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The Fundamental Difference Between Movement and Exercise
If you participate in social media, you’ve no doubt seen a video or two of someone advocating for the importance of exercise and sharing their own personal regimens designed to help you achieve this or that specific fitness goal.
And you’ve probably also seen a growing number of videos from other individuals focused on highlighting their creative and fun tips, tricks, and hacks to help you pack more movement into your day.
You’ve basically seen first-hand how the movement vs exercise discussion is growing.
Exercise describes a structured activity where the focus is on losing weight, burning calories, or building muscle. Movement, on the other hand, does not require a structured regime and the primary focus is that the activity feels enjoyable.
So, why does it seem like the majority of us focus on exercise and overlook movement?
And, why, historically, does it seem like so little has been mentioned about the importance of movement in our daily lives until recently?
The answer to this basic movement vs exercise question is both fascinating and eye opening.
Why Most People Prioritize Exercise Over Movement
The field of exercise science was born to answer the harmful effects of contemporary life on the body.
Advancements in technology continue to make our lives more simple.
Still, the impacts of these conveniences can have detrimental effects on our physical bodies – leading to a rising incidence of chronic diseases.
Exercise, as a result, has become a large area of focus to improve these harmful effects.
When it comes to movement vs exercise, many of us avoid a number of exercises because they feel difficult and uncomfortable, and the motivations behind their completion can be rooted in feelings of guilt and shame.
The seemingly results-driven exercise industry makes it difficult for individuals to find an enjoyable way to move.
If you take movement alone out of exercise, it is possible to shift the general public’s view to see both of these in a different light.
The motivation behind the “movement” movement is one of body awareness and understanding.
This means being aware of what your body is capable of and understanding what is necessary to function optimally.
While exercise is one of the best ways to maintain physical fitness, movement is a great way to maintain those benefits for longer.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests individuals participate in at least thirty minutes of moderately challenging physical exercise each day.
However, if you live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, it is difficult for these thirty minutes of activity to reverse the impacts.
Exercise should be used to help you gain increased flexibility and strength, enabling you to use a wide range of natural movements throughout the entire day.
The discussion surrounding movement vs exercise and the difference between movement and exercise is becoming increasingly polarized as everyone attempts to define exercise or movement.
This can give the general public the impression that there is a division between those who exercise and utilize movement.
However, more cohesive schools of thought propose that everyone be considered a ‘mover.’
Our movements are all different — some utilize movement to bag groceries in the store, and others use movement to compete in NBA.
But one thing that everyone has in common is that they need to move.
Movement vs Exercise: Why Movement Matters Most
Movement matters for everyone because humans are supposed to move!
Movement is important whether you want to comfortably walk from your kitchen to your living room or squat a heavyweight.
While running a mile each day or lifting weights are both good for you, they are unable to compensate for the detrimental consequences of sitting at a computer or in your routine commutes for the rest of your waking hours.
Movement is a physiologic requirement for everyone.
Similar to dietary recommendations, movement should come from a variety of sources.
However, contemporary cultures and our fast-paced surroundings frequently result in monotonous and repetitive movement patterns which lack variation, and this has also contributed to the idea of movement vs exercise.
Daily movement is ultimately thought of as just another thing to check off of a to-do list, rather than a frame of mind that can be adopted and applied to activities of daily living.
Your daily movement influences both your physical health and your mental health.
Physically, humans are designed to move.
In many societies, movement is encouraged in everyday life, such as walking to the grocery store or work.
Regarding mental health, movement can help to improve clarity, mood, and resilience.
Emerging research supports that movement promotes brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which assists with cognitive functioning (1).
Additional studies have shown that people who engage in regular movement experience fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression (2).
This means that you don’t need to rearrange your entire lifestyle to engage in more daily movement.
To start, keep things simple and try incorporating more movement into your day-to-day activities by making small changes.
For example, try parking further away from the entrance to a store than you normally would or walk in place while you brush your teeth each day to encourage more small movements.
Taking little actions like these removes some of the need to complete formal and structured exercise to compensate for an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.
It’s a good idea to introduce small regular movements into your already established routine because it is easier to maintain.
Having a fundamental grasp on the importance of practicing movement when looking at movement vs exercise can also help you begin and maintain these minor changes.
Every human on the planet needs to move every day in some form.
Repetitive movements can leave some areas of the body stronger or more mobile than others.
This can cause some muscles to feel ‘tight’ all of the time and others to feel weak.
To stay healthy, we need a wide range of micronutrients and macronutrients in our meals, and we need variety in our daily movements.
When you think about movement vs exercise, start thinking of everyday movement as a requirement, much like a diet, and small changes will eventually become bigger habits with positive effects.
How to Incorporate More Movement into Your Day to Day Life
Incorporating movement into your life doesn’t require you to begin a new fitness regime or take up a new hobby.
The most important part of increasing your movement is choosing a physical activity that you enjoy doing.
This could mean lifting weights, going to a yoga class, or playing ping-pong – whatever helps you welcome more movement into your life!
Here are some suggestions for activities to try that involve movement but don’t necessarily require you to have a gym membership:
Yoga is a great movement activity for individuals of all ages that simply requires you to show up. Many have reported improvements in strength, balance, and pain relief after beginning a yoga practice. This is also a great option to maintain a movement practice virtually.
Whether you walk around the block or several miles, you are sure to feel some of the mental and physical benefits of walking outdoors. Try inviting a friend or loved one to join you.
This is a great way to strengthen your whole body in a low-impact way. This activity also requires coordination and flexibility, making it a fun way to engage your brain along with your body.
Jumping on a Trampoline
Jumping on a trampoline may seem like a great way to reconnect with your inner child, but it can also help you develop better balance, coordination, and bone health.
If you have young children or grandchildren, try taking an afternoon to have a field day with them. This is a great way to engage yourself in movement and teach children good habits.
You Name It!
The most important thing to remember for any movement practice is to pick something simple and enjoyable for you.
Take the time during your selected movement to appreciate how your body works and notice how it can move.
So, when you’re thinking about movement vs exercise, remember that our bodies are meant to move, so be sure to give them the movement they require!
Remember, simply being mindful about the fundamental difference between movement and exercise and about your daily movement can set the stage for more and more natural movement to find it’s way into your daily life.