Moving Through Life

Daily Motion Adds Up to Fitness



Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com

Exercise is often associated with the gym or yoga studio, but structured workouts aren’t the only way to keep physically and mentally fit. Whether regulating blood pressure, avoiding obesity or promoting brain health, regular movement throughout the day yields promising benefits. Research shows that small changes in routine tasks—from house cleaning to grocery shopping—can make quick and lasting improvements in overall health.

Burn Calories Without the Workout

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) burns calories by keeping us moving throughout the day. “In essence, NEAT is how we use our bodies when we’re not doing a specific exercise or sitting still,” says San Diego’s Pete McCall, author of Smarter Workouts: The Science of Exercise Made Simple.

Over time, doing simple things can add up, like getting off the couch to refill a glass of water or shoveling snow from the driveway. According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, everyday activity outside of traditional exercise might be even more beneficial than an hour at the gym.

“Staying active throughout the day helps regulate hormones like insulin, which help metabolize carbohydrates to be used for fuel, and enzymes like lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which help release free fatty acids for muscle activity. Remaining sedentary for extended periods can actually lower LPL,” notes McCall, an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and host of the podcast All About Fitness.

Stringing together lots of small decisions throughout your day and week can add up to significant gains in your strength and cardiovascular system …
~Jeremy Hyatt, personal trainer

Jeremy Hyatt, who owns Hyatt Training, a Portland, Oregon, gym, agrees that exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or structured to make an impact. “Stringing together lots of small decisions throughout your day and week can add up to significant gains in your strength and cardiovascular system, and in the process, reduce risks for some of our main causes of disease and disability due to metabolic conditions.”

Hyatt suggests staying active by walking the dog after dinner, taking the stairs instead of an elevator and carrying two bags of groceries home from the store or to a distant parking spot. Adding simple body weight movements to everyday chores and tasks can also have a positive effect.

A research study in The Journal of Neuroscience links exercise and neurotransmitter production, offering new hope for depressive disorders in which levels of the brain regulators glutamate and gamma-eminobutyric acid (GAMA) are out of balance.

Bring on the Joy

Opting for activities that are fun and interesting is a surefire way to create a healthier lifestyle. Dancing, for instance, can offer a wide range of benefits, especially for older individuals. That’s why dance is now a significant component in many programs designed to treat depression, addiction and eating disorders.

“We’re never too old, too young, too inflexible, too busy, too anything to dance. The hardest part is just walking into the studio,” says Kat Wildish, a renowned former ballerina and master teacher in New York City.

For those older than 50, dance offers many advantages. “Dance gives us positive stimulus in both physical movement and the mental connection in a non-competitive environment. It has an immediate inverse effect to cortisol and raises serotonin,” says Wildish. “With proper alignment and joint care in mind, dance helps to combat the physical effects of aging such as arthritis, osteoporosis ...”

Researchers at the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine found that all types of exercise have been shown to improve thinking processes in older adults. Results of their study, published in Neurology: Clinical Practice, suggest that yoga, aerobic exercise and strength training yield the most significant results over an extended period.

Yet, moving the body regularly and consistently in everyday endeavors is an excellent starting point that can be richly rewarding. “Individuals can start to make quick and lasting changes to their overall health. Start by picking small changes,” says Hyatt.

Wildish agrees that making the decision to begin and keeping it fun is paramount. “Do what you can and stick with it when you find something that brings you joy, even when it’s challenging.”


Marlaina Donato is the author of several books, including Multidimensional Aromatherapy.


This article appears in the January 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Fight Back Naturally When Allergies Put the Bite on Pets

Because they’re built lower to the ground, our dogs and cats can pick up seasonal allergens on fur from grass, weeds, pollen, lawn chemicals and fleas.

Saving a Drop to Drink

Fresh water supplies are dwindling globally, including in the U.S., yet we can do things on a personal level to help hold onto this finite resource.

Air Care for Kids

Kids are especially sensitive to the pollen, chemicals, dust mites, mold and pet dander that cause allergies, but simple strategies can keep these culprits in check.

Meditation and Music Slow Cellular Aging

Doing a chanting meditation or listening to classical music 12 minutes a day for three months altered biomarkers associated with cellular aging and Alzheimer’s disease in adults with early memory loss.

Vegetables and Orange Juice Protect Memory

A Harvard study of 27,842 older male health professionals found those that ate the most vegetables and drank the most orange juice suffered less memory loss over a span of two decades.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Detoxification

Detoxification is a popular way for people to take an active role in their health. There are many great diets, supplements, treatments and programs that have been developed to guide us through what is a complicated and often misunderstood process.

New Chicago Market Food Co-op Forming

Chicago Market - A Community Co-op, projected to open in late 2015 on the city’s north side - has begun welcoming its first owners.

Aligned Modern Health

With an integrated approach that strives to help patients eliminate the root cause of pain and live life to the fullest, the team at Aligned Modern Health can help restore both acute and chronic joint health issues.

New Book Claims that God’s True Identity is Holy Mother Mary

The Holy Mother Mary Is GOD is a non-denominational book that aims to reveal great mysteries.

Food Matters is a Film That Matters

Creating Wellness of Arlington Heights, and Sleigh Family Chiropractic will screen the documentary film, Food Matters, at the AMC Randhurst.

Celebrate at Infinity Foundation Gala Benefit

The nonprofit Infinity Foundation’s annual fundraising benefit will be at the Highland Park Country Club, to support more than 200 course offerings and community services.