If you scored high in the ‘Movement’ section of the Health Score assessment then please read this resource as it contains some useful information and resources to help you.
Is ‘Movement’ important?
I originally came from a Sports Science background where we very much focussed on the physiological impacts of movement and the most appropriate selection of exercise for physical performance. This provided me with a great understanding about the impacts of movement on the body and in subsequent years working as a personal trainer and corrective exercise coach, I became very good at assessing and prescribing movement. Over the years I became much more open about the broader impacts of movement on both our physiological health and our psychological health as well.
Movement is not just about burning calories or improving performance or body composition. For movement to be an integral part of your foundational health we should respect the wider impact that it can have.
In my forthcoming book Sleep, Eat, Move, Breathe, Repeat, it covers my five foundations of optimal health:
- Sleep – All things sleep
- Eat – How, Why, What & When you eat
- Move – Exercise & daily movement
- Breathe – Impacts of stress, solution/management of stress, mindfulness etc
- Repeat – Behaviour change, motivating change, scheduling, long term success
For ‘Movement’, I go into detail about:
- Why movement is important
- Different types of movement and how they can benefit the mind and body – HIIT, cardio, strength, stretching, core, yoga, Pilates etc
- Learning to listen to the body and choose exercise appropriately
- Exercise in your home, gym, outdoors and office space
- How movement can positively impact various systems & organs in the body – gut, hormones, brain, immunity, cardiovascular etc
- Example exercises and training methods to help you achieve your goals
- Ways to incorporate additional activity into your busy schedule
- Energising movement
- Functional exercises for a modern world
It’s NEAT to move your FEET
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports like activities/structured exercise.
NEAT is the steps you take in the day getting from place to place, perhaps the gardening you do at weekends, the walk you go on with the dog, the stairs you take instead of the lift or escalators.
Here is a great little visual on the benefits of exercise, mostly walking which would be classed as NEAT.
You can improve your NEAT too!
Firstly, observe your general movement through the day outside of structured exercise. What does this look like?
Second, consider if increasing your NEAT would be beneficial. If so, look at what you might be able to do.
Options might be to incorporate more walking in your day, either structured in or during your commute, taking stairs instead of escalators, parking further away from the location you intend to go to, doing a little workout in your kitchen while making breakfast or dinner, you may even go as far as getting a dog if you have space to look after one in your life.
Perhaps buying a pedometer (step counter) would be useful to you. Observe your current average steps per day and set the goal to increase that by 20% initially. Look at how that can be done and set those in as behaviour changes that you want to make. You may have certain days where you can do more than others and that is fine, the number of steps you make per day does not have to be linear, you are looking for an average increase.
You cannot fire a cannon from a canoe!
This was a great saying I learnt 15 years or so ago and ultimately this analogy is in relation to the ability to create stability and a strong foundation before putting load through it.
A neglected area in our sedentary world is that of the core. The core is your entire torso, inclusive of the muscles, internal organs etc. The extremities sit on the torso and it is the torso that provides the platform for the extremities to function and produce force. Having a weak core is as the saying goes, like having a canoe that you intend to fire a cannon out of. Neither the cannon fires where you want it and the canoe is more likely to topple over or get damaged.
The same goes for the human body, weak core muscles, poor use of your lungs, diaphragm and breathing to create stability increases the risk of injury and poor performance.
The core also houses internal organs and many people will find the bulging stomach is actually a loss of core function and the internal organs are able to cause the stomach to protrude outwards. The dream of having a flat stomach is sometimes less about weight loss and more about improving the function of these crucial muscles, such as the internal and external obliques, transverse abdominals, diaphragm and others. This loss of core function has also been shown to negatively impact the digestive system, often leading it to become sluggish and dysfunctional.
I will go more into core function, exercise selection and breathing to improve core function in my up-coming book.
“To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy”
Two common things I see in clinic are over-exercising when the body needs more rest or the recovery potential is poor, as well as under-exercising when there is a need to move more and capacity to do so.
Getting the balance right can sometimes be a challenge, because we need to react to internal and external cues for what is right for the body in that moment.
Many people use exercise as a coping strategy for psychological stress. Exercise often has the ability to help us clear our mind, press the reset button if you like, almost like a meditative act. For that reason, exercise in itself can become an addictive tool to use to cope with stress, much the same way another person might use alcohol or drugs.
Exercise is certainly a good thing, but exercise can only be as good as your ability to recover from it as it is still a stressor. Therefore, it is crucial that we have awareness of our body, how we are feeling and whether the exercise we are doing is appropriate for our physical demands.
An exercise I do sometimes with clients is we look at plotting the exercise they currently do on a continuum from working out (most physically demanding) through to working in (least physically demanding). So, for example some of the most physically demanding training might be CrossFit, long distance running, strength training etc, whilst the least might be walking, yin yoga, a gentle swim etc.
We then look at a lifestyle continuum. These are factors in their lifestyle that might impact their ability to recover. Therefore, at one end it might be lack of sleep or being jetlagged, drinking alcohol, working long days, a recent family bereavement, a lack of food or healthy food etc. At the other end it might be healthy food, adequate water, a good night’s sleep, being on holiday etc.
The goal is to bring awareness to supporting hard training with appropriate recovery methods and also to know when to take the foot off the gas because recovery might not be there and choose forms of exercise that may enhance recovery instead.
The unfortunate truth is that we often find ourselves using high stress exercises to help cope with a high stress environment and lifestyle. Exercise is a stressor that also requires management. In all cases, if selected appropriately, exercise can be a positive stress on the body, the trick is to ensure recovery is able to match the stressor.
“Rowing Harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction”
Kenichi Ohmae – Japanese Professor
Pick what you enjoy most
As much as there are people that can over-train, there are likely more people that struggle to get enough exercise.
Not all forms of exercise will be enjoyable to you. The challenge with exercise that is not enjoyable is that it is often not sustainable. I would always recommend starting with exercise that you enjoy the most and working from there. Of course, there is also a need to be aware of what type of exercise your body needs most, based upon your current state or health and your health goals, but starting with enjoyment and making exercise part of your schedule should be the first step for most.
My wife and I enjoy very different forms of exercise. Fay enjoys class-based exercises, dancing and performing, whereas I prefer being outside on my bike with just nature around me, I find it almost meditative and helpful in organising and guiding my thoughts and I also like competitive sports. There is no right or wrong when it comes to what exercise you enjoy the most, we are all unique and therefore our exercise programs can also be unique as well.
Yet for both of us having relatively sedentary jobs we both incorporate walking into our schedule, often with our dog as well as certain corrective exercises to help with any posture and core strength because of the impact of mostly desk bound jobs.
I hope you have found this content useful. If you feel that you could benefit from additional support in this area, don’t hesitate to get in touch using the enquiry form below.