This past winter I had a goal. I had agreed to go on a Caribbean cruise with a group of friends in March, and part of the cruise package was an “Extreme Zip Line Adventure” in St. Maarten. As I read about the adventure package, I noticed there was a weight limit of 215 pounds per person. It was January, and I had just recently ‘enjoyed’ my love of holiday foods. My weight at the time was 225… but I really wanted to zip line! So I set a goal: by March 15th, I would be 215, wouldn’t I? … wouldn’t I? … Bueller?
My first thought was reduction of food—well, at least the treats and sweet goodies—and back to more of the greens and colorful stuff. That wasn’t so hard since I already liked fresh vegetables, fruits, and natural foods. My second thought was the gym, but I’d realized that after 25 years of working out I was really bored with the same routines. So I spoke to my friend Jay (who was also going on the cruise) and he reminded of something I could do more often, and that the results would be quick, satisfying, and affect all areas of my life—including my eating, emotions, and well-being. Along with conscious eating, he had used this philosophy to lose over 20 pounds in 6 months so something must be working. His advice? Just move.
Just move more often. Of course! Now why didn’t I think of that? Simple, but not easy—not when we have our unconscious patterns of behavior. But the only way to break bad habits is to break them, so I decided it was time for change. Zip line or bust!
I started doing some research. According to the most recent research by the World Health Organization, inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide as it has been found to contribute to serious health conditions including coronary disease, diabetes, and obesity. There’s even a clinical diagnosis named sitting disease.
So how do we counteract the sitting epidemic? Just move.
Dr. Michelle Segar, author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, focuses on the idea that everything counts—taking into account activities such taking the stairs instead of the elevator, weeding the garden, dancing, even walking to the water cooler. And, like so many of our other habits, the more aware you are of it the better. New habits become new patterns, and eventually become your natural way of living.
The more you move, the easier it will be to keep moving.
Research also tells us that physical movement and exercise influence the brain activity, including directly affecting the hippocampus—the area of the brain responsible for memory. All electrical functions of the nervous system, including brain activity, are highly sensitive to body movement. In addition, our emotions are highly influenced by glandular activity, which is directly affected by body movement and oxygen intake. Feeling down? Stuck in rut? Thoughts swirling around in your head? Just move.
The more you move, the better you feel.
This concept of ‘just moving’ is nothing new, but it’s gaining momentum as more people are looking for alternatives to mundane workout routines at the gym. How about a refreshing outdoor walk or a bike ride around the lake or the neighborhood? That’s pretty simple, but you’ve got to leave the house to do it. I remember reading back in 2008 about moving naturally as one of Dan Buettner’s findings to the secret for longevity in his book Blue Zones. Buettner’s research has been used to show how centurions—those who live to be over 100 years old—have habituated common rituals, patterns, and lifestyle choices that appear to contribute to their longevity.
- Find your motivation. Do you like music? Then get an iPod or music player—a perfect compliment to a walk, run, or other form of exercise.
- Move with a friend. You don’t need to do this alone—go for a walk with your spouse, friend, or a family member. Plus, some of the best conversations happen when we’re moving.
- Begin where you are. Just by being aware of your choices, you can start to move a little more each day. Big changes always happen one step at at time (literally)
- Notice where you can just move more naturally this week
- Take note of how you are feeling after a few days. Is the movement affecting your body? Emotions? Memory? Make a note in your journal.
- Ask friends and family how they are using movement more often in their day. What tips do they have?
So starting in January, I started to move again. Within the first week I was taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the store instead of driving, taking evening walks through the infamous downtown Minneapolis Skyway (remember, it was winter!) and not sitting down for long periods of time. I got back on the treadmill at the gym with my favorite music in my ears, and by talking with friends, added some new and more natural exercises to my workout routine. During the day, I was movin’ and shakin’… and by March, I was zip lining. Yep. 213 pounds by March 15th. I wasn’t going to miss out on that adventure!
And now that you’re done reading this blog, get up (if you’re sitting down) and just move! It can make a world of difference.
To Our Better Balance!
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is a professional speaker, best-selling author, and life transition coach. His passion is to help people reclaim their power of choice and find better balance in their lives, especially during life transitions. You can follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter, or find out more at michaelsunnarborg.com
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Image courtesy of my Nikon, Cabrillo National Monument: San Diego, with Tom & Yvonne