Benefits of exercise to reduce stress, stay healthy, burn fat, and increase energy
If you sit all day, every day, at your computer, and go to the gym or take a walk a few times per week, you are better off compared with living a completely sedentary lifestyle.
However, you still might be at risk. The occasional exercise is great, but the hour-after-hour of sitting can undo some of the benefits that you derive from your infrequent workout. I assume you don't want The Sitting Disease and its concomitant risks, namely obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Read on. And if possible, walk around as you do so.
Sitting has its own consequences, not all of which are counter-balanced by an occasional work-out. This is not to say that it is bad to go to the gym. Rather, all that sitting causes your body to pay a toll.
A quick Google search of the consequences of sitting all day will reveal enough of a shock to get you to jump out of your chair. That might be a good thing.
Let me show you how to get the benefits of exercise and moving your body on a regular basis, even when you don't make time for an "official" workout like a run, swim, bike ride, or a visit to the gym.
What is NEAT?
Here's a very fun fact: You can get great results by moving your body even when you aren't getting a workout.
It's called NEAT - Non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This means that your body can burn calories, manage weight more easily, have improved digestion and circulation, and stay healthy by just moving. This is the perfect complement to getting more strenuous exercise. You get credit by tapping your feet, walking down the hall, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking the long route to use the bathroom, vacuuming, and anything that gets you in motion. Don't just sit there... move!
Four benefits of exercise and adding movement throughout the day.
Staying active helps relieve stress.
It is more tiring to sit all day than it is to get up every hour or so to stretch, breathe, and move. Jumping jacks will help you wake up and feel more refreshed.
You can actually lower the stress hormones through movement, and increase the neurotransmitters to promote clarity of thinking and a sense of well-being. This is a quick way for you to actually reduce stress and feel more energetic.
Next time you think you are too busy to "exercise" or you have to finish what you are working on, but feel tired and stressed, even a few minutes of brisk walking and deep breathing will help you feel more alive and awake.
Movement helps move fluids.
There really is not an anatomical equivalent to sludge, but stagnant lymph is pretty close to it. So are blocked arteries. Movement gets the fluids flowing. Flowing fluids carry nutrients to every cell in your body and help to remove metabolic bi-products to waste. This is essential for reducing toxins and promoting abundant good health.
Adding more leafy greens to your diet also increases blood flow. Next time you go to the market to get your Swiss Chard, perhaps you can ride your bike or park several blocks away.
Reduce risk of disease.
All forms of exercise are correlated with a reduced risk for a chronic degenerative disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, anything between a few minutes here and there all the way up to a regular exercise program can help our bodies heal from and prevent heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, back pain, cancer, and dementia.
Among my clients who seriously need and want to lose weight and turn the tides of lifestyle-induced disease, discovering the joy of movement is essential to their mental and physical well-being. Our bodies are designed to move. It is impossible to achieve any semblance of optimal health by living a completely sedentary lifestyle.
Although you cannot exercise enough to compensate for an atrocious diet, you can move your body to enhance your health and weight goals.
Achieve and maintain your ideal weight.
Moving, sweating, breathing, swinging your arms — what I call playing in your body — will support insulin sensitivity, fat burning, and the production of energy. Even with drastically reduced calories, which is not recommended for a sustainable approach to food, health, and nutrition, your body must move in order to burn fat.
The health benefits of keeping a moderate weight are further enhanced through movement and exercise. According to WebMD.com, a moderate weight will help ensure that you avoid getting sick, and if you do, that you recover more quickly and live longer.
Survival of the 'fittest'.
Our cave ancestors kept moving in order to thrive. This included hunting for food and avoiding being eaten by prey. More modern day agriculture workers were active from sun-up to sun-down.
Fast forward to the industrial revolution where people worked in factories moving many parts of their bodies throughout the day and evening. And then when the technology age arrived, we all landed on our bottoms.
For kids, this means video games instead of playing outside with their friends. For adults, this means a dramatic decrease in daily activity. According to the Mayo Clinic, a sedentary lifestyle is one cause of "lifestyle-induced disease". Lifestyle medicine, or functional medicine, often focuses on incorporating movement and exercise to achieve specific health improvements.
Four things you can do now to reduce your risk
Work your body a little bit more enthusiastically.
One of my clients agreed to try to put more "oomph" into housework (ironing, carrying laundry baskets, reaching to top shelves, vacuuming, clearing the table, etc.) As a result, she found that she could warm her body up enough to cause some perspiration and increase her heart rate. She felt her muscles get more toned by lifting grocery bags, trying at first simply to do things herself instead of asking her husband to do them. She got stronger and felt more stable in her body as a result.
Every time you move your body adds to the number of calories you burn throughout the day. The goal is to increase your basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy expended when your body is at rest. Another way to think of this is to keep the furnace turned on in order to continuously burn calories. This furnace represents fat burning, which gives you energy back. This movement-to-feel-more energy is a positive feedback loop.
I think of this as a very good deal. Move more now in order to burn more calories later when I'm watching Outlander on Netflix with my husband. Sign me up!
Bring more movement into mundane activities.
I have a hula-hoop and some hand weights that I use sporadically throughout the day. You can arrange walking meetings, like what Steve Jobs did. Get a stationary foot pedal for under your desk. Get a standing desk. This does not burn as many calories as the manufacturers want for you to believe, but standing can improve circulation and muscle tone.
Walk around your building every 15 minutes. Walk around when you are talking on the phone. Rise up on your toes while washing the dishes. I enjoy sanding at my sink while brushing my teeth and stretching my legs on the bathroom counter.
A mini-trampoline in your office for a mid-morning bounce will make you feel fantastic. Go see people in your building by using the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car further away to ensure you get a ten-minute walk when going to and leaving work or shopping. Take a five minute break and pull some weeds up in your backyard. If you work from home, like I do, throw the ball for your dog or take her for a walk.
We live in a community that is conducive to walking and riding our bikes. Mark and I use our bikes as our main form of transportation. When asked why we do this, I always have the same answer. "It's more fun."
Speaking of fun, notice how you feel when you move. Use this self-and-body-awareness to inspire you to keep moving. One of my clients admitted that after a walk she had more mental clarity and motivation to resume our tasks.
In my online course titled Unwind from Stress, I tell a story about a time when I was so frustrated about my computer not working that I wanted to hurl it against the wall. My husband said, "It's time to walk around the block." So, we did. Of course, after just fifteen minutes, I felt so much better. Miraculously, the computer issue was resolved, perhaps as a result from my much-needed clear-headedness.
Something is always greater than nothing. If you hear yourself saying that you don't have an hour to go to the gym or play a round of golf, then do what you can do. Fifteen, ten, and even five minutes add up. The calories you burn are accumulative during the day. Your movement time can be broken up into smaller segments, if this is more doable for you given the demands on your time.
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Your motto is to do what you can.
My husband and I sometimes break into a rock and roll routine with some upbeat music.
I promise that as you move more you will feel and look better. It's one of the easiest ways for you to increase your energy, boost your health, and maintain a good weight.
Your body will thank you in ways that will reward you for an indefinite time.
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