The importance of movement
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s the importance of wellbeing and health. The ancient proverb ‘health is wealth’ can’t ring truer as we reflect on the last few years. The state of wellbeing, being free from physical and mental disease, is one of the most important aspects to living a life full of wealth. When we mention wealth, we don’t mean monetary wealth in this case, but the notion that being healthy allows you to take advantage of the world.
There are of course a number of contributors to good health; training, nutrition, stress management, relationships, sleep, the list is endless. Our focus today is to explore the role movement plays in optimising health.
Often referred to as the runners high, this is in fact not solely exclusive to running. This exercise induced high has recently been researched linked to a class of brain chemicals called endocannabinoids (the same chemicals mimicked by cannabis). The amygdala and prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain that regulate the stress response are also rich in receptors for endocannabinoids. When these molecules lock onto these receptors, they reduce anxiety and induce a state of serenity. That feeling of optimism and general wellbeing after a workout or run is down to these chemicals.
Psychologists believe the key to producing collective joy is synchrony—moving in the same way, and at the same time, as others—because it triggers a release of endorphins. But endorphins don’t just make us feel good; they help us connect, too. People sharing an endorphin rush through a collective activity like, trust, and feel closer to one another afterward. This sense of coming together and community has seen the rise of community-based fitness classes and apps, and also run clubs like London based Your Friendly Runners, Manchester based Snappy Runners, and many more run clubs embracing a sense of community.
A Clear Mind
Training can help clear the mind. Our ability to think creatively and pragmatically is a result of our thoughts. As we have discussed, training and movement supports a reduction in stress and anxiety, provides sense of belonging and induces a sense of happiness. It’s only natural that with this, your thoughts become more positive and you’re able to think more clearly.
When we exercise, our mind turns our attention from the daily stressors of life to happier feelings because of the release of endorphins. It's no surprise those that exercise are happier overall.
Of course, there is the physical factor of why movement is so important. Exercise or types of movement can help control and manage weight gain. This doesn’t have to be long trips to the gym either; small changes like walking up the escalator and carrying heavy shopping bags from the store (think farmers carry), are an effective way to bring in added movement to your day. The key is to consistently move every day; get 10,000 steps, step away from your desk and go for a bike ride, go for a run, or to the gym, or even outside for a quick conditioning workout. Once you start implementing these actions, movement will start to become a habit that will eventually find a consistent place in your daily routine.
Exercise also promotes HDL (the good cholesterol) alongside keeping the blood flowing smoothly reducing risk of cardio-vascular disease in the future.
The hard truth
Research shows that in the last two generations, physical activity in the UK has dropped by 20% and 32% in the US. This isn’t because of a lack of motivation, but more so technological advancements. We’re now part of a ‘convenience economy’ where everything is more accessible than ever. Our jobs don’t require us to move like they once did, even bicycles now have become power assisted. A far cry from our hunter gatherer ancestors.
Moving every day is the first step. We don't mean to train or run everyday, this is known as overtraining. Just getting your steps in, or biking round the city is a great way to move everyday. Over time, this daily movement will become a habit and you will start to reap the benefits. Exercise gives your mind clarity and your body the tools to best handle the stressors of daily life.
Set a movement goal this week; whether it’s committing to going to the gym three times this week, or heading out for an early morning run twice. Afterwards, note how it good it makes you feel and you’ll soon realise the importance and power of movement, if you didn’t already.