In many cultures health is understood to be linked to our ability to move our body. If our joints are mobile, then we live longer. Practices such as yoga or chi kung allow prana and chi to better move through the body, allowing our overall vitality to improve.
Martial arts facilitate better movement, better physical strength, and mental clarity. You just need to watch some capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts dance, or the Shaolin Monks perform a Kung Fu routine on YouTube to see the benefits of martial arts movement practice.
But how is this relevant to our daily lives working in an office? According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) movement through regular physical activity can help prevent and manage diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA recommends doing 150 minutes of physical activity each week
Those of us who spend a lot of time sitting in front of a screen probably know well the tension that can build in our neck, shoulders, and lower back. WHO research suggests that one in four adults do not do enough physical activity, and that high levels of physical inactivity impact community wellbeing, health systems, and even economic development.
Movement not only releases tension in muscles, and the fascial networks around them, but it can also strengthen and densify bones through increased weightbearing activity. Bone literally reforms and grows in response to how it is used. Its form follows its function. Joints—shoulders, hips, knees, ankles—all need to keep moving to be healthy. By moving, you are strengthening your muscles, which improves stability, balance, and coordination.
The nervous system also responds favourably to physical movement
The nervous system also responds favourably to physical movement. The mental health charity Mind recommends doing physical exercise to support your mental health. Among other benefits, moving helps to release endorphins and to relieve stress.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA recommends doing 150 minutes of physical activity each week, which can be split into five 30 minute sessions to make it easier to commit to. These sessions can be a mix of vigorous exercise and strength building exercises. They say that the mix is important for optimal health.
However, it is important to remember that physical activity includes all movement, whether gentle slow movement or faster vigorous movement. Climbing the stairs or climbing Slieve Donard, walking your dog or running a marathon. Running, cycling, swimming, team sports, yoga, tai chi, dancing, might sound engaging and motivating for you, or they might sound like a step too far to include in your weekly routine. However, we don’t necessarily need to go the gym five days a week to keep moving. And small steps in our physical activity can build into longer term movement habits.
There are many simple techniques we can employ to keep our bodies moving. Here are five ways that can introduce more movement into your daily schedule.
Chair based movement exercises: Those with mobility issues might find chair-based movement practices easier. Take short breaks every hour when working at your computer to roll your shoulders, rotate the ankles and wrists, all while sitting down. Slowly roll your shoulders gently forwards three times and then backwards three times. Then gently and slowly make three circular movement with your wrists and ankles clockwise and anticlockwise.
Stand more: If standing is an option for you, then try to stand more. Get up and stretch regularly. Some people might even prefer to work at a laptop standing rather than sitting. Standing while working helps you to make continual micro movements in your posture.
Shake your body: Take a break from sitting at your screen to shake out your hands and wrists and arms, legs, ankles and feet as you stand. This helps to discharge excess nervous energy built up in the body. You can do this sitting but preferably standing. Shaking can be a particularly helpful practice if you have had a difficult stressful conversation. Even better, stand barefoot on the earth allowing your body ground while you shake it out.
Have fun moving: Dance, jig, wiggle. Put on some music while you cook and get wiggling your hips in the kitchen. Even better, have a bit of craic and have a little jig with someone else!
Walk more: Try walking round the room while on the phone. Is it possible to walk instead of getting in the car for every journey? An extra 15 minutes of walking each day can make a huge difference. Can you weave a 15 minute walk into your daily routine?
This article was first published in Northern Ireland Chamber Ambition magazine