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Mental and Physical Benefits of Bodily Movement

9 December 2021

Our lives are full - we are tired, stressed, time poor and screen-bound so the idea of finding time to increase our physical activity is not something we warm to. Should we move more? The simple answer is Yes!

What our lives look like?

We spend a great deal of our lives sitting. Generally speaking, we sit for work, we sit for meal times and leisure time, such as watching tv, reading or screen time.

Think about your own life. You probably sit down to eat breakfast. If your commute involves driving or public transport, you might sit for anywhere between 10 mins and an hour. If you work in a conventional office, you might expect to sit for between 7-10 hours. Another commute at the end of your day returning home. You sit for dinner and then most likely retire to the couch for leisure time. A BIG portion of your day is spent sitting and that’s why we need to focus on breaking up that routine with small bursts of activity. If we didn’t have extensive research on the health risks associated with prolonged sitting, these sedentary hours might not be of such concern.

What are the risks associated with that type of lifestyle?

We know a sedentary existence puts us at increased risk of the following health problems:

  • Cardiovascular ill health
  • Cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Weight gain
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Mental ill health
  • Back/neck pain
  • Muscle degeneration
  • Osteoporosis
  • Mortality

Studies show that 15 minutes of running or an hour's walk reduces mild depression by around 25%. Exercise is a natural stress reliever and mood booster. It helps to reduce anxiety and depression by promoting neural changes in the brain.

There is no shortage of evidence relating to the link

between regular exercise, physical activity and improved mental health. Extensive studies have shown the mental health benefits of having an active lifestyle. We know it improves sleep, endurance, mood, self-esteem, energy and stamina.

How do we increase our daily movement?

How do we tackle habit-forming? It’s not as daunting as you think, especially if you start small. Noom suggests that it hinges on 3 factors:

Frequency - How often is the habit? Monthly? Daily? Hourly? Noom suggests that the more frequent the habit, the higher rate of success and the easier it will be to form that habit

Effort – the more effort you put in; planning, preparing and pursuing this new habit, the sooner you are likely to achieve it

Distance - this is about the distance between where you are now and how far away your goals are. Is it a short distance to get there? If so, and the changes are small, you will adopt this new habit in less time

Temptation Bundling, a term coined by behavioural economist and professor, Katherine Milkman is a strategy to address the ‘want versus should conflict’. It's the tension between what you want to do because it delivers on a craving or temptation, versus what you know you should do because it’s in your best interest. Rather than counterposing them, Temptation Bundling involves linking these two elements. Basically, it's bundling something you enjoy with something you dread.

Let’s think about some potential pairs. A want might be something like getting a pedicure, watching lowbrow TV or indulging in decadent eating. A list of shoulds might include doing your tax return, exercising, or a dentist appointment. This pairing makes should activities more enticing and therefore more likely to be readily executed; it also makes want activities less wasteful and guilt-inducing. Book in for that spa treatment, but first sit down and dedicate time to complete your tax return. You want that piece of cake for afternoon tea? Walk or jog to the café to get it.

Here are some creative ways to incorporate more movement into your days:

  • Transform your day into a mini workout
  • If you drive – park far away
  • Walk out the midday slump. Try a walking work meeting
  • Combine music and movement
  • Use reminders – set an alarm
  • Chores don't have to be bores
  • Involve the kids or the dog
  • Form habits
  • Delegate tasks – free up some time for you

Links to support:

If you need support after reading this article, please talk to someone at work or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can also contact and discuss this with your GP.

For further reading, we suggest you try:

https://www.ted.com/talks/christine_carter_the_1_minute_secret_to_forming_a_new_habit?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/30-ways-to-get-active-exercise-fun

https://www.healthline.com/health/joyful-movement-for-all-bodies#5-ways-to-find-joy-in-movement,-no-should-or-shame-allowed

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

https://hbr.org/2013/01/sitting-is-the-smoking-of-our-generation