Why Movement Matters...And Why "Exercise" Doesn't Cut It

by Joanna Whitney (PTS, Certified Yoga Teacher, Health + Lifestyle Coach)

We all know that exercise is good for us. But we have been duped into believing that 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day is all that’s required to keep us healthy.  

It is now known that someone who participates in frequent intense exercise isn't necessarily home-free. According to a study by the Cancer Prevention Research Centre, the “Active Couch Potato” trend shows that there are negative metabolic consequences to extended periods of sitting or inactivity, even among those considered to be sufficiently physically active. In other words, you might be getting the recommended level of exercise at the gym in your 1 hour session, but it doesn’t undo the fact that the rest of the day you’re fairly sedentary. Yes, exercise is EXTREMELY important. But, there’s more to the wellness equation.

In my own physical and mental wellness journey, one of the biggest game-changers for me was regular movement. Not just exercise. Movement throughout the day. On the outside, I looked like I was in good shape, but I was exhausted and I exercised intensely because I "should." Outside of my “workout time,” I didn’t move much. The stress of my job, the exhaustion that resulted and the complete lack of motivation prevented me from engaging my body throughout the day.

As Michael Stone notes in his book The Inner Tradition of Yoga, “Any type of stress, whether it’s physical, mental or emotional, causes tension in our bodies that accumulates from static, repetitive, or sustained posture.” 

So whether it’s cardiovascular disease, cancer and metabolic disease prevention, or depression, anxiety, and stress relief, it's clear that frequent, consistent and varied movement is imperative for health and longevity. Here are few tips to help you integrate more movement into your day:

1. Use your physical environment to encourage movement. Build a standing desk or get a short coffee table and have it available so you can sit on the floor to work. Bring props into your workspace that give you the option of moving your joints (a ball to roll your feet on, half domes to put your feet up on at various angles, a chair to put one knee up on...). Sitting isn’t the only way to work, nor is standing on both feet...use your imagination!

2. Set a timer. One of my favourites is the Pomodoro technique. This is amazing for work productivity AND your physical health. For every 25 minutes of uninterrupted work, you get a 3-5 minute break. Repeat this cycle 4 times and then take a longer break (15-20). Check out this online timer. I use the short breaks to get some movement in like jumping on my rebounder (mini trampoline), doing a quick yoga flow or even a quick jaunt around the block. Give it a try and watch your productivity and energy soar. 

3. Make movement part of your life. #stackyourlife as one of my movement heroes, Katy Bowman, shares. Have an errand to run? Take your bike. On a phone meeting? Walk during it. Have to a delivery to make? Carry it there on your bike, in your arms or pull it in a wagon. Have to listen to a lecture? Put on your earbuds and walk the dog. There are SO many things you can accomplish while moving!

4. Get creative when you’re sitting. I absolutely love to sit back and watch TV (Ozark, anyone?). But we’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. I think to be more accurate, it should read, "Staying in one position too long is the new smoking." Regardless of whether you’re sitting, standing, lying down or on your head, if you’re there for too long, it’s not good for your body or mind. So, move to different positions frequently. Sit on the floor cross legged - if you can't, it's time you start practicing. Lie on one side, stand and balance on one leg for a bit. Squat down as far as you can - lean against a wall for support if “resting” in a squat isn’t your thing. Sit with your feet out straight in front of you. There are so many different “sitting” positions and “resting” positions that get your body into different shapes, allow for movement and keep your joints more active.

Do you have other suggestions? How do you ensure you get more movement in your day? I'd love to hear! Regardless of the how, just make sure you're doing it. And, of course, still make sure you get into the gym…RD Athletics is a great place to start!

If you’d like to get started, book your training assessment with me here and I’d be happy to not only create a GREAT program for you at the gym, but also chat about ways to get more movement in throughout your day!

Joanna Whitney