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Movement is Medicine

by Anna DiMarco, Senior Physiotherapist

Movement is Medicine

Or can we at the very least appreciate it as one of the most powerful multivitamins available to mankind?

There are so many health benefits to movement including but not limited to the prevention and treatment of illness and injuries, improvement in quality of life and psychological/emotional wellbeing as well as improved cognitive/brain function.

Exercise is one of the very rare interventions that is good for mind, body and soul! Just two weeks of regular exercise can result in tangible benefits in all three areas of wellbeing and some benefits may occur even sooner.

What type of exercise is best?

While there may be some forms of exercise that may prove to be more beneficial than others, the simple reality is that whatever type of exercise/movement we are willing to commit to because it is easy to access, enjoyable for us and not causing us physical harm is ultimately going to prove to be the most valuable exercise for us.

What to include in your routine for maximum impact?

Having said that the fun and most accessible choice is the best choice, it is wise to ensure our movement repertoire, including our activities of daily living and our recreational hobbies, include a mix of:

1. strength training (lift heavy things, push/pull doors and heavy shopping carts)

2. balance work (stand on one leg while brushing teeth, progress to eyes closed)

3. and cardiovascular engagement (dance, walk, swim, hike, bike, run, do the stairs)

4. Mobility work (maintaining range of motion and adequate motor control (flexibility of our muscles and range of motion training for our joints…yoga, Pilates, tai chi, qigong, bending, reaching, squatting, lifting….things that make you move your body more fully) to obtain maximal health benefits.

What’s the “dosage” required?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions. And it is a valid one. If we are going to consider that movement is medicine, then we might want to evaluate how much is required for best impact.

This is an area that has been closely researched over the last several decades and the current guidelines recommend that all adults engage in:

* 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. This can be done in sessions that are broken up into a minimum of ten minutes each. It is best to aim for 4-5 sessions of cardiovascular activity per week.

* Strength training should be carried out 2-4x per week. Sessions should involve upper body and lower body work and combined functional exercises such as squats, lunges, pushing, pulling, reaching exercises.

* Mobility training should be performed 2-3x per week and can be incorporated as a warm up to either strength training or cardiovascular training. It does not have to be complicated or a full session of yoga or tai chi for example.

* Balance Work should be incorporated into our routines on a daily basis for best impact. It is not necessary to spend a large amount of time on this but 5-10 minutes daily will build a good reservoir of balance and help prevent the risk of falling.

How intense is “moderate to vigorous”?

How do I know if I am working hard enough to gain benefit from my cardiovascular activity?

The simplest way to know that you are working hard enough is to pay attention to how you are feeling. If you notice that you are a little breathless and can not carry on a full conversation with ease, then you are probably exercising in the moderately difficult range. This method is known as “the talk test”. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the talk test with these parameters:

Moderate Intensity: You can talk during the activity but not sing. Examples may include walking briskly at 3mph, water aerobics, bicycling slower than 10mph on Winnipeg style terrain, Tennis (doubles), general gardening and ballroom dancing.

Vigorous Intensity: In general, one would not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. For example, race walking faster than 3mph, jogging, running, swimming laps, Tennis (singles), bicycling faster than 10mph or doing hills, jumping rope, heavy gardening (hoeing, digging), hiking up hills or with a heavy back pack.

Staying Motivated with an Exercise Routine

We may not always feel like moving, but there are some easy little tricks to help keep us disciplined with our commitment to our movement practices:

👯‍♀️ exercise with a friend…increased commitment and enjoyment

🗓 put it into our agenda at a time that works for our current lifestyle

⏰ commit to a shorter session of movement when we are really struggling

🍿 choose “movement snacks” broken up into 5 minute sessions through our day

💜 try different activities and choose the one that brings us the most joy as our primary source of movement.

💐 mix it up….move in as many ways we can to ensure increased benefit, lack of boredom and prevent overuse!

🎯 most importantly, be kind to ourselves when building new habits. When we “fall off the wagon”, we don’t beat ourselves up….we simply hop back on as soon as possible.

Remember, all movement is good for us and the more we can create exercise habits that are fun and easy to sustain, the more likely we are to remain committed to our movement plans!

Keep moving and Stay strong

Stay mobile and Stay well!


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