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Why Movement Is Important For Your Health

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Move your body, and wellness will follow.

Whether you do something as small as walking the dog around the block or as big as running a marathon, all movement is good!

Six areas that benefit from movement:

Muscles: Your more than 600 muscles contribute to 40% of your total body weight. By strengthening your muscles, you improve stability, balance, and coordination.

Bones: Movement helps build more durable, denser bones. Bone-building activities like resistance training (weights), weight-bearing exercises (hiking), and balance training (yoga) support better bone density.

Joints: Stretching and balance types of movement encourage flexibility and range-of-motion, which boosts joint flexibility and joint function.

Brain: Walking 30-40 minutes a day three times per week can help “regrow” the structures of the brain linked to cognitive decline in older adults.

Heart: Regular cardio workouts (cycling, jogging) can cut your risk of heart disease by 50%.

Lungs: Aerobic exercise improves your cardiorespiratory endurance.


Six suggested ways to move your body:

Stretch. You may remember from OHI's Stretch class, we believe it’s not enough to build muscle and achieve aerobic fitness. You need to think about flexibility, too. Stretching can help. Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and helps maintain a range of motion in the joints. Regular stretching also helps with balance and prevents falls. The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities — your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors in the pelvis, and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial.

Lymphatic Exercise. Think of the lymphatic system as a series of pipes that removes toxins and waste from your body. It does the job just fine on its own, but lymphatic exercise can keep your lymphatic system moving more efficiently. To help keep the lymph flowing, there are simple stretches that promote muscle contraction and movement, thus stimulating lymphatic flow. Stretching promotes the muscle movement required to pump lymphatic fluid through our system and with it all the wastes and toxins that can otherwise build up because of our sedentary lifestyles.

Focusing on the neck and shoulder area is significant. The location of the upper thoracic area is where all the lymphatic fluid collected from around the body finally drains back into the bloodstream via the two large veins at either side of the neck under the collarbone. Stretching and exercising this area will help to open these important vessels, enabling the effective return of lymph into the bloodstream. Neck rolls, shoulder rolls, head tilts, and shoulder shrugs are all great lymphatic exercises.

Yoga. Yoga is an ancient practice that involves physical poses, movement, meditation, and breathing techniques. The overall philosophy of yoga is about connecting the body, mind, and spirit to promote endurance, strength, and flexibility, to improve sleep, and to address mental well-being by reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.

Qigong. Qigong, pronounced “chi gong,” was developed in China thousands of years ago as part of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves using exercises to optimize energy within the body, mind, and spirit, with the goal of improving and maintaining health and well-being.

In most forms of Qigong:

  • Breath is slow, long, and deep. Breath patterns may switch from abdominal breathing to breathing combined with speech sounds.
  • Movements are typically gentle and smooth, aimed for relaxation.
  • Mind regulation includes focusing one’s attention and visualization.

Dynamic (active) qigong techniques primarily focus on body movements, especially movements of the whole body or arms/legs. Meditative (passive) qigong techniques involve breath and mind exercises with almost no body movement.

Tai Chi. Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion”. This mind-body practice originated in China as a martial art but has now become a gentle form of exercise that can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance throughout your whole life.

In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you move without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions (“white crane spreads its wings”) or martial arts moves (“box both ears”). As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention on your bodily sensations. Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched.

Tai chi is a form of Qigong. What is the difference between the two? Qigong can be thought of as a movement you do for a certain situation (ie: opening the lungs), as opposed to tai chi, which is a series of movements that work on the entire body in a flowing sequence. Tai chi movements can be quite complex. Qigong is simpler and more free form, focusing less on mastering specific forms and more on cultivating energy.

Rhythms Dancing. Dancing is a whole-body workout that’s FUN! From line dancing to ballet to disco, dance is accessible to almost everyone: you can take a class, follow a dance workout on a YouTube video, or just turn on some music and shimmy to the beat.

Dancing combines aerobic plus weight-bearing exercise, and the physical and mental health benefits include:

  • Improved heart health
  • Stronger muscles
  • Better balance and coordination
  • Stronger bones
  • Lower risk of dementia
  • Improved memory
  • Reduced stress
  • More energy
  • Improved mood

Movement & Mental Health

So, whether you dance, cycle, hike, stretch, run, swim, ski, lift, or walk your dog, there is no doubt that movement is imperative to wellness. We don’t yet know all the mechanisms to explain why movement benefits the brain, but the connection between movement and mental health is strong, including:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Clear-headedness
  • Ability to focus
  • Sense of connectedness
  • Increased confidence

Movement is also crucial to our physical, emotional, and mental health in four key ways:

Improved Blood Flow: When you have better blood flow your body more effectively delivers oxygen and nutrients to every cell and more efficiently carries away waste. By boosting blood flow to your brain, studies have shown a link to reduced depression and improved cognition in older adults.

Improved Blood Sugar Regulation: The exact mechanism is still unclear, but the action of simply contracting a muscle moves glucose into your body’s cells. The only other way that happens is when the pancreas creates insulin to take sugar out of circulation. When muscles can do the work of moving glucose, it eases the burden on the pancreas. Blood sugar regulation also evens out highs and lows of mood, and can reduce anxiety.

Improves Overall Brain Function: When you exercise, the brain produces a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It appears to work by protecting your brain’s cells from inflammation and may even contribute to the development of new brain cells.

Improved Parasympathetic Tone in the Nervous System: The parasympathetic nervous system is the part of your brain that supports “rest & digest.” It allows your mind and body to recover and recuperate from any stress you’re experiencing. “Rest & digest” boosts our hormone balance, metabolic health, cardiovascular health, mental health, and overall quality of life.

So move, move, move a little every day, and embrace wellness for a lifetime!

Optimum Health Institute is here for you! We will motivate you to stick with your commitment to health and discover new ways to empower yourself. Explore the holistic healing program offered at OHI. This program offers three week-long sessions, where you will learn to cleanse the body, quiet the mind, and awaken the spirit.

Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 to book a reservation today!