Episode 45: Why You Need to Move Your Body

If I told you I had the magic pill to help you sleep better, hurt less, have more energy, and protect your brain- would you be interested? Well, today, I’m going to give the prescription to get this magical cure for almost everything that ails you.  

I’ll share compelling research that demonstrates the substantial benefits of exercise for managing chronic conditions, boosting brain function, and improving mental health. This conversation is an invitation to acknowledge the often underappreciated link between increased sedentary lifestyles and the rise in mental health concerns, and to consider movement as a powerful tool in preventing disease and fostering overall well-being for all ages. We will talk about how to plan for movement, prepare for obstacles and get ready to make moving your body a regular way you show love to your body. I hope you’ll join me!

What you will learn on this episode:

– Strategies for feeling energized and joyful through daily activities. 

– Research on the health benefits of physical movement

– Insights on how everyday movement can positively affect your health. 

– How to be motivated to move every everyday


*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.

Hey, friends, and welcome to the podcast. 

Today it’s a beautiful day here in Austin, Texas, where I live, and I’ve just come in from a glorious walk. I try to walk outside in the mornings, especially when it’s warmer here, because it gets hot here. Maybe not right now, but those mornings are just so beautiful and especially today, it was just so cool and quiet on my walk today. This is really perfect to get me in the mood for our topic, which is critical for our wellness. Today, we’re talking about another pillar in our self-care foundation of sleep, soothe, fuel and move. Today, we’re talking about move. I’m going to throw out the word exercise. When you hear this word, it either elicits a feeling of excitement and anticipation or one of dread and guilt, because I see both of these reactions in my office when I’m working with women. I want to add a broader word as we talk about the importance of exercise in our self-care plan. I’m using the word move. Why move? Because I want you to think about exercise in terms of what it does for you and how it can be accomplished in ways that you may not have thought about before. Maybe you like the word exercise, and if you do, then I want you to keep it at the top of your happy list and you can bring it into this discussion every time I use the word movement. But if exercise is something that you dread rather than crave, then I’m asking you to make a little shift with me. We often interchange the words exercise and movement, and in my coaching I almost always choose to use the word movement to move our bodies. And it might sound like I’m just being a little evasive or tricky here and using a different word to trick you into looking at exercise in a different light, but actually in all the research there is a difference between how researchers see exercise and how they see movement. 

Exercise is defined as physical activity that people engage in when they’re trying to lose weight or gain strength or agility or flexibility. It’s targeted, organized and often has a specific goal. And then researchers define movement as any physical activity that results in using your body and expending any energy beyond your normal resting state. So this is a different definition, a little bit of a different goal than to simply exercise. It’s a bigger idea, a bigger, more comprehensive concept of ways to get things. Your body needs to be strong and well. 

So, while exercise is always movement, not all movement is considered exercise. For instance, a lot of people have awesome fitness goals. You might be training for an event, for a 5K or a bike race, and we can have fitness goals to improve our health, specifically to lose weight or lower your blood sugar or your A1C. And sometimes we have aesthetic goals where the outcome is changing the way your body looks by focusing on a weight loss or strengthening and toning specific muscle groups to get the desired goal. Now, these are all examples of exercise that uses movement to reach these goals, but it’s specific and targeted, and I really want to be clear. I’m not saying that any of these goals are bad or that exercise is a wrong way to look at it. In fact, having specific exercise goals that fit your dreams, your needs, the desires that you have. It’s wonderful, but I want to have you consider expanding this goodness to even more options in moving our bodies and actually getting credit for it, recognizing that there are more ways for us to get this goodness into us, into our lives, because not everyone is drawn to a sport or a fitness goal or has a motivation to exercise, and we often go through seasons in our life where sometimes we’re really up for that and then other periods of our life it’s too much and it can feel overwhelming. We don’t have time or the energy to focus on that, and sometimes people are struggling with injury or illness or even just a lack of confidence. So I deal with a lot of shame around exercising with my clients, people who’ve had bad experiences or they just don’t feel good about it. So I love the idea of broadening the circle of exercise and fitness to make it even bigger, to include simple and doable things that move your body, and what’s exciting is that we don’t need a grand exercise plan to get that baseline. Wellness Research is showing that we can get many of the long-term benefits that exercise brings from simply increasing small and daily movement into our lives, and I think for me this was a total game changer that actually invited me into the world of being more active. 

