Moving is what our bodies are designed to do.

For lasting health, we need as much movement as possible. An active life prevents disease, mitigates the effects of aging, and generally makes us happier. But how much movement is enough?

While the CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week, this doesn’t tell the whole story. Exercising for 30 minutes a day is a worthwhile goal, but to experience the benefits of a movement-rich life, how you move the rest of the day is what matters.

Moving Beyond Exercise

Estimates put the amount of time most adults in the US spend sitting at around 6-8 hours each day. (1) For many of us, that’s at least half of our time. All of that sitting has many negative health consequences on the heart, vascular system, brain, and metabolism. (2)

We need to get our bodies up and moving. However, that doesn’t mean just going to the gym or exercising more. Exercise is great; it really is. But it also is not enough.

The reality is, exercise does not cancel out all of the other hours spent sitting. Studies increasingly show that a daily bout of exercise is insufficient to counter a sedentary lifestyle’s damaging health effects. (2) If you exercise for 45 minutes each day but then sit for 8 hours or more, the risk to your health remains.

In addition to focused exercise, your body requires a better balance between time spent sitting and time moving.

What Our Bodies Actually Need

The key to physical health isn’t just a daily exercise session, though exercise is essential to maintain muscle mass, brain health, and cardiovascular endurance. In addition to focused exercise, your body requires a better balance between time spent sitting and time moving.

Imagine an activity level scale from zero to ten. If we call sitting a zero on the scale and high intensity exercise a 10, then what you need is more time spent between 1-5, scattered throughout the day. Spending a lot of time at zero with just one burst of a ten does not add up to optimal health.

This is good news because instead of adding more exercise time to our day, we instead need to include movement in the things we are already doing. Sprinkling movement throughout the day isn’t a poor substitute for the hour of exercise we wish we had time for. It is what your body truly needs for good health.

Exercise: A walk around the block

How to Get Moving

The first step to moving more is shifting your perspective and lowering the bar for what counts. Movement is anything that is not sitting or still, period.

At work, this could look like:

  • A walk around the block.
  • An extra loop at work when you get up to get coffee or use the restroom.
  • Going up and down a few flights of stairs either on the way to a meeting or just to move.
  • Parking farther away from the entrance.
  • Standing up to stretch regularly.
  • Choosing to stand instead of sit in crowded meetings
  • Wear a pedometer if watching the steps add up motivates you.

At home:

  • Get up more often to putter and tidy.
  • When watching tv, alternate sitting on the couch with sitting on the floor. This will naturally result in more movement as you shift to various positions.
  • Think of household tasks not as “chores” but as “movement.” Intersperse them throughout the day to break up sedentary time.
  • Instead of trying to find time for a long walk, take shorts jaunts around the block multiple times.
  • Get down and up from the floor a few times as a movement break.

The opportunities are endless when you shift the focus from more exercise to simply moving more often. Anything that can fit in your work structure and home life will count.

An extra loop at work when you get up to get coffee or use the restroom

Build a Habit of Movement

A movement-rich life is all about creating the habit of moving more. The goal is for movement to become something you do all day long, with intention and creativity.

Our culture does not make this easy. Everywhere you go, things are set up for convenience and ease so that minimal effort and movement are required. It is counter-cultural to be a mover in a sedentary world.

The best advice is to keep it simple. Choose ways to move that make sense in your day and let the habit build over time. The more you move, the easier it will become, and a life rich with movement will reward you with better health and wellness.