It’s easy to take our bodies for granted. Unless we experience an injury or illness, we breathe without thinking about it, move about with little effort, and generally function day-to-day without a lot of consequence. So what happens if we intentionally take advantage of this incredible machine and exercise? The benefits are rather interesting.
First, the Bad News: What Happens Without Movement
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) lays out the facts on inactivity, which we provide verbatim:
- As soon as one sits down, electrical activity shuts off in the leg muscles. Calorie burning is significantly reduced—potentially to as little as one calorie or less, depending on one’s height, weight, gender, etc….
- Lipase, an enzyme in the legs that assists with the breakdown of fat, dramatically and rapidly drops.
- After two hours of sitting, HDL (the so-called good cholesterol) levels drop by 20 percent. After 24 hours of sitting, insulin effectiveness drops 24 percent and the risk for diabetes rises.
Additionally, ACE states that “sitting increases the risk of death up to 40 percent.”
The body, which is naturally designed to be in motion, starts to break down with inactivity, too:
- Your joints stiffen
- Your muscles weaken and start to atrophy
- You lose bone density, which increases the risk of breaks
- Your heart and lung efficiency decreases
- Your cellular energy system degenerates
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that “about 1 in 2 adults don’t get enough aerobic exercise.” It also notes that the risk of chronic illnesses rises with inactivity.
Sedentary behavior impacts emotional and mental health as well. There are higher rates of anxiety, depression, and negative thought patterns, and decreased cognitive ability and impulse control. These factors may threaten your sobriety.
Now the Good News: 9 Benefits of Exercise
Now let’s flip the script: just 30 minutes of exercise approximately three days a week enhances your health in many ways.
- Improved mental functioning. You receive a boost of vital proteins and neurotransmitters such as brain derived neurotrophic factor, gamma-amino butyric acid, glutamate, endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. Optimal brain function helps you curb compulsive behavior and stick to your recovery goals, too.
- Daily activities are easier. Not only will you have more energy, but greater ability to do all the things you enjoy.
- You’ll sleep better. Proper sleep hygiene is easier to manage when you exercise regularly, which in turn positively supports other aspects of your life as well.
- You’ll strengthen your immune system. When you exercise, immune cells circulate throughout the body and stay active for a few hours afterward. This makes it easier for them to spot and eradicate bacteria, viruses, and other invaders.
- Mood disorder symptoms lessen. Mental Health America notes that “just one hour of exercise a week is related to lower levels of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders,” among numerous other benefits.
- Reduced stress. Consistent exercise decreases cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone.
- Better overall body performance. No decline here! Exercise increases circulation, strengthens bones, improves organ function, and eliminates toxins more readily.
- Raises metabolism. While exercise alone doesn’t help you lose weight, it creates a more consistent metabolism, which energizes you and may help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Helps you resist cravings. If you’re trying to minimize your reaction to food or substances, choose exercise as a reliable “urge surfing” method.
Keep in mind: you can’t outrun your fork. Support your movement routine with a whole-foods eating plan and proper hydration.
Understanding Functional Movement
Has exercise always been part of our culture? Not exactly. For example, when we look back on how our grandparents lived, memories probably don’t include them jogging five miles a day or lifting weights in the basement. However, they weren’t sitting around in front of a computer for hours either.
What they practiced daily is functional movement, which WebMD defines as “large groups of muscles working together across your body. These exercises often look similar to movements you’d make in your daily life.” Think squatting down to weed a garden, rolling and lifting tractor tires, carrying children in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other, walking up and down stairs, or even swinging a baseball bat. These and other forms of consistent movement enable better health.
Many fitness specialists and physical therapists design functional movement routines so individuals develop the ability to operate more effectively. So even if running, cycling, or pumping iron isn’t your thing, research different ways to incorporate functional movement in your life every day.
Discover Optimum Health at Great Oaks
At our accredited addiction recovery facility just outside of Houston, you’ll learn many ways to evolve into your best self. Our comprehensive wellness program meets you at the start and helps you advance many aspects of health not just for recovery, but for all areas of your life. If you or a loved one is ready to be free of substances, ask a member of our admissions team about Great Oaks’ whole-person treatment approach.