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Part Two: Using Exercise to bolster health instead of fitness

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This post is tailored to those who are either new to exercise or currently engage in physical activity 1-2 days per week. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more activity into your life, we are here to guide you through creating that positive change. Movement is our greatest ally in prevention and increasing longevity in life.  We are going to share how to add healthspan to your life so that the long years ahead of you are spent living an active and fully functional life. 

We would love to replace the perspective of “fitness” which is often presented as exercising with the outcome goal of using exercise to reshape our body, burn calories to lose weight or in order to justify a way of eating. Instead, let’s replace that mindset with one that looks at movement and exercise as a part of our daily hygiene and self care practices. A study published in JAMA Oncology shows that small amounts of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity were associated with lower cancer risk. This study refers to brief and sporadic bouts of vigorous physical activity during daily living such as bursts of very fast walking or stair climbing (around the block or out to the car at the office) for about one to two minutes. Once that behavior is adopted and habit is in place, you can then begin to incorporate the value of exercise in improving your healthspan by combining exercise intensities and incorporating a more strategic approach to your daily practice. The American Medical Association states that “people who are insufficiently active—meaning less than 75 minutes per week of vigorous or less than 150 minutes of moderate physical activity—could get greater benefits in mortality reduction by adding modest levels of either exercise. That’s 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous exercise or 150 to 300 minutes each week of moderate physical activity. Meeting the minimum for moderate and vigorous activity can reduce cardiovascular disease mortality by 22% to 31%”. In reality, exercise is one of the most important tools that we have to modulate our health. 

Function, which shows up in how our body works and how our brain connects with how we move is all based on task. The goal of improving function through movement is to become efficient and effective at that many tasks that we encounter each day.  Squatting, pushing, pulling, lunging, reaching, twisting, bending and extending are all examples of movement that make up tasks. The next step is to translate these tasks into three dimensions (Stay tuned for parts 4 and 5 where we give you examples on how!). Our world and all of the tasks that we participate in are in 3 dimensions: direction, depth, distance: these 3 dimensions make up what can be visualized as our sphere of function.

Consider this sphere of function to be the range with which you can move your body and safely return back to center. The greater your sphere of function the greater your resilience and capacity in many areas of life. Most importantly, the less overall stress your body experiences and the less chance of injury you have. Mandy’s sphere of function has shrunk which is causing her to experience pain and dysfunction in her knees and back with her daily tasks. Once you identify your tasks and evaluate your current sphere of function, you should identify your purpose. 

What is your purpose? Do you want to move well without getting injured? Do you have goals of pursuing an active hobby or sport? Do you have a strong family history of chronic disease that is at risk of being made worse by living a sedentary lifestyle? Do you love to exercise and move your body and simply want to learn how to add more movement to your current routine? You may have more than one purpose which is great! But it is important to identify it! This purpose is what keeps you going when barriers pop up and stand in the way. 

In part one we talked about helping Mandy reach her goals of improving her body composition (her main goal) by reorienting her to focus on the tasks that she needs to accomplish in order to live her life the way she desires. Like many busy women in her mid-40s, Mandy is frustrated by her overburdened life, stressful job, weight gain, exhaustion, knee and back pain. Mandy only understands exercise as something she needs to do to shrink her body. She believes exercise should look like it did for her 20 years ago and involve sweating it out at the gym. Her only benchmark of progress is her body composition (aka, is she losing weight). Mandy had never been introduced to the concept of thinking about improving how she moves to accomplish her daily tasks and counterbalance the effects of her life/work stress. She had not been able to identify a purpose beyond losing weight which left her feeling frustrated with all previous attempts. 

One huge barrier to maintaining a consistent exercise program and/or movement habit is the expectation that exercise needs to look a certain way. Many of us live in a world that demands our exercise or movement pursuits counterbalance an aspect of our life that may actually be driving the dysfunctional symptoms we are experiencing. Take back pain for example, many people facing periods of prolonged sedentary work experience reduction in work output and have a higher number of days missed from work .  Although back pain is a cause of the work time lost, many other symptoms can arise like depression, anxiety, weight gain, poor sleep, etc. Exercise for the person with back pain must address the prolonged sitting that is the root cause of the pain pattern and then evolve out from there. When something is not working well, our nervous system, joint health, etc, this shrinks the bubble in which we move. Before we go to the gym or try to run a marathon the first goal is to improve our sphere of function to reduce risk of injury and increase our movement capacity 

In part 3 we will build off the task, purpose organization of exercise and show how using micro-dosing movements will improve adherence to exercise. This is where we add in small bouts of exercise throughout the day strategically. We will also discuss how training in three dimensions with your exercise program will further build toward a stronger healthspan. Three dimensional movement is when you move in various directions, distances and depths through various motor tasks. Three-dimensional movement makes connective tissue stronger, joints more mobile and stronger, the neuromuscular system better equipped to help your body efficiently and effectively complete the task you want to complete. 

So now your homework is to think about this: What tasks do you need to be able to do every day? What goals do you have for movement as you get older? So stay tuned and we will explore the concept of microdosing movement to get more purposeful activity in your life. 


Review Part One and more on the Discover Blog

Amy Slater

Amy Slater

Amy Slater is a mother of two sets of twins (two boys and two girls) and currently practices as a women’s health coach. Amy has been in the health and fitness field for 22+ years with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, a fellowship in Applied Functional Science, and several advanced certifications. She is currently working toward her NP with an emphasis in Functional Medicine. Keep up with Amy on her Instagram and Facebook, and learn more on her website!

John Sinclair

John Sinclair

John Sinclair has been coaching for over 20 years and his experience with athletes, as an athletic trainer and performance and health engineer, allows for unique and creative strategies and programming insights for IoM.

John lives with his wife Lisa and dogs Jersey and Poppy in sunny south Florida. Follow John on Instagram.