In The News

How to Hack Your Habits – Get Moving!

Regular physical activity makes us healthier and happier

We all know we need to move more to maintain physical fitness, but did you know that regular physical activity is the single most important thing you can do for your health?[1]

Of course, exercise is an important contributor to weight loss.[2],[3] But it turns out that physical activity has many more health benefits as well. For example, it reduces fatigue and anxiety,[4],[5] boosts mood,[6] and helps us get a good night’s sleep.[7],[8],[9] And as if that weren’t enough, regular physical activity also lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, depression, and many types of cancers, according to numerous studies.[10],[11],[12],[13]

Clearly, we need to reconnect with physical activity, not as something that is used solely to lose weight, but as an integral and enjoyable part of everyday living.

There is even evidence that physical activity keeps us younger at the cellular level,[14] and that it counteracts the effects of stress on cellular aging.[15] “Developing ways to limit sedentary time and increase activity at any level could considerably improve health and reduce mortality,” say the authors of a 2019 study.[11]

Clearly, we need to reconnect with physical activity, not as something that is used solely to lose weight, but as an integral and enjoyable part of everyday living.

Is strenuous exercise necessary for good health?

Studies suggest that 80% of us do not move enough to sustain good health.[16] But is it really necessary to hit the gym or exercise classes with titles like “Boot Camp” or “Battle Ropes”?

To answer this question, an international team of scientists analyzed data collected from more than 36,000 adults, aged 40 and up.[11] The subjects wore physical activity monitors, which recorded all of the participants’ movements. The results clearly showed that any amount of physical activity – including light activity – helped lower the risk of early death, and that the reduction in mortality followed a dose-response curve: greater activity was associated with a lower risk. (For light activity, the benefits maxed out at around six hours per day.)

The important thing is to find the exercise “sweet spot” that supports your own energy and fits your schedule, and is an intensity that you can comfortably carry out without pain or excessive fatigue.

So, while heart-pounding exercise can be motivating and enjoyable for some individuals, it’s not essential for good health. The National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization, for example, suggest that adults of all ages aim for 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity throughout the week.[17],[18] To maintain muscle strength, they also recommend resistance training two or more days a week. The important thing is to find the exercise “sweet spot” that supports your own energy and fits your schedule, and is an intensity that you can comfortably carry out without pain or excessive fatigue.[10]

How to make it a habit?

Scientists who have studied the process of habit-formation have found that it follows a simple set of rules: choose a behavior, and repeat the behavior on a regular basis, in the same context, until it becomes automatic.

If being active is the single most important thing we can do for our health, how do we make it a habit, rather than a chore?

Luckily, scientists who have studied the process of habit-formation have found that it follows a simple set of rules: choose a behavior, and repeat the behavior on a regular basis, in the same context, until it becomes automatic. For example, participants in one study were asked to repeat a self-chosen health-promoting behavior (like going for a walk) in response to a single, once-daily cue in their own environment (such as, before breakfast).[19] With time, the behavior gradually became easier to maintain. On average, it seems to take about 10 weeks of daily practice to form a stable habit.[19],[20]

Consider one or more of the health-promoting activities from the list below, and start taking steps to make exercise a habit:

  1. Go for a morning walk. A morning walk gets your blood moving and is energizing for the day ahead. By doing something first thing in the morning, you are less likely to procrastinate and more likely to keep up your new habit. Make it easy to go walking by setting out everything you need – clothes, shoes, phone, and keys – and planning your route the night before.
  2. Get moving. Studies have shown that prolonged periods of sitting are far more damaging to health than was previously thought.[11],[21] Set an alarm to make sure you move away from your desk or sitting position and stretch or walk around the room every 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. Walk more. Try to aim for at least 10,000 steps a day using an app or wrist monitor to keep track of your daily step count. It’s not as many as you may think – 1,000 steps equals about 15 minutes of time on your feet.[22] You can increase your steps by parking as far away from a store as possible, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or walking around the block when you need a break from the computer.
  4. Schedule your workouts/exercise. One of the easiest ways to make sure you stay on track is to sit down on Sunday night and mark the days and times you’re going to exercise that week. By writing them down, you take out the “maybe” factor and make them a definite.
  5. Enlist the support of others. If you walk or exercise with friends, family, or colleagues, you’re more likely to stay motivated. Find a group of like-minded neighbors and schedule a time to walk every Sunday morning, or enlist work colleagues who would like to get in shape by walking at lunchtime. You’ll be amazed at how the time will fly.

Whenever or whatever activity you plan, schedule it in your calendar as a non-negotiable time when you will take care of yourself through movement.

Support physical activity with targeted nutrition

A balanced diet with adequate nutrition (such as the Mediterranean diet) helps support muscles and joints, making exercise and movement more enjoyable. Research also confirms that targeted nutraceuticals can facilitate exercise performance. For example:

  • Amino acids for muscle support: High-quality (“complete”) protein foods are essential for optimal muscle protein synthesis. If it’s not possible to obtain complete protein at every meal, amino acid supplementation may help.
  • Antioxidants for energy: Although CoQ10 is made within the body, it declines with age and its levels are often not sufficient to support the body’s needs. Antioxidants such as CoQ10 and astaxanthin can help support exercise performance.
  • Nutrients for healthy joints: Hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronic acid are often used to keep joints moving smoothly and to reduce or prevent joint pain. Curcuminoids, the active compounds found in turmeric, decrease inflammation, which can help reduce pain and improve exercise recovery.

Summary

Living well involves forming healthy habits in all areas: eating healthy, getting regular physical activity, reducing stress, and giving the body time to recover by making time for adequate sleep. Even light to moderate exercise improves health in numerous ways, which is why researchers offer this simple advice: “Sit less—move more and more often.”[11] So pick a healthy habit from our list of suggestions, and start practicing it today!

Click here to see References

 

, , , , ,
You Are What You Eat
Intermittent Fasting, Part 1 of 2

Related Posts

Menu
Pin
Share
Tweet
Share
More