“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” ~ Jim Rohn
Choose to be active.
Researchers tell us that there are certain actions we can take to increase feelings of happiness and well-being. One way you can increase positive affect is to take care of your body by engaging in physical activity.
There are a number of ways in which physical activity boosts happiness. Mastering a sport or taking up a fitness regimen lets you feel in control of your body and your health. Seeing yourself get better at something – stronger, faster, more skillful – provides a sense of self-worth. Physical activity offers potential for flow. When performed along with others, physical activity can provide opportunities for social contact, improving social support and reinforcing friendships.
It is important to keep in mind, though, that how you choose to be active makes a difference. Working out for 30 – 60 minutes in the morning and then sitting at your desk the rest of the day doesn’t cut it. You must find ways to move throughout the day.
“But what I’ve realized is, when we say or think ‘convenience,’ it’s not so much about saving time as it is about reducing movement. We can grasp sedentary behavior as it relates to exercise because it’s easy to see the difference between exercising one hour a day and not exercising one hour a day.” [Bowman]
Katy Bowman is “[p]art biomechanist, part science communicator, and full-time mover” who blogs about the necessity of moving our bodies to remain healthy at https://nutritiousmovement.com/. Katy says her work is about “challenging people to . . . be able to see the difference between exercising one hour a day and not exercising the other twenty-three.” Perhaps more importantly, Katy wants us to realize how we are presented with choices to move moment to moment throughout the day, and to realize “how often we select the most sedentary choice without even realizing it.” [Bowman]
We are blessed with “labor saving” devices that have enabled us to move from near subsistence living to lives with plenty of discretionary time. However, this has removed much of the natural movement our bodies evolved to accomodate and which we require to remain fully mobile. It’s obvious that many of us don’t move enough. We need to find more ways to move more of our body all day long.
Think “movement” instead of “exercise”.
“It can be difficult to convey to people that I am not talking about getting more exercise — I’m talking about a different kind of exertion. I am referring to the multitude of small, low-intensity movements we make throughout the day as we go about the business of living — movements that are related to using gravity. These are movements that occur naturally throughout the day when you’re doing activities other than sitting. And yet these simple movements — these G-habits — are the key to health!” [Vernikos]
Is there anyone who still believes that exercise is not a necessity for a productive and healthy life? Exercise improves your physical fitness. Exercise improves your mental sharpness. Exercise improves your emotional well-being.
But a person can exercise and still be sedentary. “[T]here’s even a new category of movement alongside ‘active’ and ‘sedentary’ called ‘actively sedentary’,” Katy Bowman says, “to describe the movers among us, who move on average only 4 percent of the time and spend the rest of their time as sedentary as the couch potatoes.” It’s important to move your body – not only during a daily workout or a 30-minutes-three-times-a-week routine – but throughout the rest of your day.
“Developing a varied set of habitual non-exercise movements is the most important thing you can do. Even if you do exercise regularly at the gym, pay attention to your habits when you are not exercising, for they benefit your body in a very different way.” [Vernikos]
I hope you are beginning to see that you benefit on several levels from regular daily exercise sessions AND you benefit in a number of other ways from incorporating movement into your daily routine.
Re-think your “Why”.
Your reasons for wanting to move more or to add exercise to your day can have a surprising impact on how successful you are at making the change. Michelle Segar, behavior sustainability and motivation scientist and author of No Sweat: How The Simple Science Of Motivation Can Bring You A Lifetime Of Fitness, relates a study in which she and her colleagues examined the reasons people said they wanted to exercise and how that impacted their results.
