Exercise is not the key to weight loss. However, it has an important supporting role and can sometimes be overlooked.
We, humans, are designed to move. Our ancestors moved a lot. For the vast majority of our evolutionary history, we humans have had to exert ourselves, often quite strenuously, to get food, find shelter and simply survive.
Today, in modern society most people spend the majority of their time indoors, sitting on their bottoms. This mismatch between our evolutionary biology and our modern lifestyles contributes to all manner of chronic diseases. Too much sitting is associated with many unpleasant health problems, ranging from weight gain to cardiovascular disease and poorer mental health.
There is no escaping it. Movement improves our mood, our brains, and our bodies. Exercise improves weight loss through building up muscle (which increases basal metabolic rate), buy reducing insulin resistance, and allowing us to better burn our own body fat.
Exercise, or rather, regular movement protects us from the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle which are bad for our entire body (mind and brains included).
Sitting all day and being sedentary is bad for us. It appears that prolonged sitting increases the risk of heart disease through several mechanisms, including decreased HDL “good” cholesterol and elevated triglycerides, increased insulin resistance, increased blood pressure. Prolonged sitting also increases the risk of osteoporosis. It may even cause the thinning of our brain! This all sounds like bad news.
The good news is, that small bursts of movement done regularly can make a great difference to our health. A fascinating study done in April 2020 showed that just 4 seconds of intense exercise several times a day can prevent elevated triglycerides caused by prolonged sitting.
Clearly, we do not need to be doing marathon training or professional bodybuilding to improve our health with movement. It just needs to be daily, regular movement.
The benefits of movement to our mental health can be huge. With the social isolation, disconnection, loss, and grief many feel with the COVID-19 pandemic, nurturing mental health have never been more important. Movement is a useful, safe, and free intervention that can help improve our moods today.
The mental benefits of moving your body and exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, and stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Exercise is also great for our pride and self-confidence.
Regular movement is key here.
Sit less, move more!
Some Suggestions to cultivate a joy of movement:
-Get a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps per day
-Build a standing desk
-Sit on a yoga ball while doing work
-Integrate as much light activity into your day as possible
-Take standing breaks every 30 minutes at work – set a timer
-Do some squats and lunges in your office
-Stand up during meetings
-Have walking meetings
-Walk or bike to work or school, if it’s too far drive only part of the way and walk/ride the rest
-Use the stairs
-Take a morning or evening walk with your partner, dog, or children
-Find a hobby that moves you!
-Dance in your living room (I love this one! The daggier the dancing the better in my opinion)
Join an activity group that involves outdoor exercise, such as a running, cycling, or hiking club. Try Ballroom dancing, bowling. gardening, and cooking. Pick something that’s fun and that fits your lifestyle
Finding something doable and finding something fun is the key to sticking with it!
Take care, wonderful humans.
Lucy and Mary
Dr Lucy Burns and Dr Mary Barson