We know that you want to feel your best, as much as possible, for as long as possible—like forever.
We also know that you know that movement is an important part of the wellness journey. We talked about that in our post about the three pillars of health: which, in addition to movement, were sleep and nutrition.
Now, let's get a bit more specific about an important link between movement and wellness, and that's frequency. And here, we’re literally talking about movement, not necessarily working out or anything particularly effortful or structured. This is simply about not being sedentary.
It’s fantastic if you have your regularly structured workout times. That is great. However, if like many people, you are spending most of the rest of the time sitting, you’re setting yourself up for experiencing many of the downsides experienced by those who don't exercise at all.
But here’s the great news: it doesn’t take much to set things right. Mostly, it’s about consistency. A good rule of thumb is to move at least once an hour. Do a few jumping jacks and a few stretches. Take a walk. Do a short series of yoga poses. Take a few minutes to get your blood flowing and lengthen out and engage your muscles. If you can get outside, all the better.
The benefits to incorporating regular movement into your day are many; here are five.
You Will Feel Better, Like Right Now
Sitting for too long often results in becoming achy and stiff. You’re also prone to becoming lethargic, physically and mentally. And, most of us don’t maintain great posture; over time, it’s really common to slump or hunch over the computer, which furthers muscle strain. Speaking of strain, hours in front of a screen can also cause eye fatigue, which can lead to headaches.
A quick remedy to this all is to get up and move around. Give it a try. Set an alarm on your phone or computer to ring, say, every 45 minutes. Every time it rings, step away from the computer (without your phone) and do some sort of movement for 3 to 5 minutes. Take note of your the improvement in your alertness, your energy, and generally how you feel in your body.
This will benefit you in the moment, as well as over the long haul. Because prolonged sitting day after day, year after year can have even more serious consequences, like this next item.
You’ll Reduce the Chances of Injury & Chronic Pain
When you put your body in the same posture for hours on end, day after day, it starts to cause imbalances: you’re stretching some areas and contracting others. Said another way, some areas become overly tight and others become really weak. Over time, this leads to pain, and can eventually result in injuries.
Common issues caused from sitting too much often start in the spine: lower back, upper back, and neck pain happen all too often. What starts as an ache can eventually manifest as a bulging or herniated disc, or even just ongoing discomfort. And that's something we all want to avoid.
You’ll Reduce Risks of Heart Disease & Other Serious Health Issues
We hinted at this up top, but it’s worth repeating: studies show that if you aren’t moving frequently, even if you exercise regularly, you’re at risk for many of the same health issues as people who are primarily sedentary.
This isn’t to say that your workouts aren’t beneficial: they are. It is to say, however, that being sedentary the rest of the time just isn’t good for your health. Sitting too much has been linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other maladies.
You’ll Think More Clearly & Increase Happiness
I know, by now, this “moving often” prescription is starting to sound like a miracle cure. Really what this all points to is the simple fact that your body likes to move. And, your body is intrinsically linked to your brain and emotional state.
There’s a reason why it’s always good advice to go for a walk when you’re feeling stuck on a problem at work or just can’t figure out how to phrase an important email or your just feeling blah. A re-energized body contributes to a re-energized brain. And, not only is regular movement a great antidote to brain fatigue, it's also been linked to being happier.
You'll Remain More Mobile for Years to Come
It's not only the issues related to stressing the spine that cause aches, pains, and potential injuries. A Harvard Health article points out that prolonged sitting causes the hip flexors and hamstrings to tighten. This leads to stiff hip and knee joints and that can have a negative impact on your balance and gait.
This lack of full mobility and poor balance skills, in time, leads to risks of falling. In older adults, falls are the number one cause of injury and death (yikes!). Even for younger adults, it may be surprising to discover that your balance isn't as good as you'd think. That said, practicing balance is an excellent thing to do when you're taking a break from sitting.
Small Efforts, Big Payoff
It doesn't take much effort to offset the sitting habits that have become so prevalent in our modern lifestyles. It does, however, take a consistent, dedicated effort. That's the whole idea.
A motivational trick to keep you on track is to really tune into how much better you feel when you move often. Take note of the benefits of your new movement habit. Soon enough, it'll become less of something to have to do and more of something you want to do.