Motivation to move in a meaningful way is often fueled by future goals. You’re training for an event, you want to be able to move well as you age, you want to maintain or change your body composition. You want to get stronger, be more flexible, have better balance, move pain-free.
These are all great motivators and excellent goals. However, all this focus on what’s going to happen later overlooks the delightful fact that meaningful movement has benefits for you right now. Like, right this minute.
Movement Boosts Your Energy!
When you’re feeling sluggish, the thought of getting out for a run or a bike ride or even a walk can feel so counterintuitive. I’m so tired, I can’t imagine doing something now that requires more of my energy, you may think.
Then you gather up the will to get moving and, ta da!, you feel so much more energetic! Almost without fail, a great antidote to waning energy is to get up and get your blood flowing.
Think about this when, for instance, you have an afternoon workout planned, and by the end of the day you’re just feeling beat. Remember how much better you’ll feel once you get going. To help this process along, start slow and easy with a good warm-up before jumping into anything strenuous.
You can try this whenever your energy dips, for a quick pick-me-up. Even just a few minutes of walking, light jumping, or yoga can snap you out of a serious case of the blahs.
Movement Helps You Clear Your Head
Sometimes the last thing you want to or think you should do when you’re overwhelmed with an endless To Do list is stop and go get some exercise instead. But truly, this is often the best thing you could do.
Stepping away from the chaos and stress of the day is a great way to reset, refocus, and rejuvenate. Sure, staying and gritting it seems like the responsible choice: you won’t stop until you're done.
But when your brain is fatigued, you’re more prone to make mistakes, become inefficient, lose focus, and emotionally exhaust yourself (see below for more on that).
Giving your brain and body a moment to pause and jumpstarting your circulation helps return you to a clear-headed space, so you can continue to tackle your tasks with gusto.
Movement Helps You Regulate Your Mood
When your energy starts to drag, it brings you down physically, your mentally, and emotionally. And when your emotional energy is low, it has an impact on your patience, your ability to be joyful, and your ability to process emotional stress.
Moving your body can help settle your nervous system while refueling your emotional reserves. It can help bring you back to emotional equilibrium, even a place of joy.
So when you’re feeling on the edge of yelling, crying, throwing something–or all three–let that be a queue that maybe it’s time to move your body with purpose.
Movement Helps Relieve Achiness and Stiffness
There are, of course, a lot of great immediate physical benefits to movement beyond feeling energized. A big one is relief from the achiness and stiffness that results from not moving.
Many of us remain in a seated or relatively static standing position for a lot of the day. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments, however, were meant to move and stretch. When they don’t move and stretch, they get stiff, and you get achy.
Counteract that yuck feeling by working toward what your body wants and needs in order to feel its best: some motion.
Sometimes Movement Might Not Be the Answer
It’s important to acknowledge here that there are times when you really just do need to rest. This is where learning to listen to your body is really helpful. It’ll help you recognize the difference between feeling tired because your energy is momentarily low or feeling tired because you aren’t getting enough rest and recovery: short-term tired vs long-term tired.
Also note that hydration and nutrition impact your energy level, so those factors should be considered, too.
If you're feeling the exhausted tired that movement isn't going to fix, swap out that ten minute jog with ten minutes of lying down and closing your eyes in a dark room. Likewise, if you feel like you’re slogging through a workout, even after you’ve had a nice warm-up, it might be the best choice to call it a day. Put another way, if you notice that your mood really isn’t lifting as you get into your activity, trust your gut and take a break.
So, yes, while most of the time movement is a great answer, there are times when rest wins.
Try for Yourself
You can read all the blogs in the world about how great movement will make you feel, but until you experience how to make that happen for yourself, you’ll never know.
With that, it's time to get up and give it a try.