Because, to be honest, for such a long time the word exercise has not been my personal friend, for a whole bunch of reasons, both emotionally and physically. The truth is I’ve never liked to exercise, I have never loved playing sports or breaking a sweat, and this goes way back in my history. And then, as I grew up, I started to have back problems and hip problems and you know kind of how my body is built. It puts a strain on my hip, it’s made it really hard for me to walk and not hurt, and so exercising hurt and seem to make those problems worse. And then, of course, the less I moved, the harder it was for me to move, and I understand this now, but back then I didn’t that. You know, when you move less your body tends to hurt more, and when you move more your body gets more of the things it needs to heal and eventually starts to hurt less. And I think that pain cycle went hand in hand for me with not really trusting in my body and having frustration and even anger at my body for not being able to do that hardcore exercise that everyone around me was doing and seemed to be loving. So I work with so many women who also struggle with the same thing. So I think we really need to broaden this conversation and make a way for everyone to feel good about this. 

And when I started to read research about movement as an option to add to the concept of hardcore exercise, I felt a door open for me in a way that I had never experienced before, and I found it’s done the same for my clients to get the benefits of exercise with a broader set of options. Because my clients are moms who are dealing with pregnancies, recoveries, sleep deprivation, limited time and often a heavy weight of other mood challenges, sometimes depression or anxiety. Because I was helping them feel better, them feel good in their lives. I needed a low impact, doable plan for them to get all of these massive benefits for their wellness in whatever circumstance they were in, and I knew this because I’ve lived it. I’ve had the injuries, the negative beliefs about exercise, the physical exhaustion and the time limitations. I’ve had to learn my own way to put movement into my life, to make friends with it and find a way to love moving my body. So I’ll do it instead of avoiding it. 

I’ve actually followed the progression that I’ve laid out in the resiliency system that I’ve laid out in this podcast, this path to working with the body, where first we connect with our bodies and we accept our bodies as they are and then learn to have compassion not only for our body but just compassion in general for ourselves. Only then have I been able to work with my body. Once I’ve been following that journey, that connection and that compassion, only then have I been able to explore ways to better care for and move my body. And this is what I’ve learned. After years of feeling frustrated. I’ve learned I don’t have to do it like everyone else does it. There are so many ways to move, so many ways that your body can get what it needs from movement, and this approach has helped my clients. It’s opened more options for them to see movement as something they can do every day, no matter their circumstance or their feelings about exercise. So this is my hope that in this episode, you’ll translate this content and the message into whatever language and relationship you have with this topic. If you love being active, it will reinforce what you know and love and maybe remind you how much you need this in your life, and if you’re a little bit more like me and you’ve had a tentative relationship with exercise, hopefully you’ll see a way to learn to love moving your body, because what we know about the body and the brain and your emotions and longevity is this those who move do better in all of those areas than those who don’t. Our bodies are just made to move. They do better in every possible way you can imagine if we move them. The benefits that come from keeping our body in healthy motion each and every day are astounding. 

