The Surprising Health Benefits of Even Very Mild Exercise

No need to go to these extremes – but there’s no denying that exercise and good feelings go hand in hand. Photo: Our grateful thanks to Marc Rafanell Lopez on Unsplash.

We were literally born to move.

Our bodies are designed to run, jump, and kick toss objects.

But in these modern times we’ve made an art form of staying put.

In the past, our farmer forebears sat for three to five hours per day.  Now we sit 10 to 15 hours a day.

Excess sitting is linked to many diseases including obesity, hypertension, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

The Harvard Health Blog  reported that as little as 25 minutes of moderate activity per day can offset some of the negative effects of eight hours of sitting.

Moreover, 60 to 75 minutes of daily activity may reduce the risk of premature death, even in those who sit eight hours or more.

As part of our treatment plan for our patients, we’re almost always careful to suggest that they get more exercise.  

And, yes, you guess it. In almost every case, there’s a pregnant pause and then a sigh. “I know.”

Our patients thoroughly understand that we must move our bodies to overcome illness and optimize our health.  And we are all thoroughly aware that exercise increases our energy by stimulating better blood flow and pumping oxygen into our brains, muscles, and tissues.

Exercise promotes the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and natural endorphins that make us feel more upbeat and energized.  

Then why don’t we latch onto exercise with the gusto of a hound dog – and the joy?

Here are some oh-so-common rationalizations:

  • I’m too tired.
  • I can’t afford a gym membership.
  • I’m too busy.
  • I’m not motivated.
  • Exercise is boring.
  • Exercise is uncomfortable, it hurts.
  • I’m too ______________ to exercise (fat, old, sick, uncoordinated…)
  • Sweating ruins my makeup.

If you can identify with some of these excuses, maybe a bit of low-key exercise is what will work best for you.

Here are some easy-to-adopt ideas.  The list is incomplete. Feel free to  add your ideas.

  • Start small.  Set easy goals.
  • Use a standing desk when possible.
  • If you’re in a job that requires sitting, get up and walk around for five minutes every hour.
  • Make a regular habit of walking-around-the-neighborhood with a friend.
  • Take a walk or stretch during the lunch break.
  • Walk while phoning.
  • Park far from the store and take big stretchy steps to and from the entrance.
  • Skip the elevator and take stairs (as far as you comfortably can).
  • Walk around the house during routine tasks like brushing your teeth.
  • Pay attention to bodily stiffness or aches and pains and lethargy. They are cues to move, not to sit and rest.
  • Ride an exercise bike while watching TV.
  • Do yard work. Mow the lawn, rake leaves, or plant flowers.
  • More ideas?

Behavioral scientists tell us it takes around eight weeks to replace an old habit.  Once you’re up and moving it’ll be a lot easier to sustain.

This is fundamental to understanding how people function. When we move, our health, productivity, and enjoyment get better. Movement creates energy that floods our being, making us mentally sharper, more emotionally upbeat, and more proactively active.

Caution:  If you’re out of shape, please consult with your doctor and/or a professional trainer before undertaking an exercise routine.