In No Sweat, Michelle says: “We first asked the participants to state their reasons or goals for exercising . . . Then, to uncover their higher-level reasons for exercising, we asked them why they cared about obtaining those particular benefits. My colleagues and I found that 75 percent of participants cited weight loss or better health (current and future) as their top reasons for exercising; the other 25 percent exercised in order to enhance the quality of their daily lives (such as to create a sense of well-being or feel centered). Then we measured how much time they actually spent exercising over the course of the next year. The answer may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true: The vast majority of the participants whose goals were weight loss and better health spent the least amount of time exercising overall — up to 32 percent less than those with other goals. Think about that for a moment: Our most common and culturally accepted reasons for exercising are associated with doing the least amount of exercise. How can this be?” [Segar]
Keeping Segar’s findings in mind, moving more as a way to improve your health or lose weight may not help and could even be counter-productive. You may be more successful if you select to add more movement in order to increase your feelings of flourishing and sense of well-being . . . in fact, to live an Excelerated Life.
Move all day long.
“Most of us understand ‘movement’ to mean a large physical feat or sweaty bouts of exercise. While large movements and sensible workout routines are great, the smaller, more subtle movements that you engage in without a second thought throughout the day are just as important to your health. Smaller movements – like the rotation of your ribs, the work down the outer thigh as you stand on one foot, and the ongoing, isometric contraction of the calf muscles as they hold your body upright – all serve a purpose when it comes to maintaining healthy biological function.” [Bowman]
NEAT – non-exercise activity thermogenesis is “the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.” [Levine] This includes most of our daily activities, such as standing, walking, doing yard work or housework, typing, cooking, even fidgeting. Keeping this in mind, you can easily see ways to increase your NEAT expenditure. Easy to see, not necessarily easy to do unless you make a specific effort to add to your activity.
One concept that has worked for me is to develop “tiny habits” based on the work of BJ Fogg. Dr. Fogg offers a 5 day course where you work with a “Tiny Habits Coach” to articulate and practice 3 tiny habits – small behaviors that you tie to existing behaviors or habits to quickly develop new, healthy behaviors. Using Tiny Habits, I have added stretching, push ups, and various core exercises to my daily routine. If you are interested you can find more information at http://www.tinyhabits.com/.
Here are some ideas for adding movement to your daily routine. If you need a reminder, try using the Tiny Habit method of tying the new behavior to an existing one. Use the format, “After I (perform a routine), I will (do new behavior).
- Instead of sitting during meetings, hold stand-up meetings where everyone stands.
- Use part of your lunch break to take a quick walk outdoors.
- Add one or two short walks to your daily routine.
- Park farther away from the store and walk.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Use a standing desk.
- Stand up when you talk on the phone.
- Do a little extra house work or yard work.
- Add tiny habits to your routine to introduce more movement during the day.
- Take the longest route to the rest room or cafeteria.
I invite you to add one or more of these exercises to your daily routine. Or use this list to spark your own ideas for ways to add more movement to your day.
“If you are going to learn how to balance physical activity within your life, the most strategic thing you can do is create small, realistic plans that you can more easily learn how to navigate. For example, mindfully choosing to add even an additional five minutes of physical activity into every day, if that’s all you feel you have time for, will slowly build the realization that you can fit it in. And when you understand how to do that small amount consistently, you can think about ways to fit in a little bit more.” [Segar]
It should come as no surprise that the most successful way to add movement to your day is to start small. Move. Don’t fall into the trap of working out strenuously in the morning but then remaining sedentary the rest of the day. Move. Just a few extra minutes each day can accumulate to a big difference in your health and well-being. Move. That is embracing the Excelerated Life!
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Excelerated Fundamentals™ — perfecting basic self-care practices — is one step in creating your Excelerated life, a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service.
Bowman, Katy. Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement. Sequim, WA: Propriometrics Press, 2016
JA Levine, “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT),” Dec. 2002, April 30, 2018, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12468415>
Segar, Ph.D., Michelle. No Sweat: How The Simple Science Of Motivation Can Bring You A Lifetime Of Fitness. New York: AMACOM, 2015
Vernikos, Ph.D., Joan. Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Simple Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pail, Illness, and Early Death – And Exercise Alone Won’t. Fresno, CA: Quill Driver Books, 2011