less dangerous visceral belly fat, less inflammation, and less cellular damage.
Daily movement also enhances detoxification by stimulating the colon and releasing toxins through your sweat, which can help detox environmental chemicals.
Vigorous exercise is great to work up a sweat, but even gentle exercise enhances circulation to help flush out toxic fluids that build up in your lymphatic system. Even just lying on your back and putting your legs straight up against the wall for 20 minutes can make a huge difference.
It’s clear that daily movement has immense whole-body benefits, and I only listed a few of the most important. So, the question becomes, how do we incorporate movement daily?
Here are three simple ways:
Schedule it and make it easy. Every single day schedule time in your calendar to work out. If you don’t schedule it, you probably won’t do it. Also, I make it as easy as possible. Human nature dictates that we are more likely to exercise if we’ve made it easy for ourselves. A good idea is to put your workout clothes on as soon as you get out of bed so you’re ready to go.
Do it first thing in the morning. We all know how easy it is to skip exercise entirely if we push it to the backburner. Do your daily exercise first thing in the morning to jump-start your metabolism and set your day on the right course.
Make it fun. Getting into great shape doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym, plodding along on elliptical machines, or suffering through classes led by punishing drill-sergeant instructors (unless that’s something you enjoy!). While we mostly hate to exercise, we love to play. Find new and different enjoyable activities that keep you active, like walking (on the beach, around the block – in the car park doing shopping…), playing tennis, hiking, tai chi, or dancing in your local park.
So, get up today and move your body, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
If you can walk –increase your daily steps, use your smart watch, pedometer, fitbit or just keep time of how long you walk – yes you can!
Shared with acknowledgement to Mark Hyman, MD