ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Neurological Benefits of Movement
Critical Concepts: Lack of movement promotes stress.
There are many well-understood benefits of movement and activity, including improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, lean muscle mass and strength, balance, tone and appearance. Science is now grasping the depth of the role of exercise in the realm of prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, CVD and obesity. The latest research is now painting a broader picture for the benefits of movement in the realm of neurology, development and optimal health.
The primary purpose of movement and activity is to develop and condition the brain (Dr. John J. Ratey, Spark).
Our nervous system is an incredibly complex network of communication fibers and junctions that allow us to relate and adapt to our internal and external environments. The nervous system, made up of the brain, the spinal cord and miles of nerves, depends on movement to restore the body to homeostasis – or a state of general balance and equilibrium.
This resting state is critical to health and healing. Our lives have become frantic. We rush through our days, seemingly never having enough time to complete tasks, slow down to eat, or relax and unwind. So often we are stressed out in traffic or sitting in front of a computer or on the phone. Most people spend far too much time in the “Go State” – fight or flight. This constant Sympathetic Stress State keeps stress hormones coursing through our veins, wreaking havoc on our health.
One vital function of movement is its ability to “re-set” our nervous system from a “stress state” to a “rest and repair” state.
The cerebellum is the area of the brain that monitors movement. The “body sense” that is derived from movement is called proprioception. This body sense provides more data to our brain than all of our other incoming senses combined. It is described by Nobel Prize Winner Roger Sperry as a brain nutrient. The information is derived from the compression of spring-like mechanoreceptors in your joints. When you move, they send signals to your brain.
This cerebella stimulation from movement of our joints will actually drive the body away from a stress state and back toward a rest and repair state. This critical homeostatic mechanism is responsible for returning your body to a state of equilibrium. In other words, movement reduces stress.
Lack of movement promotes stress.
If you live a sedentary life, you miss out on this effective “stress-buster.” People who exercise regularly report less stress in their lives and experience fewer stress-related health problems. Exercise has the additional benefits of increasing neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that promote happiness, better sleep and increased sex drive.
Poor posture and fixed positions can create stress in the body. Toxic and deficient movement patterns promote core weakness, muscle strain, inflammation and structural dysfunction. When joints do not move properly, they create irritation to the nervous system that acts a lot like “static” or noise in our communication network. This noxious stimulation or nociception changes the brain’s function and influences the body’s chemistry. This type of joint dysfunction and associated nerve irritation is called “subluxation.”
Subluxations can occur in any joint, but the most devastating are found in the joints of the spine. These spinal misalignments can be caused by trauma or bad habits (or both), and their ill effects on your health can be profound. A distinctive quality of subluxation is joint fixation. When a joint is fixed or “stuck” and not moving through its normal range of motion, a host of problems can arise. Joint decay and degeneration (arthritis) occurs when a joint is not moving properly. If a joint is fixated, proprioception (Body Sense) is reduced and nociception (noise) is increased – both of which promote stress in the body.
Healthy people practice regular spinal hygiene by utilizing the Life Extension Exercises. A Bonfire best practice is to implement these into your daily routine to combat stationary work and postural stress. Best results are achieved if you do this one-minute routine at least once every two hours at the computer or work station. Nudge yourself into better habits by auditing your workstation for postural stress (read more here). Make it a regular habit to get up and walk during your day. It is very unnatural for you to sit for extended periods of time – no matter how important the project. Dr. James Chestnut suggests a brilliant nudge: position yourself perfectly while sitting at the wheel in your car and then adjust your mirrors. If you slouch during your drive, the mirrors will remind you to sit up.
A vital behavior for optimal health and function is to have your spine and nervous system evaluated regularly by a qualified chiropractor. These doctors have a unique training and specialization in locating and correcting spinal misalignments that contribute to spinal stress. This safe and effective method has been practiced widely for over one hundred years, and is now the second largest form of health care in the world.
Your brain and body expect and require movement for health – for life. Get to it.
- Add activity every day in every way
- Calculate Energy Balance
- Add Functional Training
- Use variety in your workouts
- Focus on the Intensity of your workouts
- Gradually progress to a higher intensity
- Adopt the Buddy System
- Get your Spine checked by a chiropractor