The Key to True Fitness Is Simpler Than You Think
Humans were made for activity. And the best blend of fitness involves all-day movement and exercise. Here’s why.
Ponder this: Why do we have joints, bones, ligaments, and muscles?
“We have them because we move,” says holistic coach Jator Pierre, C.S.C.S.
From an ancestral standpoint, movement was a huge part of hunting, gathering, and playing was all done through movement. Yet today, most of us sit for long periods of time, sometimes for hours and hours on end in postures that comprise our health.
“Our bodies are made to function best when they are active,” explains Dominique Gummelt, Ph.D., director of University Health & Wellness at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI. “Everything within the human body is constantly moving: the heart is constantly pumping, blood is flowing, nutrients are being delivered, waster products expelled.”
Moving more throughout the day, then, allows more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered through blood flow, which increases circulation, impacting every system in the body including the brain.
Maintaining full range of motion through movement is also one of the factors impacting lymphatic flow. Moving and creating pressure in the body helps the lymph system truly clean out waste, maintaining and supporting a strong immune system, explains Scott Weiss, P.T., C.S.C.S., a physical therapist and trainer based in New York.
Without movement, proper alignment, and full range of motion, oxygen isn’t as disseminated to the different cells, says Pierre—something that can contribute to chronic levels of stress, inflammation, and overall dysfunction.
Why Daily Workouts Aren’t Always Enough
Even people who are “movers”—can be at an increased risk for the negative effects of inactivity. Take a study by researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Texas at Austin. It found that even marathon runners spent about 10 hours a day without movement. There’s a term for this phenomenon: active couch potatoes.
And while exercising in and of itself once a day is excellent, immobility for the rest of the day may negate some of the musculoskeletal benefits of exercise, explains Weiss. “You may tighten joints and muscles and limit movement if you maintain one position for most of the day.”
Some research has even suggested that prolonged periods of inactivity (even in those who exercise) are linked to a greater likelihood of death.
That’s why the best routine involves moving more as well as a structured, intentional exercise session—ideally something you enjoy that you can make habit. Here, a few ways to implement such a routine.
Have an arsenal of do-anywhere moves
No matter where you are, there is usually an opportunity for you to practice movement and range of motion, notes Weiss. Many of the exercises in Elev8d Fitness—Cat and Dogs, Imaginary Jump Rope, Squats, or Stork Walks—for example, can be performed anywhere with no equipment at all. Plus, the workouts only takes eight minutes.
Find natural environments
In an effort to incorporate more movement into your days, turn to nature. A strong body of research connects humans to the outdoors, suggesting that we seek it out naturally—something called the biophilia hypothesis.
Hosting outdoor walking meetings or planning family time outdoors in a playful way (a game of tag, a walk, a pick-up sports game) can work more activity into your routine in enjoyable ways, notes Gummelt.
“A lot of adults have a concept that play is not relevant in our lives,” says Pierre. But there is a lot of movement, respiration, range of motion, and joy in play, he notes. From an evolutionary process, play helped us navigate unpredictable environments, which helped us survive, he notes, adding that play can help us focus and be more efficient in our day-to-day.
Ask yourself: What was fun for you as a kid? Keeping accessories (a soccer ball, for example) nearby can remind you to take fun movement breaks throughout your day.
“When we’re playing, we lose that sense of self-consciousness and those inhibitory factors that are stressful. All of that disappears when we drop into play.”