It is easy to get caught up on the idea of exercise and with our hectic lives, many put it off or can not find the time (much less the enthusiasm). What is actually needed to get & stay fit is a shift in mindset. Science has shown it is simple movement we need for optimal health and longevity, not exercise. And, the good news is this is an easy and simple shift.
The Difference Between Movement & Exercise
When thinking of the difference between movement and exercise it is a matter of semantics. And, in this case, a crucial difference is understood and derived. There are many cases where our choice of words can dictate the outcome or influence decisions, even when the words essentially carry the same overall meaning.
Exercise conjures the thought of a structured activity requiring a certain location, routine, clothing, and lengthy time. It carries a tone of drudgery and requirement.
Movement, on the other hand, is simply the act of changing a physical location or position. It is something we do naturally without thought, on autopilot mostly. It comes innately. It offers a tone of ease and simplicity.
Which one would you choose for maintaining optimal health, energy and longevity? Most of us would say movement. And exercise, after all, is only intense movement, for those of you who love the idea of exercise.
The primary difference between the two terms is Movement is something that comes more naturally, while exercise typically refers to something that is forced and more structured.
Movement is not something we must plan for, it is simply a part of our every day. Movement is a lifestyle.
Why Movement is More Important than Exercise
We know exercise is important. What many do not know is studies have found adults can meet or even surpass public-health guidelines on physical activity, but if they sit for prolonged periods of time, their metabolic health is still compromised. (1)
This means, a person can “exercise” for an hour (or more) in the morning and/or evening and still find themselves with compromised health and at risk for disease and premature death. This happens when that seemingly “active” person then sits for the majority of the remainder of the day. This sitting may be while at work, commuting, watching tv, scrolling social media, eating or simply lounging after and in between those bouts of exercise.
This has been referred to as the Active Couch Potato phenomenon. An example would be an office worker who jogs or bikes to and from work, maybe even adds in another workout, but who then sits all day at a desk and spends several hours watching TV, reading, scrolling social media or gaming, for example, in the evening.
A sedentary lifestyle equates to spending 6 or more hours per day in any activity where a person is sitting or lying down (and even standing if no movement is involved). Our very way of life today will easily keep us sitting more than 10 hours a day, if we are not careful.
Approximately 2 million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity, prompting the WHO to issue a warning that a sedentary lifestyle could very well be among the 10 leading causes of death and disability in the world. 60-85% of people in the world lead sedentary lifestyles, which makes this a very serious public health concern. (3)
Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.(4) And, research has shown sitting for long periods associated with obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels, excess body waist fat, as well as an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. (5)
And, women who sit 7 hours or more per day are three times as likely to experience symptoms of depression than their more active counterparts. (6)
To combat this, we need to be actively moving through most of our day. Movement should be our focus. In the Blue Zones, areas around the world where the longest living people live, they do not “exercise” as we know it. They simply move through their days in natural ways. It is in the very choices they make through the day that add up to more daily activity and movement overall, not just in spurts. It is a lifestyle.
The Amount of Movement Needed for Optimal Health & Longevity
Remember these key 4 points, when considering what is needed to implement your movement lifestyle.
1. People who are engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive. That is less than 20 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity. (7)
2. You do not have to do high intensity workouts to begin to improve your health and lower your risks of disease and premature death. (8)
3. We also need to keep moving in natural ways through the day to avoid 6 or more hours of sedentary behavior for optimal health.
4. Research has also revealed clearly the importance of engaging in activities that tax the musculoskeletal system. This evidence provides direct support for the recommendation that resistance training and flexibility exercises be performed at least twice a week to maintain functional status, promote lifelong physical activity and enhance overall quality of life. (9)
How to Make a shift to Natural Movement for Health is easier than You think.
1. 20 minutes of “exercise” per day: The good news is simply walking 20 minutes per day has been shown to provide the “exercise” one needs to meet requirements. And, this can even be broken up into smaller segments, while still achieving results. Benefits start to accumulate with any amount of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity. And, remember Moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate (walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground, pushing a lawn mower). (10,11)
2. Move More as a Lifestyle
There are numerous ways to move more when you have a sedentary lifestyle. The first key is to shift your mindset to one of movement. Keep it in the back of your mind and look for ways to move through the day, even if it begins with fidgeting (sway back and forth, move your arms at your desk while reading, shift or bounce your legs while sitting, etc). Other ways to move more include working from a standing desk, inserting 2 minute breaks every hours, take walking meetings.
3. Add Resistance Movements
Think bodyweight movements for ease and convenience. Do squats during a break or every time you go to the restroom. Take a one minute break for jumping jacks or pushups (modified are fine). Benefits are shown from just 2x per week. This is not a 30 minute requirement or something that makes you sweaty and unfit for working. These can easily be added as a part of your every day routine.
And, that is it. Making these shifts in natural movements through your day has been shown to improve your health and increase your longevity. And, remember, risk was significantly higher for 8 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States for those sitting more than 6 hours per day or more. (12) While, All-cause mortality is decreased by about 30% to 35% in physically active as compared to inactive people. (13)
Even a single episode of physical activity provides temporary improvements in cognitive function and state anxiety. (14)
Find the small movements that fit best and easiest into your life and start today. Keep it as a mindset.
Ask yourself through the day, “how can I move a little more this hour, while doing what is already on my agenda?”
Make a plan and follow through. Start small. That’s all it takes after all.