Well, it turns out that when it comes to your body—and your health—that it couldn’t be more true.
Our bodies crave movement: it improves blood flow, can speed up the body’s metabolism, and even increase longevity. Exercise has been linked to a myriad of health benefits, including weight loss, more energy, better cognitive function and a reduction in chronic pain.
And the best part? There’s never been a better time to start. Research shows that regardless of how much activity you did (or didn't do) in the past, starting a regular exercise program now can increase longevity in middle-aged and older adults—reducing risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and potentially preventing premature death by up to 42%. (1) Even a modest increase in regular exercise decreased all-cause mortality rates by up to 24%. (2)
Alright, so if it’s such a key component to health, and it’s relatively accessible, then why is it so hard to stick to? Well, because life is busy. And we don’t require exercise the same way we do food or water, which makes it easier to put off, to procrastinate, to occasionally entertain with little plan to follow through.
But, movement is essential to living optimally and really thriving to the best of your body’s capabilities. And it doesn’t have to look like running on the treadmill or doing lots of cardio (unless you like that).
In fact, moving your body can actually be an enjoyable part of your everyday life, when you can find something that resonates with you.
Here are some of the biggest health benefits of exercising and moving your body—and how to make it work for you.
6 HEALTH BENEFITS OF EVERYDAY MOVEMENT
1. It Reduces Chronic Pain
If you struggle with chronic pain, the idea of any kind of physical activity probably doesn’t sound very appealing. Still, some research suggests that it may help reduce and manage pain. Several reviews found that movement helped with improving physical function and reducing pain severity. (3) Other studies found similar results, looking specifically at chronic lower back pain and fibromyalgia. (4)
Not only can exercise help to reduce pain, but it may also improve tolerance to pain and change how pain is perceived.
One study looked at the effects of aerobic exercise on pain sensitivity and found that moderate-to-intense aerobic workouts improved tolerance to pain—in this case, ischemia—even when pain itself wasn’t reduced. (5) Another study found similar results in healthy women and perceived pain intensity. (6)
Healthcare systems are even beginning to recognize the overall benefits of movement in addition to other modalities in support of physical health and functioning.
2. It Can Help With Weight Loss + Improve metabolism
While obesity is a global issue, it can be especially hard on those with joint pain. Obesity creates a burden on the musculoskeletal system, and this stress can lead to joint pain—which may pave the way to osteoarthritis down the road. Research suggests that for every 5kgweight gain, there is a 36% increased risk in developing osteoarthritis. (7)
Regular movement can help to increase metabolism, and in turn, help with weight loss. If you’ve ever tried to diet or cut back on calories—but struggled with losing any weight—that may have to do with the fact that when you restrict calories, your metabolism slows down. This is because your body intuitively knows fewer calories are coming in, resources are low, so energy expenditure has to decrease.
Exercise, on the other hand, has the opposite effect: regular exercise can help boost metabolism. One study looking at the impact of physical activity on women between the ages of 35 and 50, found that exercise was able to increase resting metabolic rate (how many calories your body burns when it is at complete rest) while also improving body composition. (8)This means that when you work out regularly, you benefit from your body burning more calories even when you’re not doing anything.
Not only can movement help to improve how fast your metabolism is working, but it can also help to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. (9) Metabolic syndrome is the term used to address a cluster of symptoms—high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and excess body fat—that together can cause cardiovascular disease and stroke. Research recommends a combination of both aerobic and resistance training to see the most benefit. (10)
3. It Can Increase Energy
You know those people who get up first thing in the morning, go for a run and show up to work full of energy (and maybe you kind of hate them)? You might wonder how they have so much momentum to get up and go work out. But it may be the reverse: working out gives you the energy to get through your day.