Recently, I was talking with a physician who specializes in treating chronic pain. We were talking about this exact issue and he explained how he uses movement to treat conditions like fibromyalgia and the resulting depression that often accompanies such a difficult condition, and he related the story of one of his patients, a woman who had been suffering from bone weary, fatigue and painful muscles that limited her daily activities. She tried many medications but was still having life limiting symptoms, and she was feeling really hopeless and depressed about it. As a physician, he challenged her many times to start a daily regimen of walking, and you can imagine how hard this was for this woman. She was already having a hard time just walking around her house and he stressed to her the importance of walking regularly, 30 minutes if possible. He said that she thought that that was impossible, she could never do that, and he stressed to her that it didn’t have to be crazy hard, that it could be gentle as a matter of fact, that it should be gentle and pleasant and there was no expectation of strain or pressure to walk at a brisk pace, just to get out and go slow and get started. She’d heard his recommendation many times but never felt kind of strong enough to try it out Until one of her neighbors, a much older woman I think, like in her 80s, came up to her while she was waiting outside her home watching her kids walk down the street to the bus stop and this neighbor asked her to go for a walk with her. 


And she shook her head and politely declined the invitation. But the next day, as she was standing there watching her kids go to the bus stop, there was that 80-year-old neighbor in front of her house again inviting her to take a little walk. She said well, I felt embarrassed to say no to this lady who was over twice her age, so she went on a walk that day and she barely got to the end of the block and back and that was all she could manage, and after that she was exhausted. But the next day the neighbor showed up again, invited her to go walking, and for a couple of days that’s all she could do was go to the end of the block again and again, and then one day she was able to walk to the next block and back, and then after several weeks she found that she had been able to extend her time walking and was getting close to that 30-minute block, and the doctor said her recovery to almost full health was nearly miraculous after that and he didn’t elaborate. My guess is that it wasn’t like after two weeks, but over a consistent amount of time her labs got better, her pain started to subside and her mood improved. 


So here was a pain management doctor trained in physiology, pharmacology and psychology, and the thing that he found to be the very most successful in treating his patients with chronic illness like this was movement. It was sustainable, it was protective and it had more power than the medications to improve functioning. Researchers are finding that moving your body has phenomenal powers to protect and care for the body and even heal it. Because when you move the muscles in your body, whether through stretching or walking or dancing or planned exercise like cardio training, it sets in motion all of the processes that work together to keep you healthy, and the benefits don’t stop at the health of the physical body. The brain receives all kinds of benefits when you move Memory and learning are improved as the number of blood vessels providing blood flow to the brain and connections to your nerve cells are increased. When you move your muscles and bones, you require all your body to work as it should, and the brain recognizes the stress this puts on those systems and sends helpers in the form of neurotransmitters to support and care for the body not just the brain, but the whole body. This stress and response to stress is what actually feels good when you exercise and has the power to improve your mood by producing serotonin and amino acids like tryptophan, which is important in the production of the serotonin. So exercise decreases the hormones that are sent out when we experience external stress and helps us work out stress that we pick up during the day. 


So we’ve known for a long time that people who move their bodies do better in all areas, both physical and emotional, and there’s been some debate about whether this is because happier people and healthier people move more because they like it and it’s easier, or whether movement actually increases their happiness and wellness and there’s cyclical benefit here, of course. But the research studies over the last few years have found that the power of movement and exercise in treating mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are significant. A 2016 study followed people who moved a lot and then had them stop, removed the exercise and asked them to stay sedentary for a period of time and then they studied their mood, and what they found was that people who normally felt great as soon as they got sedentary and stopped their movement, their depression rates went up. Another 2016 study did the same thing, except this time with teenagers. They took active teenagers and had them stop being active, purposely be sedentary, and what they found was that anxiety rates went way up for those teens. We have so many studies following depressed and anxious subjects who begin even mild or moderate exercise and experience reduced depression and anxiety, and so many hypotheses that the reason why our anxiety and depression are going up with our teenagers and our adults is because our sedentary behavior, our screen-watching behavior, our ease in our life that requires less physical movement. Those things are increasing along with the increase in depression and anxiety. So that’s just something that they’re opening the door in, studying cause and effect rather than just correlation. But the numbers are quite significant. 


