Cornerstone 3: Move your whole body
I think this may be the most intimidating cornerstone for most people. Many of us have no idea where to start and feel generally overwhelmed with how much time and money it takes to get fit. This is why I have purposefully removed the word exercise from this section and simply referred to whole body movement. As we work more from home and offices than ever before, we do a lot of moving of our fingers while typing and our mouths speaking on Zoom. But the remainder of our bodies are left stiff and stuck in unnatural positions for long hours at a time. This is not the way we were designed to be, and we feel it in every joint and muscle. Chronic back ache, headaches, knee pain, stiff hips, sore frozen shoulders and repetitive strain injury to name a few common ailments of the sedentary life. From many research studies we know that people in Blue Zone areas live longer and have happier, more fulfilled lives, with periods of health into old age because of their lifestyle. Clearly nutrition plays a massive role here, but these cultures have a huge amount of functional movement in their daily lives as well. People in these cultures move on average 16,000 steps per day and there is no HIIT class in sight, and no sweaty lycra either. Their daily lives revolve around constant movement and very few periods of sitting sedentary at computer screens.
Movement is a true anti-inflammatory experience for the metabolism. As we move our bodies the increased blood flow flushes the inflammatory cytokines from our tissues, and also releases natural endorphins, helping us to feel better and happier. A close friend of mine was really struggling to increase the amount of exercise she was doing. Struggling to motivate herself she tried pushing on to do swimming, running and cycling – all of which ended in failure and a knee operation for a cartilage tear. She ended up completely demotivated and less active than ever. We had a chat one afternoon over coffee and I asked her what her favourite activity was as a child. Her face exploded into life, aglow with the memories of dancing. She had danced several times a week whilst growing up, right into her early 20s. I had never known this about my friend before. I suggested that she look up some dancing classes, and she retorted straight away that dancing wasn’t exercise, it was just fun!! In that moment we looked at each other and burst out laughing at the absurdity of her statement. She now dances several times a week in an adult dance class and loves every minute of it. Her chronic back pain has gone, and her knee is as good as new. Her energy levels and self-confidence are back to how she felt in her 20s. Movement is good, and we need to do more of what we love.
Try a task: Scrap the exercise guilt, and start moving in the ways you love. Dig deep into your childhood self and note down the physical activities you enjoyed – movement should be a joy and something you look forward to. The feeling of your whole body in motion is not supposed to be some sort of punishment – we were designed to move. It may be dance, or running, cycling or karate: anything goes – but it has to be something you enjoy.
Then get online and find some local or online classes/groups. There has been an explosion of instructors and groups of all kinds over the last 25 years: you can do anything you like in the comfort of your own home at any time you choose. Taking this time out for yourself once or twice a week, or even daily, will pay dividends for your confidence, health and focus during the working day.