Daily life is structured in a way that makes it very easy for us to avoid movement – even more so in a covid world. We sit down to drive to work. When at work, we sit at desks for 8+ hours a day. Then we come home and sit on the couch to relax until bedtime. When working from home it's even easier to forget about moving. We get lost in our screens, eat at our desks and miss lunchtime walks with work colleagues. On busy days you may find yourself moving no further from your desk than to the fridge and back.
This is not what the human body was built for. We were made with limbs and joints to move. Creaky knees, stiff backs, tight hips, and breathlessness when going up hills and stairs are not just signs that you aren't as healthy as you could be but also that you aren't getting enough quality daily movement.
HOW CAN MOVING MORE BENEFIT OUR HEALTH?
Simply, we're talking about your joints and muscles and the benefit of daily movement. Our bodies are a machine, a bit like a car – if you don't run them regularly, they slowly deteriorate and seize up. The size of our muscles decreases if we don't use them, and joints begin to stiffen. Movement is essential for maintaining good joint health. Regular use of the joints naturally increases flexibility and strength, and the motion lubricates joints and reduces swelling. Not only does movement help to maintain long-term joint health, but it also helps to reduce joint pain symptoms.
Regular movement also significantly improves our posture and balance – poor posture isn't just a 'bad habit'; it is often due to inflexible muscles and poor muscular strength. For example, tight, shortened hip muscles pull the upper body forward and disrupt your posture. Tight chest muscles can also pull the shoulders forward. Weak core muscles lead to slumping and can tip your body forward and off-balance.
BETTER HEART HEALTH
Inactivity can lead to fatty material building up in the arteries. If the arteries that carry the necessary blood to your heart are clogged and damaged, this can lead to a heart attack and possible death.
We forget the heart is also a muscle. When we think of exercise and working out, we often think about developing our chest or toning our quad muscles, but like any other muscle, the heart also needs a workout to help it to work properly.
According to the Australian Heart Foundation, inactivity can reduce the risk of developing some heart and circulatory diseases by as much as 40%. Almost one in every five cases of coronary heart disease in developed countries is due to physical inactivity. Regular, varied intensity physical activity reduces the risk of developing coronary heart disease and can significantly reduce the prospect of dying from heart disease or heart complications.
IMPROVED RESPIRATORY FUNCTION
The lungs bring oxygen into the body, providing the necessary energy to function and removing carbon dioxide, the waste byproduct created while producing this energy. At the same time, the heart pumps that oxygen/energy to the muscles that are doing the exercise. When we exercise consistently, on a regular basis, we improve our endurance. This means it takes longer and/or more intense exercise to get to the point that we feel out of breath or breathless. This is a direct result of our muscles strengthening through movement. As the muscles become stronger, they require less oxygen to move and produce less carbon dioxide, helping breathing to become much more efficient and shortness of breath becomes less common.
BETTER SLEEP QUALITY
Exercise contributes to a more sound, restful, and rejuvenating sleep by increasing the time we spend in a deep sleep, the most restorative phase of sleep. Deep sleep boosts immune function, supports cardiac health, and controls stress and anxiety, so it's essential that we spend enough time in a deep sleep.
Increasing the intensity of exercise can increase sleep quality by reducing the time it takes to fall asleep. Moving and being physically active requires you to expend energy and feel more tired at night while also alleviating drowsiness during the day. Extensive studies have shown water exercise helps relax the mind as well as increase fatigue and is increased with intensity.
REDUCED STRESS LEVELS & BETTER MENTAL HEALTH
A consistent exercise routine, and regular movement, can also help to reduce your stress levels. Stress is a common cause of poor speel quality. Movement releases cortisol which helps us to process stress. It also gives the brain something else to focus on and is a great coping strategy for challenging times. Not only that, but the movement also releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better about yourself and reduces the prospect of depression. Combing music and exercise further enhance this release, reduction in stress, and improvement in mood.
HOW MUCH MOVEMENT IS NECESSARY FOR OUR BODIES?
To reduce the risk of poor health from inactivity, the Australian Department of Health advises Adults should to be active on most (preferably all) days, and weekly 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous activity or an equivalent combination of both. The health guidelines suggest averaging 150 minutes and reduce our sitting time. That's approximately three classes a week.
HOW CAN I MOVE MORE?
You've got this. Here are our top tips:
All of the above tips are simple changes that can make a big impact on your level of movement and your overall health. Once you get started, you may even find yourself enjoying it and wanting to take it a step further, continually increasing your activity level and improving your health.
In Winter it is easy to stay curled up on the couch. This normally just leads to regret. The pool is the best place to stay healthy and work out during winter. Check out our tips on how to stay healthy in Winter.
Note: Please seek medical advice before exercising & always train under the advice your medical specialist.
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