Is Movement Important For Health and Happiness?


We all know that eating right is the foundation of lifelong health.  Both the ancestral health and conventional wisdom camps harp on the fact that simply cutting out processed food leads to massive gains in quality of life.  Further refinement of what healthy eating means can then be parsed out (you know where I stand), but at least we can agree on limiting outright junk.

Fitness is a whole other mess of opinions and misinformation. Should we be slaving away on the treadmill for an hour a day? Isolating muscles in machines at the gym? Calisthenics? Strength training? More cardio to “work off” the cheat meal from last night?

This can get as overwhelming as trying to figure out what to eat.  For many people like busy parents or those working long hours, taking an hour out of the day to head to the gym is simply too exhausting to even think about   That, along with perhaps being embarrassed to go to the gym and not know what to do, is enough to give up with a shrug and think, “Is it even worth the trouble?”.

It is. It’s role in general health and chronic disease risk can’t be overstated enough.  It is simply one of if not the most effective ways to cut your risk for mortality dramatically.  Even if the goal is not weight loss, simply getting some aerobic exercise and a couple of strength training sessions a week is enough to achieve the benefit (and will result in increased weight loss).

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Not only for your physical health but also your mental health. Consider those days that are more physically active than usual.  Maybe you sleep better.  Maybe you make better choices with what to eat that day.  You are noticeably more patient with your children or co-workers.  Things just work a little smoother that day.  We take for granted the effect that a little exercise has on anxiety by growing the prefrontal cortex.  Little things don’t bother us as much, turning the day into a much more productive (and happier) one.  That early morning traffic won’t stimulate a rampant fight or flight response like it would have if you didn’t do that stretch warm up in the morning.

That’s because exercise is more than just a way to burn off calories for the next onslaught of (hopefully blood sugar friendly) food.  Movement is something that our body craves.  It is something our mind needs.  It is what we were built to do.

Take a look at most adult’s days.

We get up.  Sit in the car to drive to work.  Sit in a desk for 8 hours with very minimal movement.  Sit in a car to drive home.  Sit on a couch to eat.  Go to bed.  What part of that seems natural?  Maybe you isolate some movement for 45 minutes in a workout at the gym.  That’s great! But what about the other 12 or so hours in the day?  We definitely are not built to move once and be done with it.

Think about how our ancestors were living pre- modern times.  We didn’t run for an hour then sit the rest of the day.  We moved constantly.  Foraging, planting, hunting, building, even a task as simple as washing clothes by hand is a task that takes a good amount of time and effort.  We moved around all day at a slow pace lifting, walking, squatting, our body extending to all of its possible ranges of motion.  We would have painting aerobic fitness simply by doing daily task.  Coronary heart disease is a scourge that didn’t even show up until the 19th century.  Right around the time that we started getting more sedentary and eating a lot more grains, oxidized seed oils, and trans fats.

It is a very modern idea that we need to spend 5000$ on a new treadmill to fulfill our daily requirement for movement.  Slow anaerobic based movement needs to be something that we make a habit of.  Simply by taking a walk after each meal, or getting up every 30 minutes at work and walking or doing a set of push ups your fitness will be transformed to another level.  That is because this is the groundwork that our movement has to be based on.  It needs to be non-negotiable to be moving as much as possible through out the day.

When we add in strength training by lifting heavy things or doing bodyweight exercises a couple times a week, the picture is complete. 

Just a few random perks of exercising.  That is just from regular aerobic movement.  This could be taking a 15 minute walk every meal.  A light run every couple of days.  Compound that with perhaps swinging a kettlebell around 3 times a week and you will be able to maintain fitness your whole life.

Thanks for reading along, leave any questions or comments below.  Get out and move that body!
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