Why Movement Trumps Exercise

There's a reason I called this month's challenge Move More in March rather than Exercise More in March. When someone talks about moving more or being more active, it's natural in our culture to just immediately leap to planning workouts and making time for the gym. But during the last few months I've been thinking more along the lines of lifestyle movement. Up until recently, it's a concept I felt was overplayed and underwhelming in terms of results. But lately I've realized that the idea of making movement part of your lifestyle may in fact be one of the more important keys to true health.

Movement (Not Exercise) May Determine Your Health and Longevity

There's been some decent research that indicates that time spent sitting down (such as at the computer or in the car) directly correlates with longevity, insulin sensitivity, heart health and more. Those who spend more time sitting down versus being up and about are more likely to experience health problems and possibly an earlier death. This is independent of exercise habits. Those who sit the most have the most health issues, even if they exercise regularly. Read more about these studies here.

Redefining Sedentary

This brings me to my next point: how we define being sedentary versus being active. Most people focus on how much and how often you exercise (i.e. go for a run, go to the gym, pop in a workout DVD, etc.). If you work out for 30-60 minutes, 3-5 times per week, most health professionals would consider you an active person--even if all you do the rest of the time is sit in the car, at the computer, or in front of the television.

And the person who never does any formal exercise, but walks to work, gardens regularly and plays dodge ball with the kids outside every evening, may not be considered active at all because they don't log the hours at the gym or on a treadmill.  

So it really comes down to common sense when defining whether you're active or sedentary. It also requires some self-awareness, because you have to honest about the amount of activity you really do in a day. I'd thought I was moderately active in my everyday life, but upon closer examination I realized I'd started to become far more of a couch potato than I'd been willing to admit. Hey, sometimes the truth hurts.

Movement and Exercise in Perspective

Don't get me wrong: I'm not bashing exercise. If you like to do weight training, yoga or even Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred workouts, there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I've exercised regularly for years (doing everything from elliptical workouts to yoga to high intensity interval training). I think it's a great way to target your particular fitness goals and shake things up a bit. (The only thing I don't recommend is a boatload of steady state cardio, but that's a topic for another post.)

Also, I realize that some people are in a situation that makes lifestyle activity difficult to include in their everyday life. Sometimes that's just the way it is. In those cases, formal exercise is way better than nothing. We all have to do what we can with what's available to us at the time.

Omron HJ-112 Digital Pocket PedometerTo be honest, when it comes to a long term perspective, my lifestyle activity has had the most substantial impact on my health and even my waistline--far more than traditional exercise. That's why I picked up a brand new pedometer at the beginning of this month: I want to see if I can be more active in my daily life (yeah, parking far away from the store, taking the stairs and all that). So far, this little gadget has been an enormous wake up call for me. I realize that I'm not in the habit of moving much in my daily life. And that's something I want to change. 

How about you? Do you feel like you get enough activity into your daily life, or do you find yourself sitting down too much?

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday.

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