Sitting is the new smoking – isn’t that what people are saying? How many of us are sitting down for the majority of our day without integrating any movement into our lives? Most of us use excuses like we don’t have time for exercise, we hate exercising, or we don’t know how to exercise for our bodies. But these are all just excuses. Let me share with you 5 exercise ideas for a healthier life.
Nature designed us to move
Not too long ago, most people were active in their day-to-day lives. In primal times, humans were hunting and gathering on a daily basis to keep ourselves fed. We survived because we could run, fight, and move our bodies in the way nature designed. In the beginning, movement was functional and intentional. Humans were made to run, crawl, carry, lift, balance… all of these actions were necessary for survival and for life.
As the world around us changed and we evolved as a species, we took on new activities like farming. Movement remained in our day-to-day lives, but it was much less intentional than it had once been. Then, with many of the lifestyle changes that came from the industrial revolution, our daily activities became far more sedentary than they ever had been.
We know that nature takes her time, and society changes on a dime. We are still meant to move and be active throughout the day, but our lifestyles don’t encourage movement at all. This is where the biggest challenge lies, and why healthy movement is hard to do on a daily basis.
Moving for Optimal Health
The fitness industry is filled with tons of promises – most of them surround either weight loss, or muscle gain. But what about the other extremely important benefits of exercise?
Benefits of Healthy Movement
Exercise supports your lymphatic system: The lymphatic system circulates our body but it doesn’t have a central organ to pump it, like the heart pumps the cardiovascular system. It relies on movement and exercise to flow! Our lymphatic system helps to circulate toxins through our body and we want to make sure it’s flowing well so these toxins can reach our liver to be eliminated.
Exercise boosts your metabolism: the more muscle we have in our body, the more mitochondria we have. Mitochondria are little organelles (structures) in our cells that are responsible for metabolism and energy creation. Working your muscles regularly will keep these mitochondria alive and your metabolism up!
Exercise gives us more energy: after a hard workout at the gym you may have just used up your energy, but regular exercise creates more energy in our body overall. That’s because when metabolism is boosted, we are more efficient at turning our food into fuel. However, exercise can have the opposite effective if you’re completely burnt out or experiencing adrenal fatigue, where excessive exercise can actually stress your body even more.
In addition, regular exercise and movement can contribute to a healthy weight, lower cholesterol, lowered risk of high blood pressure, less inflammation, better sleep, more feel-good endorphins in the body, improved circulation, more memory and better learning.
When you exercise intentionally and strategically, the benefits can be seen throughout your body. The extra energy you have flowing will support your other organ systems, the fresh oxygen pumping through your veins will breathe new life into your cells, and you will feel all-around amazing. Sitting in one place all day, driving home, and then sitting in front of the TV all night might sound nice and relaxing, but it’s causing all sorts of stagnation in your body which can lead to illness down the line.
5 Exercise Ideas for a Healthier Life
Alright, you admit it. You find yourself sitting at work, and then all night at home. Activity is lacking, and you don’t know where to start. Fortunately I have some tips for you and below I am outlining 5 exercise ideas for a healthier life – and none of them require a gym!
Dancing in your Kitchen… or in your living room.. or wherever!
When was the last time you really danced? I’m not talking a coordinated dance here – I’m referring to putting on your favourite tunes and just moving to the music. No judgement, no holding back. A half hour of dancing and your body will be thanking you!
Morning or Bedtime Yoga
You could do yoga any time of the day, really, but morning and/or bedtime yoga is usually more do-able for busy people! It’s great if you can mix it up and practice both or alternate every other day. Bedtime yoga is usually a little more relaxation focused, while morning yoga is often more energizing. Again, yoga is another amazing form of movement where you could simply move based on how you feel. If you’re comfortable enough with yoga poses, you could create your own flow depending on what you need that day. Allowing the creativity to flow gives your body an outlet to explore. Your yoga practice doesn’t need to be 2 hours long either, whatever you can fit into your day is better than nothing!
Hiking and Exploring Outside
Consider getting yourself outside into the great outdoors and exploring new terrain. You won’t only benefit from the physical activity of hiking, but you’ll also see new places and get some vitamin N – “nature”! Being connected with nature is a fantastic way of breathing new energy and life into your body. In fact, forestbathing is a Japanese practice where individuals purposely spend time in the forest to reap the benefits of being in nature. Being outdoors can also positively impact our mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.
If you’re lucky enough to have great hiking trails nearby, plan a hike on the weekend when you are free to explore without limits. The best part about hiking is you can make it a family affair if you’re looking for something active to do with the kids. Teaching your children about healthy movement at a young age is important, and getting them outside is a nice break from technology!
For his entire life, my husband has played hockey. Even at 30 he’s still playing with many of the guys who were on his team as a child. I played soccer for 15 years until I reached university and dropped it because it didn’t fit into my life as easily. Only recently have I picked up a recreational league soccer with a team of close friends.
The benefit of team sports leagues is that it commits you to exercising one night a week (typically). Grab a group of friends and make a social event out of it! It’s an awesome way to get to meet new people and build a community. Check out what your city has to offer for team sports leagues – sometimes you can find some neat new sports to try, like handball or ultimate frisbee.
Interval training can be one of the more boring forms of exercise (it is usually repetitive), but each time you training, you can switch up the exercises to target different parts of your body. Interval training usually involves repeating a group of functional, body-weight exercises a number of times.
There are tons of videos on YouTube and many blogs from personal trainers that go through interval training workouts. I’m not a personal trainer so please don’t take this as a recommendation, but one example of interval training involves the following structure:
- Exercise #1 for 1 minute, then rest for 30 seconds
- Exercise #2 for 1 minute, then rest for 30 seconds
- Exercise #3 for 1 minute, then rest for 30 seconds
- Exercise #4 for 1 minute, then rest for 30 seconds
- Repeat for a total of 5 times
The benefit of intervals is that it’s a quick, short workout but it’s also highly effective. You will be sweating by the time the workout is over, and you’ll feel amazing. Be aware that interval training can be depleting for some, so listening to your body is the most important thing you can do. Interval training isn’t recommended for people with adrenal fatigue or serious burnout as it can be more stressful for the body. In this case I’d recommend sticking with other exercise like relaxation yoga or low-intensity hikes/walks in nature.
Incorporating free-flowing movement into our lives
Many of us don’t like going to the gym, hate cardio or despise lifting weights. Fortunately that’s not the only exercise that’s available to you!
All of the exercises I listed above are free-flowing to a degree. Free-flowing exercises are fantastic alternatives to some of the more structured workouts that we are used to. Instead of running on a treadmill, or using an elliptical, free-flowing movements allow and encourage your body to move without restriction.
The benefit of free-flowing exercises is that they get your mind out of the standard monotonous cycle of exercise. When you get stuck in a rut at the gym, you’re likely to just stop going. Working out gets boring. Not only that, but working out in such a linear way – the same way every day – puts our mind and bodies in a more linear way of being. We are less likely to move outside our norms and try new things.
Free-flowing movements are dynamic, which means they are different every single time you practice them. They can encourage creativity and growth. They encourage exploration, joy and even playfulness – something that many of us have forgotten to do since we were children! Your body and mind are so tightly connected that bringing these kinds of movements into the body can have a big impact on your mood, your energy and how you feel.
I hope that you can find some to squeeze in some healthy exercise, even with your busy life. Healthy movement is key for our mental and physical wellbeing, so practicing some of these exercises can contribute to a healthy life