Small Steps Make Big Changes
Two decades ago, western medicine began moving away from a long-held paradigm that favoured a strictly biomedical approach to health. It continues to shift toward a more holistic and humanistic approach, which acknowledges how biological, social and environmental variables affect one’s health and well-being. The positive impact of movement on human beings becomes more and more prevalent as the research stacks up.
Increasing your physical activity is a proven way to lower your risk of depression as well as multiple chronic health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and much more. It is linked to injury prevention and faster recovery times. Furthermore, if you are physically active in nature and/or with other people the health benefits continue to rise exponentially. Amazing, right? But I’m sure it’s nothing you haven’t heard before.
Knowing the benefits of movement are one thing but it’s quite another to consistently put it into practice. There is the trouble of generating and/or sustaining will power and overcoming fear or shame triggers. You may have convinced yourself that you do not like to move, perhaps due to niggly injuries, physical or physiological limitations or some other restriction. Maybe you are doubtful that your body will be able to withstand the impact and intensity of exercise long enough to reap the benefits, so you don’t even try.
Allow me to convince you that prioritizing a movement-rich life will absolutely be worth your energy and effort—it might even be more accessible than you think! Movement, physical activity and exercise are simple yet powerful parts of the human experience and should not be downplayed as mitigators of disease and amplifiers of vitality.
“Movement as such may take the place of many remedies, but all remedies together can never take the place of the effect of movement” – Tissot
In western society, it’s not uncommon for the terms exercise, physical activity and movement to be used interchangeably, however to truly unlock the magic of movement it’s helpful to differentiate them. Let’s start there.
Exercise is physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposive in the sense that improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is an objective.
Examples: corrective and rehabilitative exercise, sport-specific training, cardiac rehabilitation, strength and conditioning.
Keywords: purpose, periodization and specificity.
Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure, i.e., calories utilized.
Examples: gardening, yard work, housecleaning, physical chores, active transportation, recreational sports.
Keywords: highly variable, fun and/or satisfying, and general physical preparedness.
Movement is any motion that creates a change in shape of a body or parts of a body. Movement is not defined by a physiological outcome (caloric expenditure, increased heart rate, perspiration, etc.) but by a transition in geometry.
Examples: Everything from breathing to bowel movements, and actions ranging from crawling to jumping.
Keywords: inclusive, far-reaching, and integral.
By these definitions, physical activity (and thus exercise) is movement, but all movement is not physical activity and exercise. The benefits of movement are not limited to physical fitness. Good movement facilitates operations in almost every human system including your immune, digestive and nervous systems. Becoming aware of the stories you are telling yourself about your physical capacity and choosing to see movement through this ‘geometric’ lens provides easy access to a big hit of natural vitality. Paying attention to biomechanics, training for motor control and restoring natural movement patterns allows for healing and movement-rich living all day, everyday—both in and out of the gym. By this train of thought, you can turn mundane tasks and activities of daily living into opportunities to strengthen, re-stabilize and correct muscular imbalances.
So why aren’t we all out there moving, engaging in physical activity and living the good life? Actually, there are some people that are. (Check out the people who live in these Blue Zones.) However, most westerners have a plethora of reasons (some more valid than others) for the sizable gap between their reality and successful embodiment of healthy active living. And honestly, that is okay. It’s not about being perfect or adding more things to your to-do list, it’s about learning to look upstream and making informed decisions. Engaging in mindful exercise, moving well and moving often are great places to start (or re-start) your journey.
“It’s not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away the unessential” – Bruce Lee
As a kinesiologist, I hope to positively impact your path to vitality. I integrate education, creative solution-seeking and targeted physical interventions to encourage my clients to reverse the effects of sedentary behaviour.
I believe that the pursuit of good health and well-being is a dynamic, life-long process. I’m learning to love this journey and that mindset is how I align my clinical practice. I’m so happy to join the team at Acacia Health! I’m excited to work collaboratively with medical/wellness professionals, manual therapists and fellow movement coaches to help our community move with confidence towards good health, one step at a time. If you’re interested in more information, how I can help you move healthier book in for an initial session.
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Kirsten, T.G.J.C., Van der Walt, H.J.L. & Viljoen, C.T. Health, wellbeing and wellness: An anthropological eco-systemic approach. Health SA Gesondheid 14(1), 2009, Article 407.
Twohig-Bennet, C. et al. The health benefits of the great outdoors: a systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental Research, 2018, 166: 628-637.