the miracle of movement
dr. Lisa

dr. Lisa

The Miracle of Movement

Our bodies are remarkable. They are perfectly designed to extract oxygen from the air, turn food into fuel, and move in every which way like one of those sky dancers beckoning to you from the parking lot of the car dealership.

Have you ever stopped to truly marvel at how our bodies can run, squat down low, jump up high, reach, twist, and climb? This is the miracle of movement. We decide to walk, and our brain sends a signal down a pathway of neurons. These neurons make the muscles of the leg contract, which in turn lifts the bones in our leg, and we take a step. This happens over and over when we walk, and we are not even conscious of the coordinated effort our body is making for every step. We should delight in this! We celebrate our bodies as they perform even the most banal movements like opening a jar of pickles, climbing stairs, or stretching to reach something almost out of reach.

Unfortunately, the miracle of movement has been lost on some. Our jobs, kids, and daily responsibilities can be taxing. We find ourselves mentally exhausted and confuse it for physical exhaustion. Once home, we flop on the couch, and do not move again until it is time for bed. Our bodies need movement, though. It is what your body was made to do. If you do not believe me, look at a baby or small child. Even an infant is kicking its legs, grabbing for toys, lifting its head, and trying to roll over. Children are in constant motion. They are embracing their body’s true calling: movement.

A healthy body needs to move. If you are someone who does not consider yourself physically active, start by adding more movement into your daily routine. Park toward the back of the parking lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog more frequently, get a standing desk, and/or set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to get up every hour and stretch. When you are warming food in the microwave, while waiting, do a few squats or leg lifts. When you watch television, use the commercials as an opportunity to lift some hand weights or do sit ups. One minute here and two minutes there can quickly add up to a significant increase in your daily movement.

For those who are already active, you should strive to get in three types of movement every week: aerobic activity, resistance training, and stretching.

Aerobic Activity

Aerobic activity is that which gets your heart pumping faster for a sustained amount of time. Examples of aerobic activity would be running, walking, dancing, bicycling, rowing, or an aerobic fitness class. You should strive for 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day three to five days of the week.  Aerobic activity can improve circulation and result in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. These kinds of exercises can also help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, aerobic activity will help to control your blood glucose and may reduce your dependence upon insulin and other diabetes medications. Of course, always talk with your doctor first to determine if your body is ready for a change in medications.

Resistance Training

Resistance training is what most people refer to as “lifting weights”. This type of training can be done with resistance bands, nautilus equipment, or using your own body weight such as with squats or push-ups. Basically, anything that stresses the muscles is considered resistance training. This type of activity affects body composition; it builds muscle mass and strengthens bones, which is especially important as we age. Your weekly workouts should include at least two non-consecutive days of resistance training.

Stretching

Stretching can be as simple as bending over to touch your toes, or more organized such as yoga or tai chi. A benefit of stretching is that it can improve flexibility, which can reduce your risk of musculoskeletal pain and injury. It also improves balance and range of motion in our joints allowing our bodies can continue to perform on demand. Stretching is best done when the muscles are warm, such as after a work-out.

Most importantly, movement should be enjoyable. Taking a walk with a friend, jumping on a trampoline with your child, or gardening are all ways to incorporate movement into your day. Exercise, even if done with best intentions, will become tedious and unsustainable if you do not enjoy it. Try to rekindle that uninhibited, childhood desire to move. Exalt in your body’s abilities and relish every opportunity to celebrate the miracle of movement.

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