All the research specifically found that movement in any form walking, dancing, swimming, playing sports they all have physical and psychological benefits that have powerful effects on the brain. It protects us against degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, alzheimer’s and dementia, all with 20 to 30 minutes of movement a day. Getting kids to play more lowers their mood disorders. Getting teens outside and active reduces anxiety. Getting senior citizens to dance, just kind of shuffle around the room to music. It improves all of their health markers, like heart rate and respirations, and improves memory and lifts depression. What the research is showing is that movement kind of magically helps everything. 


If we had a drug that promised us this kind of result, doctors and clinicians everywhere would be clamoring to get at it. It would probably be expensive, but we would save up to buy it. We’d lobby for insurance to cover it. We’d probably protest if it wasn’t available to us and to our loved ones. Well, in the research, exercise or moving our bodies actually does better than many of the drugs out there to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety. It’s available to everyone and it’s free, and I think the reason why I want to make a big deal about calling this movement rather than exercise or training it’s because it doesn’t have to be a certain prescriptive training program or method to give you the benefit. Simple things that you do in your day Taking the stairs more, carrying laundry baskets, bending and lifting children. Movements like walking, dancing, gardening, stretching all of these things count. And, yes, your heart benefits with the movement, like the physical muscle in your chest, your heart. But your emotional heart benefits too. The research in how movement helps us feel better emotionally is just so powerful when you play with your kids or you walk around a park or you dance. These activities move your body and they move your heart. And now we’re focusing on unlocking the things that help you move rather than programming an exercise routine that you absolutely must follow. So we’re going to strip away the pressure to perform or look a certain way or meet a specific fitness goal and just open up the vision to allow for any and all movement for your good, because regular physical activity makes us more resilient and part of that is how we respond to stress. 


A recent 2022 study states that the stress-buffering effects of exercise are demonstrable at many levels. Both the human and animal literature indicate that exercise can constrain the activation of the sympathetic nervous system in response to stress. It can prevent stress-induced immunosuppression and reduce the incidence and severity of stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety. So let me translate that statement for you. What that means is that mild to moderate activity, like going for a power walk or playing a sport or dancing it doesn’t have to be high intensity, so moderate activity for 20 to 30 minutes has been shown to calm down your nervous system, help your immune system perk up and fight illness and reduce depression and anxiety. It makes your body more sensitive to serotonin, which is one of the hormones that makes you feel happy. So the key takeaway here you’re more sensitive to your positive emotions and feeling good due to neurochemical changes because you did 20 minutes of brisk walking and some research shows that this is as effective, if not more effective, than antidepressant drugs. So when I have clients in therapy for depression or anxiety and we’re doing therapy and they’re adding movement, there is a compounded effect on their recovery and overall wellness. 


So now that we’ve gone through some of the research. We’ve gone through the reasons why movement is so helpful to you, what it does for you. Let’s talk about how we get moving more in our life. Number one I think the first step is understanding all of this what it does for us and I’ve tried to spend some of your time today talking about that. I find when I understand and it makes sense to me, I’m far more likely to do something about it. So if you struggle with finding the interest or the motivation to move, then find the thing you want more of in your life and research it a little bit. Look for it, keep it top of mind as you consider moving. What in all this research caught your attention? What do you need more of in your life? 


For me, as I studied this, I realized I wanted to hurt less. My body hurt partially because I wasn’t moving it enough, so I wanted to hurt less. I also wanted to be able to walk all day at the amusement park when my family went there. I wanted to go on hikes and feel good. I wanted to sleep better. I wanted a way to turn down the stress response in my body that makes me feel anxious. So for me, these are the things that help me every day. Put my shoes on and go for a walk. 


