Your body needs these three forms of movement every week

Walking has earned a reputation as an excellent form of exercise that is easy and accessible to many people, and numerous studies show that this popular activity also has numerous health benefits.

Taking at least 2,300 steps a day reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to A study published in a 2023 issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Additionally, weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, help prevent osteoporosis, according to another study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

However, some experts in the health and fitness fields say that while walking is certainly good for health and fitness, it is actually not high-quality exercise. One of those experts is Melissa Boyd, a certified personal trainer and trainer at Tempo, an online personal training platform. Boyd is based in San Francisco.

“Our lives have become so busy — we travel, sit all day, and then are exhausted at night — that taking a short walk makes you feel like you’ve done something big and exponential,” Boyd said. “But walking is really a basic movement that your body needs to function well, to help with things like circulation and digestion, and to decompress.”

To help her clients better understand why a daily walk won’t result in a beach body (something many of them believe, thanks to several social media influencers), she discusses with them the three types of movement that are beneficial for health and physical condition in general.

The first is movement that your body should or requires every day, such as walking, stretching, and bending. Second is athletic movement, which you can do a few times a week to improve your fitness or train for a sport. Third is social movement that you do for fun or to connect with others, like dancing or playing volleyball.

“It’s important to think about movement in these different categories because not moving during the day has become normalized,” Boyd said. “Our lives are so sedentary that many of us are trying to get out of a movement deficit. But exercise is different from physical movement.”

Our bodies need to move in many different ways.

Walking is great, but it’s only a form of unidirectional movement, and our bodies need more of it to be functionally fit, said Dr. Carl Cirino, a sports medicine surgeon at HSS Orthopedics of Stamford Health in Connecticut.

People use the muscles and tendons in their bodies to help them with all the bending, twisting and rotating they do in their daily lives, Cirino said, so they need to work and stretch them in many different directions. Yoga and Pilates are two very effective and healthy activities in this sense, he stated.

“Stretching is also incredibly easy and something you can do when you wake up and before you go to bed,” Cirino said.

Having loose, flexible muscles also means you’ll have more balance and stability, which helps prevent falls and injuries in all physical activities, he said. It is also good to increase your heart rate several times a week for cardiovascular health.

It’s time for a snack to exercise

Ideally, you’ll want to create a plan that incorporates “due” daily movement, such as walking and stretching, with some cardiovascular work, strength training, and social activity throughout the week, the two said. However, this may seem overwhelming to many.

Breaking down all of these different moves into exercise snacks is one way to get the movement your body needs, Boyd said.

“Maybe get a walking platform and do some of your meetings while walking slowly on the platform,” he said. “Maybe every time you go to the bathroom you do 20 squats, or every time you drink water you do 10 push-ups against a wall. If you combine these exercise snacks with something else you’re already doing, you can make it a habit. “I’ve seen great success with this.”

Boyd also encourages her clients to find some form of movement that they enjoy and that doesn’t feel like exercise, like playing kickball or pickleball. That way, you’ll have fun and socialize while you get in shape.

Cirino agrees. “We see kids here in sports medicine whose parents want them to play baseball, but they don’t want to,” he said. “The same goes for exercise. You need to find something that is interesting and easy (maybe an activity your friends are doing) and use that as a basis for developing good habits.”

Start Slow and Build From There

Rethinking exercise as regular movements that the body needs for functionality, fitness and social connection can also be a way to give yourself permission to make time to exercise, Boyd said.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that creating an exercise plan doesn’t require a massive, immediate change to your lifestyle. In fact, it’s best to start slowly with small new movements.

“What I typically see is that people love the way this makes them feel,” Boyd said. “So the stronger they get, the more they want to move even more. “Movement inspires movement.”

Melanie Radzicki McManus is a freelance writer specializing in hiking, travel, and fitness.

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