There have been a lot of articles recently about the importance of recess or movement breaks for kids. Exercise in all its forms is crucial to healthy development, mental health and wellness. However, this need is not exclusive to childhood. Movement is as important for adults as it is for children.
As parents and teachers, we are great at telling children what to do, but perhaps not so good at practicing what we preach. To be fair, society and work infrastructure do not make it easy. Many of us work in constrained spaces in front of computers. Our attention is captivated by screens of all types: smartphones, computers, TV programming, etc. This sets us up for too much sitting and not enough movement. We often feel exhausted after a day’s work, which leads us to go home for more sitting and screen-time.
Why Movement Matters for Adults?
- Mental Health. Recent research shows that exercise in all its forms is important for mental health. Exercise helps balance our neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation. It also makes us more resilient to stressors. If physical activity is performed in groups, it provides a built in social aspect that helps us feel connected to others, an important contributor to mental health.
- Sensory Input. We are sensory-seeking creatures. As an occupational therapy practitioner with a specialty in sensory integration, I find our brains’ need for stimulation fascinating. Physical movement engages many of your senses: vestibular (balance system that helps your brain know where you are in space), proprioception (pressure receptors in your joints that tells your brain where your body parts are and how much force to exert), tactile (touch is a very powerful input for your brain and triggers many important chemical reactions), and vision (movement triggers new visual input and motor-visual coordination). All this stimulation regulates our sense of wellbeing.
- Focus and Productivity. Our brains need movement in order to be able to focus and stay on task. Studies show that aerobic exercise helps repair and increase the number of brain cells you have. It also improves your sleep quality, which in turn helps with productivity and concentration. Weight lifting also shows great benefits. The stronger your muscle strength, the bigger the improvement in cognition.
How to Be More Active Throughout the Day
Ideally, companies should offer employees a culture that promotes movement breaks throughout the day. I always recommend to my clients that they program their breaks into their smartphones. Every hour is ideal. At the very least, get up for a drink of water, or a bathroom break. Walk around, stretch, do 15 reps of exercise. Here’s a list to get you started (of course, always check with your doctor first to make sure these exercises are okay for you) :
You can also incorporate more movement throughout your day by following these tips:
- Always take the stairs–if you work on the 19th floor, get off the elevator 2 floors sooner and use the staircase for the last 2 floors. You can increase the number of floors when it becomes too easy
- Park further away
- Ride your bike to work
- Start a lunch walking or team sport club with your co-workers
- Pace and walk around when calling clients
- Suggest your office holds walking meetings
- Keep dumbbells near your desk and lift someone weights every time you have trouble focusing or feel tired
We all need to incorporate recess breaks, no matter how old we are. I hope these suggestions help you move more, sit less and feel great!
Use the comment section to share your tips on how to be more active through your day. To get free updates, don’t forget to subscribe!
Photo Creds: Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash–Thank you!