What do you want in your life that movement can help you get? That’s question number one. Number two let’s identify your obstacles and troubleshoot them. What are the things that get in the way of you moving more? Is it pain? Is it time? Is it that it’s different and uncomfortable? It can be helpful to look at what it is that’s standing in the way of you being more active. So I want you to think about what are your barriers If you’ve got pain, you know there are so many great clinicians out there, people who can work with balancing your body. Help you troubleshoot what it is that’s causing you the pain, so that you can be more active and kind of get ahead of that cycle and start moving more so that you hurt less. Find your obstacles, then start to make plans to address those so you can find alternative solutions. And I think we always want to be able to use our first point All this great information is going to help us be motivated to overcome these obstacles, because when you move more, it’s going to help you feel better. It’s going to protect you as you do this work. 


I think it’s important to prepare for the times when those obstacles are going to come your way and you’re going to feel like you’re not able to do the things that you plan to do. Maybe you’re going to wake up in the morning and you’re going to have a crazy day. You might have sick kids, or maybe you’re just crampack that day and you’re not going to get to your plan, and that can be an obstacle that just kind of makes us feel it like we’re in an all or nothing situation where if I can’t get to it today, then you know I’ve just lost it for the weekend and we’ve got to get off that all or nothing mentality. If I can’t hit my goals this day, I just can’t do it. I think this is where our compassion training comes in. This is where our regulation training comes in and accept that life is going to be this way, sometimes like a roller coaster. We’re going to have days where things work as we plan and we can feel good about it, and then we’re going to have days where things are out of our control or maybe we just didn’t follow through on our plan. So let’s prepare for that too. Let’s prepare that we’re going to have good days and we’re going to have hard days, and the thing I want you to remember about this is that every day and I’ll even make that more specific every moment is a new moment. Whatever I didn’t do this morning, whatever I didn’t do yesterday, whatever I didn’t do this whole last week, it doesn’t matter, because I have now and this is a new day a new hour, a new minute. So put that in your plan, because that’s one of the obstacles that comes up a lot, that all or nothing thinking and kind of feeling like, ah, I blew it, I can’t do it anymore. We can overcome that obstacle by staying out of that all or nothing thinking. Okay. 


Number three schedule and queue. Once you decide you’re going to move more, consider scheduling it On my calendar. I schedule client sessions, I schedule paperwork and note writing time, I schedule podcast research time and I schedule my lunch and my walk Between my sessions with clients. I schedule breaks Every two to three hours. I make this the time I go outside in the middle of my day. I walk the backyard, I water the plants, I get the mail, I move because I’ve been sitting for hours at a time. 


Cues are things you purposely leave lying around to cue you into remembering something important. So you don’t have to scatter fitness equipment all throughout your home to take advantage of cues, but you could put out your walking shoes near the door so that you walk by them and you see them that it’s an invitation to go outside for a few minutes. You could have a standing desk. If you work at the computer, you can have exercise bands sitting next to where you sit so that you can take some breaks and stretch your muscles. Maybe you could create a space in your family room in front of the TV so that when you’re watching something, you can lay out on the floor and stretch a little. You can keep a ball or a frisbee next to your dog’s leash and have your bike ready in case, at any moment, notice you’re ready to go for a short bike ride. In other words, you’re going to put cues around you that remind you, invite you and encourage you to move and make it easier for you to do so. 


Number four routines. And maybe this is another part of scheduling your movement, but I think it deserves a specific mention, because when you set a routine something you do regularly you use the autopilot function of your brain to work with you in reaching your goal of moving more. And in all the research on movement, from children to the elderly, experts agree that establishing a walking habit may be one of the best things you can possibly do. Whether you’re an elite athlete or someone who never exercises at all, taking 20 to 30 minutes of your day for a walk is going to literally shift your life. And if you walk in the morning, it provides a specific reset after a full night’s sleep, and what you’re doing is providing your body with this alternative to what it’s just experienced. It’s been resting for eight to 10 hours and now it’s shifting from being sedentary to being active at the start of your day. And if you do that in the morning, you’re also getting the exposure to natural sunlight, which helps set your circadian rhythm, and it controls all of your body systems, including the one that controls your sleep. On the days you can’t walk, maybe because of the weather, or you can’t leave the house, you can always have a backup plan a yoga routine, or maybe you stretch, do a few gentle squats, reaching your arms up high above your head. All of these movements are not movements you’re likely to do throughout the day. So when you start your day off with them, your body gets primed and prepared in a way that you may not have time to give it later. 


