Return to Movement

Health requires that your mind and body be in a state of constant flux, and that starts with an active lifestyle.

The human society, in a neverending quest towards higher efficiency, is constantly looking for ways to achieve more with an ever-decreasing amount of inputs.

Indeed, from agriculture and sedentism to industrialization and technologies, every time we make a leap towards some groundbreaking innovation, an exponential surge of productivity would ensue.

However, the widespread adoption of these innovations has also led to a lifestyle that is increasingly sedentary, that is, a lifestyle increasingly devoid of movement on a daily basis.

Because of that, it'd be a good idea to revisit what movement actually does to our mind and body, and what we can do to reintroduce it into our daily routines.

Our Relationship to Movement

Once upon a time, you used to be a kid, and if you're like most of us, you moved a lot.

If anything, even if you might not be able to remember how you used to behave or act, you can still observe that kids rarely like to spend their time in complete idleness. For example:

  • When in a relatively-open field, these kids might walk or run.
  • When there's something above them, they might grasp an object around them and climb.
  • When sitting on a chair, they might twist their body and swing their legs.
  • When down on the floor, they might roll around or even resort to crawling.

In fact, even if you might no longer be a kid, movement is still a key indicator of your health and vitality. Movement often reminds us of beings who are highly in tune with the environment and their bodily needs, and who are happy, free and conducive to growth.

However, as we grow up, our lifestyle choices (along with social pressure and other environmental factors) can also cause us to think of movement differently, in that suddenly, it's now becoming the inappropriate or the inconvenient thing to do.

On top of that, we can also begin to become out of sync with the signals our body is sending us. We might even forget that movement actually makes us feel very good — to the extent that we no longer know what it feels like to be free anymore.

Roles of Movement on Our Mind and Body

Of course, movement is not just a good thing to have. Rather, it is actually essential for health, longevity and a generally decent quality of life.

In fact, the mere act of moving on a constant basis will not only improve your energy, immune system and physique, but it'll also give a boost to your cognitive and mental health as well. To be sure, here is a colored chart detailing some of these benefits:

Physical

  • Increased bone mineral density
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Decreased body fat
  • Increased production and repair of tissues
  • Quicker recovery from injuries
  • Reduced long-term inflammations
  • Less prone to chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, obesity, diabetes)

Cognitive

  • Improved oxygenation and blood flow to the brain
  • Reduction of neurotoxins
  • Reduction of plaques in the brain
  • Faster recovery from headaches
  • Promotion of neurogenesis
  • Better memory
  • Faster processing speed
  • Better cognition
  • Higher productivity

Mental

Cardiovascular

  • Increased oxygenation and blood flow to blood vessels
  • Decreased coronary plaques
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased LDL cholesterols
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases

In other words, it wouldn't be an understatement to say that movement actually allows you to regain your brain, optimize learning, build a stronger body and prevent aging. And if you're a regular runner, it can even help you tap into euphoria on a regular basis.

In fact, by oscillating between prolonged rests and intense movements (i.e., those that increase heart rate and perspiration significantly), you'll be able to take the benefits movement has to confer to the maximum.

The Hidden Costs of Inactivity

So if movement is so good, what would happen if we choose to do the opposite by stopping to move altogether?

For one, you probably already know the answer: you'd be greeted with a dull tension throughout your body, which is your body's way of saying that it's not being used in a way it's meant to be.

In fact, once the inactivity has surpassed a certain threshold, with every second that passes by, your blood flow would slow, your limbs would cool, your mind would dull and your body would atrophy.

And the more the inactivity is extended, the faster your body will degenerate, leading to consequences which are often very difficult to reverse (such as those experienced by hospital patients). To be sure, here's a colored chart detailing some of these risks:

Physical

  • Reduced bone mineral density
  • Atrophy of muscles throughout the body
  • Deteriorated muscle tone
  • Increased body fat
  • Reduced production and repair of tissues
  • Slower recovery from injuries
  • Increased long-term inflammations
  • Decreased ability in handling daily tasks
  • More prone to chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, obesity, diabetes)

Cognitive

  • Reduced oxygenation and blood flow to the brain
  • Increased accumulation of neurotoxins
  • Increased accumulation of plaques in the brain
  • More prone to strokes
  • Slower recovery from headaches
  • Atrophy of neurons
  • Deteriorated memory
  • Slower processing speed
  • Weaker cognition
  • Lower productivity

Mental

Cardiovascular

  • Reduced oxygenation and blood flow to blood vessels
  • Increased coronary plaques
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased LDL cholesterols
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases

In other words, it wouldn't be unfair to say that extended inactivity, as comfortable as it may be, can also pave the way towards accelerated aging — and the increase of medical/societal costs associated with it.

