Changing Health Behaviors—A Little Movement Goes a Long Way

We all struggle to adopt the science-based recommendations that optimize health for movement, feeding and a host of other health-related behaviors associated with disease prevention and improved quality of life. The greatest improvements in overall health come when a sedentary person adds 30 minutes of physical activity to most if not all days of the week; the risks for many hypokinetic diseases drop precipitously with this change.

If this seems like a daunting task, most likely it does because it is—but it doesn’t have to be. You can begin to change your movement patterns by adding ten minutes of moderate movement once or twice per day, with the expectation that you will feel your way through it. The narrative before beginning is “this is only ten minutes then I can stop” and in fact, that is the case. At the ten-minute mark you can feel pleased with your efforts, notice that you set your mind to it and accomplished it, and check in to see if you have another few minutes left in you; either way, you win. You can further set yourself up for success by performing these ten minutes of movement in a pleasant environment, if that means your living room with your favorite music playing and not another soul about—just perfect. If there is a block you can walk around, or a street you walk halfway down and turn around at minute five—also perfect.  

Having completed what you set out to do, take a minute to notice that this feels good, while also noticing that your body followed right along with your mind and appreciated this “whole team” effort. At this point, you can be finished for the day, or you can plan another ten-minute bout (or two) later that day when you have a chance to enjoy another victory. The options and beauty of this whole-person approach is you assess how you feel and either call the bout of activity as complete or add minutes depending on where you find yourself in that decision moment. Let the body and the mind build towards the thirty-minute goal when that becomes available to you, could take weeks or even months—the movement in the moment is the priority.

Feeling your way essentially means that you are present with your body as it moves, appreciating your ability to perform the movement and noticing that your mind and your body can come together to your benefit—take it a step further—recognize that you are worth the effort. Science tells us that feel-good hormones are released when we move, stress is reduced, and it creates a sense of being refreshed. Countless research studies present reductions in anxiety and even depression with movement as the treatment. Let your mind lead your body, accepting it is a cooperative effort between the two. As you go along, there may be times when your body can return the favor. If you feel a little blue, remind yourself that the bouts of movement do improve your mood, then go ahead, and let your body carry you down the street—your mind will soon thank you that it did.