Your alarm went off at 6 a.m., and even though you were stiff and groggy, you managed to roll yourself out of bed, into some leggings, and out the door to your sunrise spin class—where you proceeded to absolutely crush it. Well done! (Insert *praise hands* emoji here.)
With all that hard work behind you, you’ve def earned a day spent lounging on the couch (or, if you’re on that full-time grind, at your desk).
Not so much. According to integrative medicine pioneer Frank Lipman, MD, it’s exactly this way of thinking that’s keeping many Americans from living their healthiest lives. “If you go to the gym or a spin class, and you really push yourself, you feel good. But then, if you sit at a desk for the rest of the day, it’s probably counter-productive,” he says.
Much more important than that sweaty workout that leaves you huffing and puffing, according to Dr. Lipman, is getting your body moving consistently throughout the day. “I hate the term ‘exercise,’ because, for some people, it has negative connotations: That, ‘Ugh, I’ve got to go to the gym’ feeling,” Dr. Lipman says. “But when you tell people to move their body, they’re much more prone to do that.”
This is why movement—not exercise—is one of the six keys to a happy and healthy life Dr. Lipman names in his new book, How to Be Well (which hits bookshelves April 3).
“It’s the small choices you make on a daily basis that make a bigger difference to your health than you can imagine.” —Frank Lipman, MD
“It’s the small choices you make on a daily basis that make a bigger difference to your health than you can imagine,” says Dr. Lipman. “So, I think it’s more about moving your body as much as you can during the day.” That 30 minutes you spend walking your dog in the morning, those steps you take to the office kitchen for a glass of water, some shoulder rolls you can do at your desk—they all add up.
“The whole concept of my book is to reframe the way people think about their health, and show them that the ordinary things that they do every minute, every hour, every day, have extraordinary benefits,” Dr. Lipman says. “It doesn’t have to be extreme. It doesn’t have to be an extreme diet, doesn’t have to be an extreme exercise.”
In How to Be Well, excerpted below, Dr. Frank Lipman offers 3 easy ways to get up and moving right. now.
Find the movement that moves you
Excerpted from How to Be Well, by Frank Lipman, MD
Moving improves everything: your metabolism and your microbiome, your sleep and all your body rhythms, your immunity, your stress response, and the overall balance in your life. It even decreases inflammation. You don’t have to be a rock-star cyclist or sculpt a body of steel. Just ask yourself, upon waking, “How can I move more today?”
1. Try this one weightlifting move
If you had to pick a single fitness movement to keep you strong and healthy for life, the barbell deadlift should be it. This classic weightlifting move involves hinging forward at the hips to grasp a heavily loaded barbell, hinging straight up to standing, pulling the barbell to knee height, and then lowering the barbell again.
Yes, deadlifts can help spark your orgasmic potential.
Done correctly, this super-simple movement is incredibly high-yield: As a compound movement that requires multiple major muscle groups to work together, it fires up every muscle in your body and builds healthy muscle tissue from top to toe. A deadlift demands powerful trunk contraction and pelvic floor stability, which together build a healthy core and a strong, resilient back. It develops the (typically underused) glutes and hamstrings, activating the body’s main source of power. It enhances blood flow to all the tissues, which, combined with that better pelvic condition, brings benefits for sex—yes, deadlifts can help spark your orgasmic potential. And it’s not just for heavyweight bodybuilders! It can be safely learned by anyone—assuming you are starting without injury—and scaled up gradually as your capacity grows.
2. Play like a child
What’s the goal of exercise? Is it to make the best scores and the best gains, to beat the competition? Or is it to be the best you: A curious and engaged human animal, free to move through the world in a way that makes you feel the most alive? The latter is what you achieve when you step beyond linear indoor workouts and into nature’s playground, moving through, over, under, and around its organic features just like you did when you were a child.
When was the last time you broke up your run by, say, climbing a tree trunk, hopping over boulders, long-jumping across a lawn, or hanging from a branch? Or turned your everyday hike into an off-road adventure, rock-hopping across rivers and squeezing through fences?
Something amazing happens when you let yourself play: More of your body wakes up. Physically, when you jump, land, and mix up angles of movement, the mechano-receptors in your muscle tendon junctions, bones, and ligaments activate and help you determine where you are in space, making you agile (and less prone to injury should you stumble or fall during everyday activities). When you solve the physical challenge of how to get from here to there by trying new body shapes and making quadrupedal movements, your brain revs up to solve spatial problems and your body connects more deeply with your mind. You might enter the flow state—fully present in the moment. When you make physical contact with nature’s unpredictable terrain, you even have to face fear—this builds resilience against stress. Plus, as any kid knows, play is fun—and free!
Something amazing happens when you let yourself play: More of your body wakes up.
Start by simply looking around you next time you’re hiking or running, even in an urban park. Look to the side of the trail: What’s there to play on? (If you’re with kids, this will come easy; park benches and walls count, too.) Explore the feature, get on it, get off it, hang from it, and test it.
3. Take a lazy, loaded walk
Take a daily walk with a little load added to your body in the form of a weighted vest. This is a safe, effective way to condition yourself, because it loads the spine from all directions while compressing your trunk, which gives you stability as you move and improves your posture. It helps the overused trapezius muscles (used to carry your head) to release, and cues the entire trunk to “fire up” and hold you up straight. Loaded walking even helps free up the hip muscles, improving the hips’ range of motion and thereby your gait.
The best way to do this is with a vest that distributes weight evenly around your torso. If you can, walk with a vest weighing no more than 10 percent of your body weight for about 45 minutes to an hour, daily or as often as possible. (Don’t run—it’s too much impact!) You can hack this by wearing a loaded backpack on your front and your back, or a child in a carrier plus a backpack, but a vest is a lot easier. Get a vest that fits comfortably snug to your body, and if you have an injury, get evaluated by a professional first so you don’t do any further damage.
There’s no need to walk at a speedy clip; the idea is long, lazy, and loaded.
Another way to squeeze in a workout: Turn sitting at your desk into a full-body endeavor. And here are 4 easy stretches that require so little space, you can even do them on an airplane.
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