In Praise of Movement

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In praise of movement

Having just praised rest, I’m going to contradict myself and look at the benefits of movement. There has been a lot of interest recently about how bad inactivity is for our health – it has been described as ‘the new smoking’. Clearly, sitting all day at the computer, coming home, and then sitting for a few hours on the sofa is not good for us.

It’s actually very easy to avoid being totally inactive and it has enormous benefits, so it’s not one of those ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ that we need to get too stressed about! Here are some thoughts and ideas that will get you moving:

Even those who are unfortunate enough to be confined to bed or a to wheelchair can do movements. A simple technique is to move each joint in turn, starting from your feet. Gently move the joint up and down a few times, or rotate it (e.g. ankles, shoulders and hips).

In the same way, being confined to the desk needn’t stop you moving. As well as moving each joint in turn, you can exercise your legs and hip muscles by pushing your feet down, leaning into the back of the seat, and clenching your buttocks 5 or 6 times. This exercise causes your weight to come off the seat a bit and keeps your buttocks from getting chair-shaped!

Take active breaks from your desk every 25 minutes. Get up and move around the office or home.  It will refresh your brain as well as your body.

Exercise doesn’t have to be always about getting out of breath. Light exercise can help your circulation, your coordination, your mood, the health of your joints, and has numerous other benefits.

Getting a bit out of breath and breaking into a sweat helps exercise the heart and lungs, but this doesn’t mean you have to drag yourself down to the gym. For example, why take escalators and lifts if you are otherwise healthy? Also, if you have to walk to work, walk a bit faster than you normally do, using your whole body including your shoulders and hips in the movement. What’s a good idea is to start off walking at a leisurely pace for a few minutes. Use that time to relax your whole body and let it find it’s rhythm, then put on some power!

Being inactive won’t necessarily provide the rest you feel you need. Perhaps you need a rest from the computer and the stress of work. Going out for a walk can help provide all the rest your body needs. Exercise can also improve your sleep, and that can be crucial for recovery, and for muscular aches and pains.

Ask your body what it wants. You might feel mentally exhausted and dispirited but your body might be tired of sitting down and being confined.

Do things that your body is not used to. We tend to do the same things every day and this gives the body a rather limited set of movement patterns. A great way to give the body something different to do is to dance! It really doesn’t matter how bad you are at dancing – the worse the better! No one needs see you shaking a tail-feather to the radio in the kitchen!

Finally, how can I praise both rest and movement? “Isn’t that a confusing message?!” I hear you ask. What I want to get across is that we spend far too long neither at rest nor in motion, but in a state of inactive stress. For example, sitting at the computer sweating about a spreadsheet, or sat collapsed on the sofa watching the latest antics of Donald Trump on the news, wondering if we’ll all survive his presidency! Or maybe watching someone being shot on a detective series. When you rest, really rest, both mind and body. Otherwise be active!!

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