After all, it's no secret that movement is a basic need much like our need of oxygen, water, food and sleep, and that if it's not being kept up constantly, our body will degenerate, our mind will wither, until we become out of sync with life itself.

Exercise/Sport vs. Active Lifestyle

For many of us, our priorities and search for convenience often lead us to a lifestyle that's predominantly inactive. Because of that, we tend to respond to it by adding in some exercises and sports into our routine.

For some, it could be carving out 30 minutes every day to visit a gym and hit the elliptical machine, while for others, it could be purchasing portable apparatuses to facilitate some indoor weight-lifting.

And if you're more social, you might regularly schedule tennis games with friends so that each of them gets a chance to play. And if you're more competitive, then maybe a few basketball tournaments might be more appropriate.

For the most part, these activities are indeed very helpful in mitigating some of the issues caused by a sedentary lifestyle. The problem here — if there's any — is that it still leaves the root causes of sedentarity largely unresolved.

Many of us are of the idea that by scheduling exercises into our routine, the sedentarity problem would be fixed, but the truth is that even an hour of daily exercise cannot compensate for 23 hours of inactivity.

If anything, the exercise/sport mindset also has the effect of favoring institutionalized activities that can render one dependent on an industry. This can be anything from golf to Crossfit, whose environmental impacts are often suboptimal to say the least.

At the end of the day though, reducing movement to pseudo-solutions which reflect an unsustainable way of life is simply not a good way to go. Instead, you can choose to tackle the issue upfront — by hard-integrating movement into your daily routine.

By doing so, you'd no longer have to worry about coming up with wasteful, inconvenient activities to compensate for your inactivity. These are after all artificial miniatures of their natural counterparts — an awkward remnant of human domestication so to speak.

"You're not a pet. You don't need a ball, a kettlebell, a jumping rope or a machine to help you move and stop yourself from needless aging. They aren't nearly as effective than running up a hill if you think about it."

Instead, you can learn to think like people with a truly active lifestyle, who barely contemplate about exercise or sport and whose days are filled with movement-involved labors (which happen to satisfy all their bodily needs).

Integrating Movement Into Our Routines

So now that you've come to the realization that exercising 60 minutes 5 times per week is barely enough to cover the bases, what are some of the things you can do to hard-integrate movement into your routine?

Of course, individual routines can vary, but one thing you can do to kickstart the process is to simply visualize — in chronological order — the daily activities you regularly engage in, and see if you can turn each of them from a sedentary to a physical activity.

In particular, this means that you'd be looking for ways to carry out your days mostly as you did before, except that this time, you'll be doing so in movement — rather than in physical idleness.

For example, you might discover that a bulk of your sedentary activities are related to work, and on that front, some of the things you can do might include, among others:

  • Setting up a standing platform so that you can move around while using computer (or other devices)
  • Doing squat and listening to music while cooking
  • Cleaning house and clothing using traditional tools (as opposed to appliances or machines)
  • Replacing bus or vehicles with running or cycling

In a similar manner, you might also discover that some of your sedentary activities are related to leisure, and on that front, some of the things you can do might include, among others:

  • Eating your meal while strolling around
  • Watching TV while practicing stationary running
  • Listening to audiobooks while jogging (instead of reading books)
  • Minimizing the size and height of your chairs (so that you can move while sitting)

As you can see, even if integrating movement might lead to fundamental changes in your life, such changes are very often minor — not to mention that you might not even have to be outside or close to a river/mountain to reap the full benefits.

All in all, the important thing here is that it's good to have some reservation about outsourcing movement to technologies, because whether it's with a chair, an electrical appliance or a vehicle, you could be paying it later with your health and longevity.

Movement as a Way of Life

With the increased adoption of mechanized technologies, our work and modes of transportation have certainly become more efficient and less physically demanding, but because of that, we're also losing a myriad of benefits movement used to bring.

In fact, by pursuing efficiency and convenience naively, we're now seeing a trend where our personal sustainability and the health of our mind and body are being put at risk.

Because of that, it becomes ever more important to re-integrate movement into our everyday life, so that we can carry out our routines without being increasingly fragile and disease-prone.

In fact, one could even say an active lifestyle, along with a sustainable diet, is a way of creating miracles — not to mention that it's actually also a no-brainer way to live as well.

After all, we don't really move because it's an inconvenient necessary evil, but because we want to, and because our body is so designed to.

The truth is, movement can make us happier, fitter, more resilient and more performant. It's an integral tool in a modern human's "health kit", and a key towards a civilization that is both strong and free.

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