Research shows that movement is a high energy booster: one six-week study found that sedentary adults who started working out had decreased symptoms of fatigue and more energy—and that increased energy happened whether it was a low-intensity or high-intensity workout. (11)
Even more impressive, movement can help increase energy for people who suffer from chronic illness—particularly chronic fatigue syndrome, which encompasses symptoms like unexplained fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, poor concentration and headaches. (12)
4. It Can Help Build And Maintain Muscle + Bone
Back to that move it or lose it a statement: when you don’t use your muscles, they start to atrophy and waste away. This becomes especially true with age, as the body begins to lose muscle mass, which can lead to frailty, injury and even disability. Research has found that exercise—especially when paired with increased protein intake—led to increased muscle strength. (13)
When we move our bodies, we strengthen not only our muscles but also our skeletal system. Regular movement helps to prevent the loss of bone density. Studies show that exercise in adolescence can help increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis later in life. (14)
While higher-impact sports-like gymnastics, karate and volleyball—or odd-impact sports—like soccer or basketball—were associated with higher bone mineral composition, they may not be suitable for those with joint pain and have the most benefit for people in their 20s and30s.(15)
Low-impact sports, like swimming, pilates and yoga, are great options for people who can’t tolerate high-impact workouts, while still offering up a ton of benefits. Activities like yoga help to stretch out elastic fibres surrounding muscles that can lead to stiffness, back pain and poor posture. (16) These types of exercise can also work to increase balance and coordination, without putting pressure on joints—which can help to improve strength, reduce pain and prevent falls.
5. It Improves Brain Health + Mood
While we typically think of exercise and its benefits on physical health, its effect on brain health should not be overlooked. In fact, regular movement increases blood flow, which directly benefits the brain, by stimulating the growth of new brain cells. (17)
One study found that aerobic exercise—in which your blood is pumping and you’re working up a sweat—can actually increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning. (18) The same results were not found in with other types of exercise.
This same research found that “regular exercise of moderate-intensity over a period of six months” found an increase in the parts of the brain responsible for control thinking and memory. (19)
Research also suggests that movement becomes increasingly important as we age—as exercise can help prevent cognitive decline and have neuroprotective benefits. (20) Exercise can also help stave off cognitive impairment by protecting the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. (21)
6. It Increases Longevity + Prevents Chronic Disease
Inactivity and lack of exercise are considered to be the primary cause of most chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke cancer, obesity and osteoporosis—to name a few. (22)
Numerous studies have started to look at the link between movement and longevity, and have found that consistent and regular exercise is linked to preventing cancer, lowering the risk of osteoporosis, and a decreased risk of death. (23)
Low-intensity workouts have also been associated with improving the health of people with cardiovascular disease. (24) Aerobic exercise has been shown to be effective at reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure, regardless of the workout
When it comes down to it, the best way to move your body is to find something you love to do. Different types of exercise offer various health benefits, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and try to find a balance between workouts that get your heart rate pumping—like dancing, walking or running—and workouts that build muscle through resistance training. This ensures you’re getting the best benefits for both your physical and mental health.
If working out is not something that’s already a habit for you, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be! Here are a couple of tips to help get in the habit of moving your body, and make it stick.
● Commit to it for four weeks.Research suggests that it takes a few weeks to form a habit, so tell yourself you’ll work out regularly for the next four weeks, and see how you feel after that. You might be surprised to learn you like the habit!
● Don’t go too hard too fast. When people want to get into the swing of working out, they often dive right in and start working out every day for 1 hour—and then they lose motivation or burn out. Instead of pushing yourself too hard, try to find a schedule that feels attainable to you. Aim for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week, doing an activity you like, and work up from there. The key is consistency.
● Find movement in everyday life. A gym membership isn’t the only way to move your body (although it’s a great addition!). Try finding movement in regular activities. Can you walk somewhere instead of driving? Take the stairs. Garden. Go for a stroll after dinner with some company. Sprint to get the mail. Carry your groceries. There’s an opportunity almost anywhere!
● Combine it with something you like. If lifting weights doesn’t entertain you, try it as you watch one of your favourite TVshows. It’ll keep you from multitasking (scrolling on your phone or eating while you watch TV) and also make it a little more exciting.
● Make it a social event. Join a class, workout with a friend, or if leaving the house isn’t an option, join an online course! Building a community around fitness helps to keep you motivated and accountable.
Movement is necessary for everything from muscle building, to brain health, to preventing chronic disease. While the earlier you start, the better, research shows that now is the perfect time to get started and begin reaping the benefits. It doesn’t matter what you do; the key is consistency: so finding something you like and make it a regular habit.