Number five seeing the big picture, I like to think of this as a marathon mentality, a long view of what you’re doing and why. We’ve reviewed all of the health benefits. We’ve reviewed all the brain chemicals, the endorphins, the serotonin, the way that it helps your immune system, the way it protects your heart and protects you from the degenerative diseases. But now let’s talk about how it helps build a relationship with yourself. Just knowing that you’re going to go on a walk or that you’re going to do something to move your body means you’re keeping a commitment to yourself to move in some way. It can really help you grow your confidence and your trust in yourself and ultimately it will help you do something to cope with the stress and hard things that we get faced with in our life. 


It’s not normal to be zen all the time. It’s actually much more normal and human to get flustered, tired and sometimes even feel anxiety. Remember stress, the thing that happens in our life that we have to deal with. Stresses aren’t what hurt us. Stresses are not being able to turn off our response to stress that hurts us. Movement helps us do that. Walking, stretching, doing any kind of movement actually gives your body a way to use the adrenaline and cortisol that comes with stress. And if you’re feeling sad or discouraged, your body may go down into that dorsal state like we talked about, how your nervous system will want to shut down and deactivate or curl up and disconnect. 


If we move when we feel least like moving, we can protect ourselves from that downward spiral of low energy where motivation drops and the sadness and the hopelessness gets worse. So we’re all going to need things to help us cope and we have a choice we can reach for things that numb us and cover the feelings, or we can reach for things that help us soothe and work through the feelings. So when you’re angry, afraid or sad, you need something to hold on to or to hold on to you. So what if you decided to move more because you want to grow your resilience to stress, to have improved mental health and really just learn to have a better relationship with your body? And with a goal like this, you can be an elite athlete and be highly focused on your training, and you can be a regular mom with kids who’s just focusing on moving her body consistently in any way that gets her beyond her resting state. These are different goals than the usual fitness goals we see tracked in gyms and on social media. They still involve using your body to move it throughout the day, so it gives you all that goodness and protection that’s programmed into it and your brain recognizes. 


The things that we choose to do on a regular basis are the things that are most important to us. With all of the talk of self-esteem and figuring out how to like ourselves more and stop the negative talk and self-sabotage, it may be surprising to know that when you move on a regular basis, you’re literally teaching your brain to value you, learning that you’re a friend to yourself, that you’re caring for your body in a deliberate way so your brain can feel safe and when safety is detected, the body relaxes. Stress from the outside world will always be present in our lives, but stress from inside of us can be diminished when there’s a friend inside of us rather than an enemy. So, in summary, think about how you can bring more movement into your life. Go for a walk, even if you have five minutes. Walk down your driveway, get the mail. Go to the end of your block and back. Put a podcast in your earbuds, listen as you move. Do it with your kids, play basketball, throw a Frisbee, jump in the pool. Make sure to choose something you like to do. If you hate it, you probably won’t stick with it. On the flip side, if you enjoy doing it, you’re more likely to keep up with it. According to the science, moving protects you all the way around and makes you feel better. It makes you feel better now and it will make you feel better in the future. 


Remember the story I shared earlier about the doctor who uses movement as one of his tools to heal chronic physical conditions. He added one more piece to his walking prescription. He said smile as you walk. Let the sky and the sun and the sounds around you replace your worries for just a few minutes each day. I think that’s such good advice. Well, that is it for today. I wish I could go on a walk with each one of you. It would be good for my heart and my soul to get to be in your presence, but know that I’m out there doing all of this right along with you. Together, we’re taking care of ourselves in such a powerful way. So I’ll talk to you next week. Keep moving and take good care. 


The Leadership Parenting Podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal, medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again and take care. 


Transcribed by https://podium.page


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