Humans are made to move.
In modern life, where time is one of our most valued commodities, the endless quest for greater convenience too often strips regular movement out of our lives. And no matter your personal physical circumstances, it’s something that is vital for our mental and physical health – and everything in between.
More and more of us are leading extremely sedentary lifestyles – from desk-based jobs, to convenience apps that deliver takeaways or groceries in minutes, to the pandemic driving working from home, removing our commutes – so many of us are spending more time sitting down, and less time moving.
The idea of rigorous physical exercise can be daunting. But movement is something most of us can do, in some capacity, and the benefits stretch further than you might think.
When we move, energy flows through the body, our systems are activated, and the brain is stimulated, leading to the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins, making us feel good. Movement also triggers production of a protein called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor, try saying that as fast as you can ten times) which both protects existing brain cells, and improves brain function.
So, the received wisdom that going out for a walk when you’re struggling with a creative problem is scientifically proven to be helpful – in fact, one study indicated that walking in particular boosted creativity, both in real time and shortly after. Movement supports clarity and moving your body in a simple way can help you get a new perspective on whatever you’re grappling with.
Research has shown that 60 minutes of activity per day can offset the negative effects of sitting too much. Don’t think of this as an hour pumping iron in the gym – these 60 minutes can be sprinkled throughout the day, and could be all sorts of different activities – walking, playing with a pet, child or friend, climbing stairs, or carrying bags of shopping, to name a just few.
Movement can positively affect every single aspect of our physiological ecosystem. From improved circulation to resilience (both mental and physical), to increased energy levels and enhanced mood. It can also combat the negative effects of loneliness, especially if you move with others. In fact, there’s plenty of research that suggests the benefits are even greater when experienced as part of a group.
Humans evolved to move: to gather food, to play, to develop community and protect themselves. The more we develop clever ways of getting around the need to move, the more we need to do it! And the more we make it our own, the more curious we become about the movement that works for us, the greater the mental and physical health benefits can be.