The increasingly sedentary lifestyle is contributing to the decline of health in the United States. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, physical activity was essential for survival - to provide for our families - and walking was the primary means of transportation.
In modern society, stress is inevitable and physical activity is lower than ever. Remaining physically active is one way to combat the effects of stress hormones that alter immune function and blood sugar control. Chronic stress depletes the body of vital nutrients and energy due to high levels of cortisol and epinephrine that utilize vitamin C, A, E and selenium. In a failed attempt to cope, many people turn to caffeine, nicotine, medication and alcohol.
However, exercise has been found to be equally as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy, medication and light therapy in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Walking during a lunch break can have a significant impact on mental and emotional stress by stimulating the release of endorphins. Endorphins have the ability to increase a sense of well-being and ease pain by binding to the opiate receptors in the brain. Flexibility exercises such as stretching, yoga and pilates improve circulation and increase blood flow to your muscles thereby reducing muscle soreness.
These exercises also increase joint range of motion and prevent restrictive movement and pain. Restricted movements decrease mobility as we age and the muscle imbalance can lead to poor posture with a greater risk for injury. Environmental toxins can affect the body’s regulatory self-healing mechanism. Regular exercise of at least 45 minutes, four times weekly, helps the body to excrete toxins more rapidly. The digestive system works better to clear toxic waste, our skin is cleansed as we perspire and toxins are liberated in the fat tissue we burn through aerobic exercise.
If you are overcommitted and unable to take an hour a day for exercise, then start with 15 minutes daily. Take the opportunity to increase your movement by climbing stairs instead of riding an escalator, parking at the end of the parking lot and carrying a basket rather than pushing a shopping cart. Be creative and just get moving!