Today, let’s intentionally sprinkle movement throughout our day. I’ve blogged for you in the past about how sitting just might be the most deadly thing you do all day. Sitting for more than a few hours straight increases your risk of lots of different health complications and even decreases life span. Yuck (but if you want to read more on that you can right here.)
On the other hand, it really doesn’t take that much movement a day to boost your health and reap tons of benefits. Here are three impressive benefits of moving your precious body throughout the day, and a bunch of ideas on sneaking in more physical activity so that you are not sitting still for long periods of time:
1. Movement immediately boosts memory
Researchers recently found that there are immediate benefits to your memory function after exercising just once. Once! Published September 2020 in Scientific Reports, this study finds that one session of exercising (cycling on a stationary bike was the exercise used in this study) significantly improved motor sequence memory — immediately!
This is super encouraging, because it was not looking at just the long term benefits from exercise (which of course has far reaching protective health benefits) but suggests that even if all you can do is one single episode of exercise, you will get immediate brain benefits, that very day.
So you can intentionally use exercise as a way to boost your brain function before a mental task. For example:
- walkup and down a flight of stairs quickly before a meeting at work
- doing a few jumping jacks before writing an important email
- Going on a brisk walk before settling down to study for an exam
- encouraging your kids to jump on a trampoline before hopping on the school bus each morning.
- Creating a daily habit of a simple stretch routine when you wake up each day
- Heading upstairs? walk up and down a flight of steps and then back up it again
- Create a nightly habit of before-bed yoga routine
And although just one session of exercising provides benefit, ideally it would be even better to sprinkle movement throughout your entire day. It could be as simple as standing up and walking around a bit every hour or two, getting in some gentle stretching routines in throughout the day, walking up and down your stairs if you have them, and/or doing a before-bed yoga routine to reap massive benefits. More on this below.
2. Movement decreases severity of Covid infection
While we already know that being active has tons of whole body benefits, including protecting against severe respiratory infections, we didn’t know if exercise had the same protective benefits against severe covid infection… until now.
A fabulous study, just published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on Aug 22, 2022, looked at data from almost 2 million patients (1.8 million to be exact!) and found that routine activity decreased infection rates by 11%, decreased the risk of severe covid infection by 36%, and decreased the risk of death from covid by 43%.
The amount of exercise needed to get these protective benefits? About 20 minutes a day, or a combined 2 and 1/2 hours of moderate activity a week. If your exercise is vigorous, the amount of time it takes to get these protective benefits is even less — only 11 minutes of vigorous activity daily, or a total of an hour and 15 minutes a week.
3. Movement protects your cardiovascular health
Another recent study, just published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise on Sept 24, 2022, found that folks who exercised more and were sedentary less had more favorable cardio metabolic profiles, including lower fasting insulin levels, lower triglycerides, and less adipose tissue (less fat) and other markers of cardiovascular health.
Previous studies have found that cardiometabolic risk factors start to rise significantly with 7 – 8 hours of sitting a day, and are worst in folks who sit for 10+ hours or more a day.
Today, see if you can come up with a way to move your body:
- upon waking in the morning
- as a mid morning break
- as a mid day break
- as a mid afternoon break
- and end with a before-bed stretch.
Can you add any of these activities to your daily routine?
Idea #1: Morning Stretch
Develop a stretch routine that you do when you first wake up, before even starting your day.
Once you get into a habit of morning stretching, you will realize how much this impacts your entire day and you’ll never want to skip this again.
To get ideas of stretches that feel good for you, here is a great YouTube video that includes some of my personal favorites, and is only 10 minutes long. Take what you like from these suggestions and create your own routine that you will stick with:
If you prefer looking at stretch suggestions instead of watching a video, this page has 4 great stretches for you:
And then you can add these 6 on to create a simple 10 stretch routine to start your day:
Idea #2: Mid-Morning Walk
If at all possible, I highly encourage you to go outside mid morning and mid afternoon on a walk. Do as little or as much as you like, anything is absolutely better than nothing.
Walk the sidewalks of your neighborhood, walk the perimeter of your yard or driveway if you have one, walk back and forth to your mailbox several times, walk any neighborhood trails if you have them.
If you can not even go outside on a walk, find a pattern to loop inside of your home, going in and out of each room or simply up and down hallways.
Aim for at least 10 minutes of walking in each session, more if you can.
Idea #3: Mid-Day Steps
An easy way to get more movement into your day — mp gym membership needed — is to seek out a flight of stairs, or even one single step if that is all you have.
You can walk up and down the steps leading to your front door, any steps you have inside your home if you live in a multi-story house, any steps that you have leading to your parking area or garage, or any steps you might have in your neighborhood.
Even if all you can find is one step, you can so some great calve strengthening exercises on that one step alone… a great mid-day pick me up.
Here are some ideas:
Idea #4: Mid-Afternoon Walk
Repeat the same walk you did mid-morning (see above) or find a new way to walk — for example, if you walked around your neighborhood in the mid-morning while it was cool, you may wish to stay inside and loop your living room or office a dozen times in the heat of the afternoon. Or vice versa! Just keep moving for at least 10 minutes.
Idea #5: Before Bed Yoga Stretches
Never head to bed without stretching your body out — releasing tension from the day and giving your muscles one more deep release. No, you do not have to do an inversion or anything remotely similar to the picture above. A gentle evening stretch, if done routinely, will help your body stay limber as well as relax into sleep more easily.
If you need some ideas, or if you enjoy following a video, here is a great one:
If you prefer reading over a written list of stretches (with pictures) here is my favorite set — this is one is very similar to the routine I do each night before I go to bed myself!
What if you are movement restricted?
Whether from mobility issues, from being under the weather, or any other reason that you might not be able to easily get up and down throughout the day, there is an alternative. Sauna increases the circulation of blood all throughout your body — getting the blood pumping through your cardiovascular system, your muscles, your skin, your joints, your brain — so it turns out that routine sauna has many of the same health benefits that exercise does.
So if you have mobility issues or find that your job makes moving your body through the day impossible… sauna is a great substitute (or addition) to any wellness plan. In fact, sauna actually helps protect brain function and routine sauna is correlated with over a 60% reduction in dementia risk! I write about that for you here: Sauna To Protect Your Brain
You may also want to read more about how routine sauna is correlated with a longer lifespan, which I review for you here: Sauna For A Longer Lifespan
Even better if you can do a combination of sauna and then grounding, which and friend and I demonstrate for you in a video. Hop on over to watch! Sauna + Grounding, A Win-Win Combo
If you don’t have access to a sauna (and let’s face it, most of us don’t) you can still use this healing principle to invite heat into your body in other ways.
Pick one of these ways (or use them all!):
- a microwavable rice pack to wrap around neck and shoulders
- a 15 minute hot bath with magnesium salts to relax all muscles
- a 5 minute hot shower to release tension from head to toe
- or my favorite: bring an organic grounding hot water bottle into your bed at night – it will warm and soothe stiff muscles while also providing the additional health benefits of being grounded and deepening sleep!
Today, I hope you’ll move your body because it feels good to stretch, because it increases your energy level to walk around and get fresh air, because it helps you sleep better at night to have gotten a bit of exercise during the day, and because movement will help decrease your risk of infection, support your heart health, and sharpen your memory too!
Enjoy living in your body, my friend.
Treat it right.
All you’ve got to do is get up and move every hour or two. If you do that, you’ve done more to protect your long term health than just about anything else you could possibly do.
xoxox, Laura Koniver MD