Movement as Medicine

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Keeping movement in your everyday life and why it matters

How often over the past few years have you seen or heard the phrase “Movement as medicine?” Does it resonate with you? In today’s world, as we navigate our lives amidst COVID-19 you might be concerned that you haven’t been getting enough movement OR maybe it gave you time to overindulge in an exercise routine that your body hasn’t experienced in several years, causing new pains or limitations. At wellstead health, “movement as medicine” is a concept beyond exercise, that is integral to a functional medicine approach and how simple and regular movement helps our bodies heal and thrive at a cellular level.

How Movement Contributes to Long-Term Health Benefits

There have been numerous studies that show correlations between individuals with regular healthy movement practices and improvement in certain disease contributors. Many we’ve heard before and seem like common sense. Below are examples of how a regular physical activity regimen contributes to long-term health benefits.

- Delayed Onset of Dementia: One study found a strong correlation between the delayed onset of dementia and middle-aged women who regularly exercised. Women at a high level of fitness had a much lower risk of dementia than women at a medium level of fitness, the same study found.

- Reducing Risk of Chronic Diseases: Research has also shown that people with autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, like lupus, can greatly improve their conditions with regular exercise and stress reduction techniques. Patients have found that, through consistent exercise, they can moderate their inflammation and decrease some of their symptoms.

- Improving Your Mental Health: Most people know exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy! In fact, regular aerobic exercise can also play a big role in reducing anxiety and stabilizing your mood, studies have found, by making your brain’s “fight or flight” system much less reactive. Exercise also can help to reduce symptoms of depression.

- Extending Your Life: Most American adults will spend six to eight hours sitting or laying around - and less than 30 minutes per day doing moderate or vigorous physical activity. Spending too much time sitting down is a common predictor of early death. On the contrary, regular movement can lead to a longer life.

- Better Bone Health: Exercise is an important element to support bone health. Even light weight training will increase bone density and help prevent osteoporosis. In addition, exercise and movement paired with a healthy diet can promote weight loss, which means much less weight for your bones and joints to carry.

How Movement Impacts You at a Cellular Level

At wellstead health, we look at movement and its benefits or risks to your health at a deeper level because we want to help you understand the “why” - and what will hopefully support your motivation for regular movement.

A Study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) shows that post-menopausal women with limited physical activity, combined with sitting for long periods of time, showed cells that are biologically older than their more physically active counterparts by at least 8 years. Select lifestyle factors such as limited physical activity, smoking, and obesity may accelerate the shortening of these cells (known as telomeres) -- the tiny caps found on the ends of DNA strands that protect chromosomes from deterioration. Shortened telomeres are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers.

On the subject of telomeres, a UCLA study shows that chronic stress also adversely affects the health of our cells. Stress increases the secretion of cortisol which suppresses the activation of a key enzyme in immune system cells that protects telomeres during cell division, thus contributing to early cell aging.

So let’s get moving!

Considering everything outlined above, how do you think about movement in your life? It’s important to remember that beneficial movement, or movement that contributes to a healthy lifestyle, does not need to be a highly rigorous exercise program. Some individuals work in jobs that require regular physical movement, which in turn contributes beneficially to cardiovascular and musculo-skeletal health. Others may have a regular routine that includes walking, gardening or other daily life movement which is also beneficial. But what if you work in a sedentary job and sit for most of the day, or you have physical limitations that prevent you from regular movement or exercise? You may need to consider other ways to incorporate movement into your life.

If you’re an elite athlete or an exercise “overindulger,” you’re not off the hook either! Remember: stress highly impacts our cells. Too much exercise, over-training or forcing our bodies into exercise routines that stress the body can be equally as damaging to our cells and may have detrimental effects to your muskulo-skeletal health in the form of overuse injuries.

No matter what your physical level, applying exercise science and physiology with functional medicine can help you reduce contributors to aging and achieve maximal performance from your body.

At wellstead health, it’s our job to look at you and your symptoms as a whole. With our unique approach to cellular function and health, we’re able to uncover the root cause of any experiences, instead of just addressing the symptoms. Then, we can work on identifying a movement- and nutrition-based solution. Functional medicine is the future of health care. It synthesizes all of the complexities of what it means to be human. Functional medicine is proactive and sustainable, with results that can lead to a significant increase in athletic performance, improvements in mood and a boost in energy.

If you are experiencing pain, limited mobility, or declining performance, and want to better understand how to conquer these setbacks, we can help. Through active listening and tireless investigation we will help you to break through health barriers and redefine what’s possible.

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