Through the summer we witnessed a viral fundraising campaign sweep our social media and emails…the ALS ice bucket challenge. ALS involves dysfunction of movement control (motor nerve degeneration) to a debilitating extent. ALS highlights the pivotal role our nervous system has in movement and coordination, from our brain, spinal cord right down to our peripheral nerves.
Movement is not only initiated by our nervous system, but the act of moving actually fuels our brain. Any motion repeated becomes more ingrained in our neural pathways until it is an “automatic” pattern. Take a golf swing, learning a swing is challenging and takes time, but with repetition becomes automatic. Then you get a “tip” to improve your swing and you feel you are starting from square one. This is because you are creating a new neural pattern. Movement in itself is important to maintain these pathways, but variety of movement is also key for continued progress and creating new neural connections.
The benefits of movement and exercise are typically attributed to a strength and endurance perspective, both of which are essentials for a healthy body, however the impact on brain health is profound. From mood-boosting effects (important to remember for those tough winter days where activity may be less accessible), improved heart health and blood flow, to improved immunity due to enhanced lymph drainage (toxin removal), daily movement is truly a required “nutrient” for overall health.
With many sedentary jobs and lifestyles, incorporating movement into our day can seem difficult at times. Below are some simple ways to become more physically active, year-round. You will be amazed at how small daily steps can lead to a healthier, happier life!
- Find a partner or a group of people to go for lunch walks (on one of our many gorgeous pathways, or on a cold day taking advantage of malls or the intricate +15 system downtown). Having others involved will help everyone stay accountable and committed!
- Aim to put your body through its full ranges of motion every day. The joints in our body are meant to move, and if we aren’t allowing them to they will become progressively more restricted.
- For true health benefits, you will want to be active enough to have an elevated heart rate and slight difficulty in maintaining conversation through your activity. This does not have to take a long time, short but intense intervals of brisk walking, running, stairs, jumping rope or cycling can have a big impact.
- Choose the stairs! Walk up as far as you can, and if you need to supplement with an elevator the rest of the way up, no worries. Use this as a challenge and you will soon see that you are able to rely on the elevator less as time goes on.
- We’ve all done this…circled a parking lot multiple times looking for the rockstar parking. Next time you are getting groceries or at the mall, look for the furthest stall from the door and take advantage of the walk. Often it will often be faster than waiting for the “perfect” spot.
- Commit to participating in one new activity a month. You will find there are a ton of fun activities that you may never have known you’d enjoy. Barre classes, zumba, spin, yoga, run/ walk clubs…the options are endless. Most offer introductory membership offers to allow you to try the space and activity with little long term commitment.
- Set a reminder in your calendar to get up and move. Short breaks through the day, or a lunch-time commitment will help daily activity become part of your lifestyle versus a temporary challenge.
- Need to have a meeting or due for a visit with friends? Suggest a walking meeting or grab a tea-to-go and enjoy the outdoors along with your company!
- Stay active on a stationary bike or treadmill while watching TV or movies. Or, take the commercial breaks to do mini-circuits you can design in your own home!
“ Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” – Plato
Born and raised in Calgary, Dr. Karen Quinn is a local Chiropractor and University of Calgary graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Health Physiology. With an enthusiasm for all things that will guide people towards improved health and an enhanced quality of life, she was drawn to Chiropractic for its promotion of proactive well-being and respect for the innate wisdom of the body. Dr. Quinn is also an instructor at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and will be completing her Yoga Teacher Certification in the upcoming year.