What is more natural than wanting to get out and get moving after the holidays? It is the new American tradition: overindulge over Christmas and New Years, then resolve to get in shape, starting in January! We have all been there... and a lot of us find ourselves there right now!
This week, we are wrapping up our series on the Paleo Lifestyle. Over the past year (with a big interruption!), we have been working our way through a special addition of Paleo Magazine called Go Paleo: The Step-By-Step Guide. We have explored how the Paleo approach to food, sleep, electronics, connecting with others, and exposure to the sun can impact our minds and bodies. You can review previous articles in this series at on my blog.
Today, we come to our last topic and, really, my favorite: Movement. I've had a lot of really great experiences because of movement and exercise over the years, like hiking in the foothills near my home as a kid, taking my own children to parks and forest preserves over the years, walking with Dr. Sue and trail running with my buddies.
When you think about it, life is book-ended by movement. As babies grow, we are mesmerized by their development in movement: their first time turning over, crawling, standing, walking, etc. When a loved one begins to wind down and close out of this life, we intuitively know that life is almost over by the decrease in movement, until they finally breath their last.
There is a whole lot of life between the covers of the book! Let's look at what movement can mean to the pages in between!
I will admit, I really like some of the home improvement shows that populate TV these days: Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, etc. I like to see the transformations of seemingly unlivable places into really beautiful homes. What's interesting is that they really like to use the word "space," as in "this is a really lovely space." Did you ever stop to think about that? Really, it is anything but a space! A house (office, car) is the absence of space; it is a confine! Houses, cars, and offices, by nature, limit our movement. According to Paleo Magazine, Americans spend over 90% of their time indoors.
Could the time we are spending inside (mostly inactive) be contributing to poor health?
I first came across the benefits of outdoor play (movement and exercise) while looking at research recommendations for kids with ADHD. There's an article published in the American Journal of Public Health that compares ADHD symptoms in kids when they've played indoors vs. outdoors. It concludes that activities in green outdoor settings reduces symptoms of ADHD significantly more than activities inside. I have always believed that the majority of the recommendations for kids suffering from ADHD can benefit just about all of us. Getting outside and playing is a good way to clear your mind, and to hit the reset button!
ANXIETY & DEPRESSION
You may not suffer from ADHD, but I'll bet, at times, you may struggle with anxiety and depression. An article in the American College of Sports Medicines Health Fit Journal had this to say about exercise and mental health:
"In summary, exercise appears to be an effective treatment for depression, improving depressive symptoms to a comparable extent as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Observational studies suggest that active people are less likely to be depressed, and interventional studies suggest that exercise is beneficial in reducing depression. It appears that even modest levels of exercise are associated with improvements in depression, and while most studies to date have focused on aerobic exercise, several studies also have found evidence that resistance training also may be effective. While the optimal “dose” of exercise is unknown, clearly any exercise is better than no exercise. Getting patients to initiate exercise ---and sustain it – is critical."
WHAT ELSE DO YOU HAVE?
Some other benefits associated with outdoor play (movement and exercise):
- Recovery from spinal surgery with less pain and stress
- Benefits acne, psoriasis, eczema and jaundice
- Reduces the need for pain medications in surgical patients
- Helps older adults sleep better, and experience less pain and decline in daily activities
- Reduces blood pressure
- Improves focus and creativity
In addition, there are studies that show the relationship between exercise and the prevention of cancer, as well as better outcomes with those who do have cancer.
YOUR LIFE IS A BOOK
They say our life is a book,and we started out this article with the statement that life is book-ended by movement.
Where do you find yourself?
The good news is, no matter what page you are on, if you are reading this today, the book is still open! You may have a lot of pressing issues in your life that you need to resolve before the book closes. I can guarantee that just about everyone of them can be made better by a little movement... and in some cases, a lot of movement! Getting up and moving outside can be the spark that helps you move mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Burn as bright as possible until the end!
I hope you've enjoyed this series on the Paleo Approach as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It has blessed me and made me a healthier person, I hope the same for you!
Yours in Health,