Movement is Medicine

“MOVEMENT is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states” – Carol Welch

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while MOVEMENT and physical exercise save it and preserve it” – Plato

While the above quotes differ from each other, the common thread in each message is the importance of movement to health. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death in North America and contributes to other common causes such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Sedentary lifestyles are often cited as one of the largest contributing factors towards the development of chronic disease. The development and course of most chronic diseases is multifactorial, however, a common finding is a lack of regular physical activity and movement in a person’s life. The financial burden due to physical inactivity is astounding! A recent 2016 study estimated that it is costing Canadians $33.7 billion annually.

When discussing this topic with my patients, I typically get asked “how much should I be exercising/moving?” and luckily for us, some very smart people have already considered this question. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) teamed up with the Government of Canada and the Public Health Association of Canada to answer the “how much?” question. They published the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (CPAG) in 2012 and these guidelines give specific recommendations for exercise minutes per week based on age groups. For example, adults aged 18-64 should engage in a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. They define “moderate to vigorous physical activity” as activity/movement that causes someone to sweat and increase their breathing rate, such as brisk walking, biking, jogging, etc. Despite these guidelines being widely and freely available, it is estimated only 1 in 5 Canadian adults meets these recommendations; implying that approximately 80% of Canada’s adults don’t get enough regular movement!

Now 150 minutes per week may sound daunting, but I employ a few strategies in my own life to allow myself to reach this goal on a regular basis:

  1. Use the “K.I.S.S” principle. Simply put, Keep It Simple Stupid!!! Movement can be built into everyday by doing simple things like walking to the local grocery store instead of driving or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It doesn’t have to be a complicated gym or exercise routine with flashy equipment.
  2. Take a few minutes at the start of every week to map out my daily movement/physical activity. Planning ahead ensures you hit that magical number of 150 minutes by breaking it into smaller and more manageable chunks throughout the week. If you plan 22 minutes of movement per day, you will hit the 150 minutes. I think that is something everyone can fit into their schedule!
  3. Switch it up and keep it fresh. Variety is the spice of life and movement takes many different forms such as walking, yoga, Pilates, spin class, hiking, jogging, sports, etc. So get out there and move in many different ways.
  4. Make it fun and social. Call up your friends and get your movement in together by going for a hike, checking out a workout class, or throwing the football/frisbee around. Not only is it good for your mental and emotional well being to spend time with others, but you also help each other reach your movement goal and can keep each other accountable.

If you take nothing else away from reading this, remember to move REGULARLY and OFTEN. Build 22 minutes of movement into your daily routine and use it to help you reach your goals and challenge yourself along the way.

“Life requires MOVEMENT” – Aristotle

DarrenSudermanMovement is Medicine