Updated: Apr 22
Healthy movement is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Being sedentary raises the risk of all cause mortality. It doubles the risk of cardio vascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression and anxiety. We all have busy lives and it's easy to get out of the habit of exercise or we think there just isn't time to fit exercise in. Here are some ways to get you moving.
A great way to get movement in is to start with dance. Not fancy dancing where you need lessons, but just turning on some music and dance for a solid five minutes with some gusto multiple times a day. This can shift your mood, bring you back into your body, and reconnect you with fun and enjoyment. This also activates the parasympathetic nervous system!
Create short playlists (3-4 songs each) and dance multiple times a day. Or try a virtual online dancing platform such as Body Groove. Then you can dance it in the privacy of your own home and choose the intensity and length of the activity.
Move with Your Life
For some, the concept of a “gym” is a big part of their resistance to exercise. The time and expense of having to “go there” to workout, the potential self-consciousness, the perception that it might be intimidating or the equipment might be hard to use… We can all benefit from returning to the basic concept of using our bodies in the course of normal life. We can set new habits and benefit often from choices such as parking at the back of the lot and enjoying a nice walk to the front door, using two baskets at the grocery store instead of a cart, biking to a friend’s house or to work instead of taking the car, or avoiding all escalators/elevators and opting for stairs every time instead (and saying yes especially when carrying something like a suitcase vs. using that as an excuse to not do so).
What kind of movement resonates with you? It might be walking, hiking, gardening or riding a bike. It might be play time with a beloved pet. Or a child. Or you may want to play with a hula hoop or a jump rope. Just try it! It will put a smile on your face.
Ever heard of forest bathing? Being in nature confers a multitude of benefits. Try to find ways to Move in nature – whether a hike in a park, planting a garden, doing an outdoor bootcamp or rowing a boat in a lake – nature provides a therapeutic and wonderful backdrop for movement.
For some, aggressive exercise may be appropriate. But what should raise a red flag is if someone is exhausted after exercise, or if you are experiencing signs of poor recovery such as excessive soreness or injuries.
Remember that exercise is controlled stress to the body – designed to activate the body’s own innate antioxidant defenses as a way of supporting healing as well as muscle maintenance and growth. And that affects a whole bunch of tissue – our skeletal muscles, our heart, our lungs, and many others. But exercise fundamentally generates oxidative stress. And so, when people don’t have good, strong antioxidant function, they may feel lasting effects of wear and tear of that controlled oxidative damage from the exercise. This is where you may need to cut back or change the type of activity you engage in until your body can handle the oxidative load. Start slow and add on.
Stack the habits – AKA Exercise Snacks
Habit stacking is a behavioral technique where someone engages in mini-habits which eventually lead to more entrenched “larger” behaviors. I have heard this called Exercise Snacks, mini-habits of movement to build on. Here are some mini-habit / Exercise Snack suggestions:
One push up whenever you think of it
A set of sit-ups whenever you are about to sit down for a meal
Squats while brushing your teeth
Rebounding for 5 minutes on the hour
Putting on your exercise clothes upon waking as a signal that some type of activity will happen later
A dozen press-ups against the kitchen counter while waiting for the kettle to boil
30 air squats every time a client uses the bathroom
You get the idea. Movement has benefits even if undertaken in spurts – 3 short 10-minute walks are as beneficial as one 30-minute one. This is key when you don't have a big block of time for exercise. Those mini-habits and Exercise Snacks are as beneficial to health as prolonged, sustained exercise.
Movement Time is Family Time
For people with young children that have a hard time finding time to exercise, find activities which include the kids. Going for a walk and “racing” to the corner can get the heart rate up. Obstacle courses are an opportunity for a friendly family competition. Explore a fun baby yoga routine or find fun exercise videos online that include children. If you are creative, you can get in some exercise, build bonds with your children and wear them out all at the same time. No guilt required!
TV Time is Movement Time
A busy parent who wants to spend time with your kids in the evening vs. taking time away from home to go to the gym, began doing an exercise stint during *every* commercial break of family TV time. Have the kids joined in! Walk up and down the stairs, do pushups, used hand weights, hula hoop, and have short exuberant dance parties. This is movement AND time together, laughter, connection, and – yes! – fun. A great reminder that our assumptions about what a new habit will require of us (especially negative aspects!) don’t necessarily have to be true .
Most people can benefit from having a Movement Accountability Buddy. Seek out friends who may want to start additional physical activity; research shows that being accountable to someone increases follow-through. If a person is already not getting enough social connection and stimulation, then working out on their own is also not likely to be sustainable. Having a buddy or perhaps joining an exercise group or class can satisfy many different needs at once.
Change it Up
A key concept that few people understand is that movement and exercise have to be equal to your fitness level, state of health and current needs. Just like diet may need to change with time, so does the type of activity that you engage in.
Some people get stuck in an exercise rut by engaging in the same activity for years at a time – and while this can be beneficial, it pays to change things up. Any comprehensive movement program should include elements of cardio, strength training and stretching/flexibility. I encourage you to go outside of you exercise comfort zone – if you love strength training, perhaps trying a yoga class would be beneficial. If you run for exercise, work on their abdomen and upper body. You get the idea. Long-standing habits build comfort but also boredom.
Building Strength Can Be Portable
Kudos to whoever invented those exercise bands – easy to throw in your travel bag or keep an extra set at the office. Strength training is so important for long term health – strengthening bones, helping the body burn fat and balancing blood glucose. If bands are not your thing, join an app such as the 7-minute workout. Many of the
workouts do not require any equipment and only take 7 minutes!
Yoga’s the Thing
The benefits of Yoga are many and far reaching, and it’s not difficult to find a Yoga modality that fits anyone’s fitness level and exercise goals. The wonderful thing about Yoga is that it combines physical benefits with breathing – helping with stress management and parasympathetic activation. Even intense power yoga modalities incorporate appropriate deep breathing to minimize sympathetic activation that is usually present with vigorous exercise.
Face the Barriers
What the barriers are keeping you from engaging in physical activity? Perhaps it’s time, pain, distaste, boredom, lack of past ‘success’, lack of self-confidence (have people made fun of you or have you failed in the past?). Find creative ways to overcome the obstacles in small doses and always celebrate ANY movement as a cumulative goal. We don’t pass
restrictions and barriers we don’t explore!