We all know that exercise is good for our health. And most of us know that we should be doing more. Yet we struggle to make it happen.
How can we do more?
Firstly, we need to understand why exercise helps us so much, and how we can reap the benefits.
Humans are designed to be physically active! Research shows that exercise supports our health and development across the lifespan, from infancy to adulthood. Moving supports brain development and motor skills in infancy and childhood, improves psychological functioning and reduces depression and anxiety in adolescence, assists in weight management and reducing chronic disease development throughout adulthood, and supports long term independence and healthy aging in the elderly.
More specifically, exercise and activity can lower our blood pressure, regulate our blood-sugar levels, support weight-management, improve our cholesterol levels, support healthy immune function, reduce stress levels and support brain functioning.
But beyond the scientific evidence, simply, exercise makes us feel good! It gives us energy; it helps our bodys to do the daily tasks it needs or wants to do!
Ido Portal said:
“The body will become better at whatever you do, or don’t do. You don’t move? The body will make you better at NOT moving. If you move, your body will allow more movement.”
And I think the key lies in Portal’s words. Moving is the important part. It might not matter exactly how we do it.
There is increasing evidence that high levels of sedentary behaviours are particularly detrimental to our health. Too much sitting can even negate the positive affects of regular exercise! The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines now include recommendations to limit prolonged sitting periods, and research has even suggested that regular sedentary time negates the positive effects of exercise, with findings indicating that 2 hours of sedentary time cancelled out the benefits of 20 minutes of exercise, and 6 hours of sedentary time negated 1 hour of exercise!
Of course, many of us can’t be on our feet for hours each day. Your job may be spent largely at the computer, you may regularly drive long distances, or perhaps you suffer from mobility issues or chronic pain. However there is something you can do. A new study suggests that the impaired blood flow caused by sedentary behaviour can be reversed by breaking up periods of inactivity with 5-minute walking breaks.
I have successfully used this idea with many of my clients with good success. I find people are much more open to implementing regular (i.e. daily) activity and movement in shorter intervals.
I would suggest starting with a 5-minute period of activity or exercise once per day and aiming to achieve this consistently every day. Consistency is the key. Once you can achieve this comfortably and this starts to become a habit, work towards a second 5-minute period of activity each day. For example you may go for a short walk in the morning and afternoon.
I'm not suggesting that regular exercise sessions such as a jog, gym session, netball game or longer walk aren't beneficial, and if you're able to, then your health will benefit greatly. However I commonly see people that aren't able to do this for a multitude of reasons. Too often we think meaningful exercise must be 30 minutes or an hour, and often this is overwhelming for so many reasons – it’s too hard, we don’t have time, or we just don’t want to! If this sounds like you, five minutes will hopefully sound much more achievable.
Committing to 5 minutes every day is a great place to start!
Even those with complex health issues, chronic pain conditions, joint inflammation and obesity can usually manage short spurts of activity with a break in between for recovery time, and can use this as a stepping-stone to improve their movement capabilities.
So what’s holding you back from moving more?
Can you commit to moving more deliberately for 5 or 10 minutes every day this week? Your body will thank you.