If you're like most people, you've probably been led to believe that exercise is a necessary evil. You need it to be healthy, but it's not fun and it takes too much time.
The good news is that there's an easier way to improve your health and fitness — one that’s more fun, more inspiring, and is already hard-wired into your human body and brain.
It's called movement-rich living
. This simple philosophy can help you achieve better health without having to join a gym or spend hours on the treadmill each week. In this article, you’ll learn why I think movement-rich living is a better approach than exercise, and you’ll come away with a few tips you’ve probably never heard before. More importantly, you’ll activate a new question in your brain that will spark your own personalized answers: How can I easily incorporate more movement into my day, every day?
First, let’s talk about why movement is so important.
“Sitting is the new smoking.”
You may have heard this phrase in recent years. It’s credited to Dr. James Levine, a Professor of Medicine who believes that people are sitting themselves to death.
It’s estimated that, in the US, we spend more than half of our waking hours sitting down, whether in front of the TV, driving, or sitting at a desk. Yet as humans, we were designed to move. Think about how our pre-modern ancestors were in motion practically all day every day. If they wanted food, they had to hunt, gather or do the work to grow it. If they wanted to get from A to B, they used their legs. Just about anything they needed done, they had to do with their bodies. No cars, no machines, and certainly no robots they could control with an app on their phone.
Of course there are many ways we live much better in modern times than they did. But lack of movement isn’t one of them.
From a traditional East Asian medicine perspective, all diseases ultimately share the same root: a blockage in the flow of energy
. You are made of energy, and the freeflow of this life source is your original, natural state. Too much time without movement cuts off this flow, creating stagnation in your systems.
Lack of movement also changes your body's metabolism — it slows down by a whopping 90% after just 30 minutes of sitting. The muscles in your lower body are turned off, and blood flow from your hips down reduces. The enzymes that move bad fat from your arteries to your muscles (where it can get burned off) also slow down. After two hours, your level of good cholesterol drops 20%.
Your lymphatic system is very important for detoxification of hormones and other cellular waste. But it depends on you; unlike your heart pumping blood even while you sleep, your lymph only circulates when you move.
So in a nutshell: sitting a lot = not good.
Exercise, on the other hand, is great for you
Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins that make you feel good. It also increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates new connections between brain cells — both of which enhance learning and memory.
When you exercise regularly, it becomes easier to deal with stress. That's because exercise increases levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood and feelings of well-being. Some studies have shown that regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medications in easing depression symptoms.
Aerobic exercise also triggers the production of new brain cells (known as neurogenesis) in regions involved in memory formation and learning — even in people who have suffered from strokes or Alzheimer's disease for many years. And when you combine aerobic exercise with resistance training (using weights), you get an added benefit: You strengthen your bones and muscles at the same time.
So if you work out a few times a week, that’s absolutely great! But there’s something else you should know:
Exercise doesn’t undo the damage from too much sitting
Professor Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center says: “The cure for too much sitting isn’t more exercise. Exercise is good, of course, but the average person could never do enough to counteract the effect of hours and hours of chair time.”
So here’s the mindset shift I invite you to try on: Think less in terms of exercise, and more in terms of creating a movement-rich life
When you adopt a movement-rich lifestyle, exercise becomes an optional extra. I’s just one way of being active that you can do if you want to, or if you have specific physical things you want to work on. Rather than limiting your movement to certain times or locations, movement-rich living opens you up to so much more healthy activity — and less sitting.
There are tons of ways to move more — walking or biking to work or school; playing sports; dancing around your house; taking care of your kids or grandkids; shoveling snow off your driveway; gardening; or doing yard work around your house.
But it goes beyond that: Setting the intention to live a movement-rich life sets you up for success for the rest of your life
. Your body will change. The demands of your life will change. If you’re dependent on specific workouts or proximity to a gym to keep you in good health, you will never develop a deep connection with your own body and mind to be able to take care of yourself at every stage of life.
Progress Not Perfection
Confession: I sit a lot. I’m sitting right now as I write this!
I use a standing desk for work, but I get tired often because of a health condition, so I sit when I need to. This isn’t an all-or-nothing game. Be kind to your body and kind to yourself. Change Your Energy
founder Ilchi Lee teaches that the energy of your mind, as well as your body, changes through the actions you take to overcome your limitations
. Start where you are, and develop a movement-rich life in a way that’s appropriate for your condition and your life.
Here are some of my favorite tips for incorporating more movement into your days:
1. Use less furniture
. Instead of a couch or a chair, sit on the floor. You’ll have a bit more work to do getting up and down, and you’ll also probably find yourself changing position more often.
2. Put fun movement props around your space
. Try a hanging bar, a ball to bounce on or different surfaces to balance on for a moment as you walk by.
3. Put often-used items up high or down low
. We always want things to be in easy reach, but what if you put your dishes in a low cabinet in the kitchen so you’d have to bend down to get them every time?
4. Do one-minute exercise
. Ilchi Lee developed this idea during a time when he had a super-busy schedule and no time to work out. Set a timer to remind you every hour to do one minute of moderate to vigorous activity: planks, push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, bear walking, jumping or running in place.
5. Make it a family thing
. Ask the kids to come up with their own ideas for how you can all get more movement together.
6. Make your sedentary habits a little less easy
. I like to unplug the TV when I’m not watching it. Having to plug it in again every time reminds me to ask myself if watching TV is really what I want to do right now. (Sometimes it is, but then I do one-minute exercise while I wait for it to boot up!)
Above all else, remember that when you plant a question in your mind, your brain will come up with answers. Ask yourself what kind of movement you need, and how to bring more of it into your life.
If you’d like a truly unique and powerful way to move more, try our premium course, SOLAR BODY Method
. It teaches you how to become what we call a “Solar Body,” a person who can manage the infinite energy source within them. Check it out here