Movement Matters

Published 2:48 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023

Welcome February, and goodbye January of 2023! One whole month into the new year, and 11 to go, so I ask: How are those resolutions coming? One of the most common new year’s resolutions remains, “I am going to get fit,” or “I want to lose weight.” Or maybe, “I want to get healthier,” or something specific that relates to one of the previous statements. No matter what the specific goal, there are two familiar, non-negotiable factors to making that a reality: nutrition and movement. Nutrition, the process of obtaining nutrients through food to maintain optimal energy requirements, can go an especially long way to optimizing your overall health and wellness.  Benefits of movement include immediate physiological and psychological outcomes, such as: increased energy levels, enhanced focus, improved mood, better sleep, overall enjoyment, and more.  Healthy nutrition takes planning, commitment, and (of course) time to implement;  however, once you’ve got the steps down, there are many options of which to incorporate nutritional goals into a busy lifestyle. Yet, when we contemplate movement, we generally think of “exercise”, sweat, grueling 5:00 AM workouts, and time commitment. While exercise elicits many incredible health benefits and should not be completely avoided, many people discount the effectiveness of physical activity to meet their health and movement goals. 

Exercise is a structured form of physical activity, usually implemented to reach a specific goal, while physical activity is any activity in which the body is not at rest, or simply voluntary movement. According to the CDC, the weekly recommended time for physical activity equals 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (walking, taking the stairs, cleaning, gardening, etc.), 75 minutes of vigorous activity (jogging, playing a sport, swimming, etc.), or a combination of both. 

A huge barrier to reaching a daily movement goal stems from the constant constraint of the thing we all wish we had more of: time. Many have to wake up around 6 (if not earlier), get the kids ready for school, get the kids to school or daycare, then work from 8-5, only to come home, make dinner, spend time with the kids and/or family, get kids ready for bed, fit in whatever other responsibilities you may have, then hopefully wind down with enough time to get the adequate 7-8 hours of sleep we’re told to maintain for a healthy lifestyle (though, many struggle for that too). So, where then, do we fit in exercise or physical activity?

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If making time for structured exercise seems next to impossible, or if exercise feels too difficult, do not give up! A little bit each day can go a long way, so, set an attainable goal for yourself (ex. Time or step-count), and try implementing “movement snacks” throughout the day to meet your movement goal. “Movement snacks” are small implementations of physical activity throughout the day that immediately elicit positive psychological and physiological results, even in short bouts.  For example: take the stairs instead of the elevator. Or, park far away at Walmart instead of circling around for the closest spot (guilty). Try to take a few 5-10 minute walk breaks (or any other kind of low-moderate intensity movement) during the workday, or if time does not allow, walk around while talking on your phone instead of sitting in the chair.  Even standing instead of sitting can produce physiological benefits. 

Another suggestion, especially for those who sit at a desk or must focus for long periods of time, includes the Pomodoro Technique.  This technique utilizes a 25-minute focused work interval, followed by a 5-minute break period.  Use this 5 minute break to stand up, walk around, talk to a coworker, etc. Try implementing this technique a few times throughout the work day to integrate some effective movement minutes or incorporate some extra steps.

No matter the goal, intensity, type, or duration, movement is essential for overall health and wellness and should not go unperformed. Unfortunately, many people live a sedentary lifestyle that can contribute to increased risk for chronic disease, fewer caloric expenditure (leading to weight gain), decreased muscle strength and endurance for regular activities, and more. Practicing good movement habits, such as involving movement throughout the regular day, makes a credible impact on your health. Furthermore, engaging in movement activities increases your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) through both structured exercise activity AND nonexercise activity. Both are equally important and can impact your health goals (such as weight loss). Meaning, it doesn’t have to be hard! So, get moving, because movement matters!