Movement is critical to a healthy lifestyle. If you look back through history, over the last couple centuries it is evident how we have become drastically more and more sedentary as human beings. We experience so many modern conveniences that demand less of our physical bodies. However, even a couple centuries ago, when most of the hours of the day consisted of physical work, individuals benefited from exercise that was distinctly set apart from their daily grind. So, if you do have a physically demanding job, exercise still has a place in your life. Join me as we look at tips and benefits for various levels of exercise as well as the importance of stretching.
First of all, exercise is defined as “activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain and improve health and fitness.”  If we don’t move our bodies, we naturally become weaker--less fit and agile. This is why we need a lifestyle of exercise. By engaging in intentional exercise that challenges our muscles, we become stronger--more fit and agile. No matter how active your job, chores, or hobbies require you to be, it is important to engage in physical activity that challenges your body to grow stronger. This will also enhance your ability to do your work! I have personally found that regular exercise outside of my more physical work activities of cleaning, gardening, stacking wood, etc. allows me to do those very tasks with greater efficiency and ease.
Besides being stronger, exercise helps to support several aspects of mental health: improves mood, reduces anxiety, improves sleep and mental clarity! When we exercise, we use stored glucose in our cells which allows insulin to work more efficiently. This pampering to our blood sugar handling system improves our ability to handle stress and regulates sleep. Additionally, exercise stimulates the release of those wonderful feel-good hormones called endorphins. Endorphins “bind to the brain’s opiate receptors, reducing the perception of pain and triggering feelings of euphoria.” It is amazing that we have been naturally designed to experience these pleasures! Rather than turning to a substance that produces these feelings with negative consequences, with exercise we can steward our health to enjoy the pure benefits.
In order to determine the best exercise for you, ask yourself what form of exercise will challenge your body without adding unhealthy stress. It is important to be aware that any healthy habit needs to be in balance. Over-exercising is just as unhealthy and stressful as no exercise. If your lifestyle is very sedentary, begin regular walks and slowly increase their length and speed. If your work requires you to be on your feet all day or engaged in heavy lifting, for exercise, try short intervals of cardio workouts that get your muscles warm and heart rate up but don’t demand additional hours of your day. Also, don’t forget to stretch and warm up your muscles! Although so often neglected, this is equally as important as the exercise itself. Ideally, first do light exercises for 5-10 minutes that warm up your muscles. Then stretch for another 5-10 minutes. By using a resource that guides you through various stretches, you can learn proper techniques that will prevent injury, increase flexibility and movement of the muscles, as well as improve mental health as you practice intentional breathing. Included below is an online resource for a great warm up and stretch routine.
In conclusion, exercise is a habit (much like eating healthy foods) that is really hard to start or restart. Thus, the initial motivation to begin must be strong until we begin to experience those wonderful benefits. It is important to find an exercise that you can love and will support your goals. Also, a clearly defined goal is easier to execute with an accountability partner such as a lifestyle coach, workout buddy, or fitness trainer. No matter the level of exercise in which you engage, keep it fun and refreshing. This will equip you to experience the wonderful benefits of a sustainable exercise routine.