Life requires movement.
What Is Movement?
Movement is defined as an act of changing physical location or position. For me as a physical therapist, the movement you do throughout the day must include full range of motion of the joints. Our standard American life tends toward spine flexion in the form of sitting in front of a computer, in a car, on a couch watching TV, and lifting, which is all flexion. It is not that sitting alone is a problem as much as chronic sitting means you are not moving your joints through their full range of motion.
A healthy joint is a flexible joint. When you stop moving joints, the tendency is for them to get stiff, soft tissue shortens, and you lose range of motion. Once the motion is lost, the strength of the muscle supporting that joint begins to weaken. It is a vicious cycle.
Healthy movements may include a full squat. A full squat from start to finish allows the hip, knees, and ankles to go through a near full range of motion. Performing a cobra maneuver on the ground can allow a near full extension of the ankles, knees, hip, spine, and wrists. A relaxing prayer stretch allows full unloaded shoulders, knees, ankles, and spine flexion. By adding in a few other motions like spinal rotation and wrist flexion, you have nearly covered all the joints in just a few moments. Performing some of these exercises regularly throughout the day, should you need to sit, is a great way to keep the joints healthy, lubricated, and flexible.
The Best Exercise
The best exercise is the one that you will do.
—Grant Glass, PT
I often get asked about what is the best exercise routine. It is confusing with all the exercise fads out there. There is CrossFit, Kaia FIT, P90X, Zumba, yoga, Insanity, kettlebell, and many more. The real answer is, as Grant Glass put it, the best exercise is the best exercise for you. My best exercise is different from yours. Anything that gets you moving regularly is what is best. The exercise needs to fit your body, your lifestyle, and your needs.
A good exercise will provide you with cardiovascular training, weight-bearing (to build and keep your bones strong), and resistance to build muscle strength. All of the above exercise fads do provide for most of those components. A simple exercise program will often improve disability, function, quality of life, decrease painful status, 1 improve antioxidant (antiaging) enzymes, 2 stimulate neuroplasticity (the ability to learn and adapt), 3 improve subjective well-being, 4 increase volume of white and gray matter in the brain, 5 and increase stress resistance, 3 just to name a few of the positive effects.
Some good basic foundational strengthening exercises (See appendix 7 for photos of below exercises in Soar Into Health.)
What happens when you can’t move because of pain or flexibility problems? Seek help from a movement specialist. I am biased here, but a good physical therapist is one of the best resources. I recommend finding one who has not only PT after his or her name, but other letters like “Cert MDT” or “OCS,” since it means they care about continued learning to provide the best care for their patients.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove stagnancy and immobility.
Replace with an exercise routine that fits your lifestyle, personality and goals. Simple movement to maintain joint integrity. A daily regimen is best.
Restore joint health, a sense of well-being and overall health.
Eat well. Move well. Sleep well. Soar on.
More details on movement in Soar Into Health.
1. Lawford BJ, Walters J, Ferrar K. Does walking improve disability status, function, or quality of life in adults with chronic low back pain? A systematic review. Clin Rehabil. 2015.
2. Monteiro-Junior RS, Cevada T, Oliveira BR, et al. We need to move more: Neurobiological hypotheses of physical exercise as a treatment for parkinson's disease. Med Hypotheses. 2015.
3. Greenwood BN, Fleshner M. Exercise, stress resistance, and central serotonergic systems. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2011;39(3):140-149.
4. Wicker P, Frick B. The relationship between intensity and duration of physical activity and subjective well-being. Eur J Public Health. 2015.
5. Arnardottir NY, Koster A, Domelen DR, et al. Association of change in brain structure to objectively measured physical activity and sedentary behavior in older adults: Age, gene/environment susceptibility-reykjavik study. Behav Brain Res. 2015;296:118-124.
Photo Credit: Colin Nicolai
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
Where physical therapy, nutrition and lifestyle meet, because how you live your life determines whether or not you soar. Inspiring action with information so you can reduce pain, optimize healing and improve function naturally during recovery from injury, surgery or painful condition. This is a website for the open-minded; obstinate need not apply.