The Importance of Movement & Exercise For Optimal Health

Embrace the importance of movement and exercise for your overall health. Explore how physical activity contributes to well-being and vitality to you daily life.

The Importance of Movement & Exercise For Optimal Health
Next Health Staff
December 6, 2023

Today, the average person spends more than half their day sitting and the typical office worker spends 15 hours a day sitting.

As our society has developed with technological advancements, we have evolved away from our hunter and gatherer cultures where people would spend hours a day in motion.

Our bodies are not designed to be stagnant. For the majority of human existence, we worked most of our waking hours to obtain resources whether that be food, water, wood, clothing, or other survival necessities. Because we now have easy access to all these resources and more, movement is not naturally incorporated into our daily lives.

However, a lack of movement has proven negative impacts on our mental and physical health. A lack of physical activity has been linked to:

  • Increased rates of depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia and poor quality of sleep
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Poor detoxification pathways
  • Poor metabolic health
  • Hormone dysfunction
  • Accelerated aging

In short, a lack of movement on a regular basis affects our biology on a cellular level. Just as movement can negatively impact virtually all aspects of our health, it can also positively influence our health when practiced consistently.

Below are the key benefits of regular movement and exercise:

Boost Brain Function & Mental Health

Exercise is often referred to as an “antidepressant” because of its powerful mood benefits. We are all familiar with the post-workout high from endorphins but the mental health effects of (regular) exercise can be long-lasting. A study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%.

Studies show that exercise may also help the brain cope with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who participated in frequent exercise were 25% less likely to develop stress-related depression or anxiety over the course of five years.

In regards to cognitive function, research shows that exercise can boost memory and brain health indirectly through improved mood and sleep while reducing the above-mentioned stress and anxiety.

As far as what exercises are best for supporting brain health, the answer is still unclear. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that tai chi showed the potential to enhance cognitive function in older adults, especially in regards to planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, and verbal reasoning.

Many of us only associate exercise with physical benefits. We look at it as a vehicle to obtain our desired body. However, exercise is so much more than that. In re-thinking your relationship to exercise and movement, consider the ways in which it promotes your mental health and overall sense of well-being.

Combat Signs of Aging

Research shows that just 150 minutes (or more) weekly can increase life expectancy by seven years when compared to those who don’t practice regular, moderate exercise.

Because exercise can benefit all bodily systems, there are a multitude of reasons this may be the case. Two of the more significant factors may be hormonal health and NAD+ levels.

Hormone dysfunction is one of the main contributors to signs of aging. This is because hormones are chemical messengers that are responsible for relaying critical information all throughout the body. When cellular messaging is compromised, body functions are not carried out optimally, leading to symptoms such as decreased energy, joint pain, weight gain, hair loss, low libido, and more.

Exercise is excellent for endocrine health as it can help balance essential hormones such as cortisol, thyroid hormones, sex hormones, and more. Exercise has shown to be particularly beneficial in reducing insulin levels and increasing insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone that allows cells to take up sugar from your bloodstream to use for energy. If your cells become resistant to insulin (a condition called insulin resistance), your cells may not effectively react to insulin. This condition increases your risk for diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

In addition to avoiding such conditions, exercise can help combat age-related hormonal decline. Although there are advanced treatments such as Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy that can boost your hormonal health, exercise is an important component in taking a holistic approach to supporting your endocrine system.

For men looking for ways to boost hormone health

For women looking for ways to boost hormone health

As mentioned above, NAD+ levels are another critical factor to consider in the aging process.

NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide and this molecule reacts with oxygen in every cell of the body, specifically in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are responsible for the production of ATP (energy) but unfortunately, the health of our mitochondria decreases with age due to a variety of factors. Improving your body’s supply of NAD+ helps enhance mitochondrial health and subsequently overall wellness.

As we age, starting around the age of 30, our NAD+ levels decline due to a variety of factors (stress, diet, environmental toxins, and more). Exercise is one way to naturally increase your levels of NAD+. This is because regular exercise requires more NAD+ for energy and your body responds by producing it. As a result, a lack of movement can accelerate the aging process as your body does not “require” more NAD+, allowing levels to continue to decline.

Learn more ways to boost NAD+ levels here

For those looking for an added boost, Next Health offers advanced services such as NAD+ IV Therapy to replenish your NAD+ levels, enhance your energy, and restore youthful vitality.

Book NAD+ IV appointment here

Aid In Detoxification

Sweating out toxins with a quick workout is a great way to support your detoxification processes.

We often forget that our skin is our largest detox pathway, which is why when we struggle with toxins or inflammatory foods, the problem usually shows up on our skin in the form of acne, redness, or a rash.

Although there is some debate regarding the extent of our skin’s role in detoxification, exercise has been shown to be beneficial in the process. A 2016 study in China indicated that the levels of most heavy metals were lower in those who exercised regularly compared to the control group.

Promote Sleep

Because many of us live sedentary lifestyles, we may struggle to get quality sleep simply because we are meant to be active beings.

One study found that regular exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took older adults to go to sleep and provided, on average, 41 minutes more sleep per night.  

Moreover, according to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 76-83% of respondents who engage in exercise (varying from light to vigorous) reported very good or fairly good sleep quality. For those who did not exercise, this figure dropped to 56%.

Improve Metabolic Health

Exercise is proven to support metabolic health and help decrease the risk of metabolic diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and more. This is because exercise can help boost communication between skeletal muscles and fat tissues, aiding in metabolic function.

In regards to the heart specifically, exercise can help improve this muscle’s ability to obtain oxygen out of the blood, reducing the need for the heart to pump more blood to the muscles. Additionally, exercise can decrease levels of stress hormones such as cortisol that put extra strain on the heart. Exercise is shown to act similarly to a beta blocker, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

Get Moving: How To Get Started

Although there is no exact amount of exercise that can elicit the benefits listed above, it is important to remember consistency is really the key. The amount of exercise and strenuous activity varies with age, but at a minimum, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In other words, getting up just 30 minutes earlier five days a week will empower you to incorporate movement into your daily routine, supporting a healthier, longer life.

Request a complimentary consult to speak to a Wellness Expert about how you can optimize your movement routine.

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