Movement is medicine

Do you have any idea which land animal can move the longest without stopping? An antelope? A puma? No, it is us…

Physical activity is not important for good health. It is essential. It is how we are designed. For 99% of the last 200,000 years, we have been hunter gathers covering huge distances to get food, water and to safety. Because of this, our bodies are designed to be constantly moving. When you take a Formula One car and try to drive it on standard roads it will break. This is because it is not designed to tolerate slow speeds and bumpy surfaces. This is the same for the human body. When we are sedentary this leads to a huge list of health issues both physical and mental.

This week is Self Care Week and is an opportunity for us all – whether you are a patient or a health and care professional – to be exercising self care not just this week but for life! Here’s a starter for 10 for how and why:

Can a few minutes a day of moving really make a difference?

Absolutely. Little is good, more is better. We see the most benefits when increasing our activity levels from 0 to 20 minutes a day. This can be split up into short segments like using the stairs, getting off a stop early from the bus, cycling to work, squats at your desk or while making a coffee!

Are targeted movements better than, say, walking?

The best activity is the next activity! All have their benefits and in a perfect world I would want people to do a variety of different forms. But if you find getting active difficult you should focus on activities you enjoy and are most likely to do.

What are the wellbeing benefits of exercise?

  1. Connection with nature and green spaces
  2. Sense of community
  3. Boosts your endocannabinoids*
  4. Elevates your mood and lowers your stress levels
  5. Helps develop a routine.

Does our relationship to movement change with age?

Regardless of your age, we should all try to keep moving within our ability scope. Of course, those with disabilities and some long-term health conditions may need to adapt the activity, but inactivity is not an option!

The We are undefeatable campaign has incredible resources for older people as well as those with disabilities and long-term conditions.

How can we all make this part of our busy days?

Link it in with habit forming behaviours. For example if you have a morning coffee or tea, then why not use the time it takes for it to brew to complete a quick 5 minute strength workout in the kitchen. Leave a note on the kettle to remind you. Having it built into another habit can help a new one form!

Moving can be a fantastic way to connect with others and socialize. I love attending my weekly parkrun and parkwalk with my wife and friends. Another group close to my heart is Walk talk walk and Run talk run. A mental health support physical activity group. I help run one from my GP surgery for patients and staff. There are over 150 other locations across the United Kingdom and I would highly recommend exploring where your nearest one is and join in if you can!

Where can I get support?

General practice has seen an influx of new roles including care coordinators, health and wellbeing coaches and social prescribers. They are well placed to help support you on your journey to regular activity.

So if you need to increase your activity, why not start this Self Care Week by at least putting the kettle on and do a little kitchen exercise!

* Neurotransmitters are released when you exercise – including endorphins, endocannabinoids, and dopamine – that create the feel good factor. This in turn can help with any feelings of depression or anxiety people might be experiencing.

Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi

Movement, community and nutrition are three cornerstones of Dr Al-Zubaidi’s personal and professional life. He is a lifestyle medic and long-distance triathlete. He is the Royal College of General Practitioners lifestyle and physical activity lead as well as a Swim England clinical advisor. He runs a pioneering NHS based fitness club and lifestyle clinic helping to educate and support patients to eat better, move more and connect with their community.  He heads up the social prescribing team at the Leamington Primary Care Network which assists people holistically to promote, protect and improve their health. A key passion is to use lifestyle to tackle health inequalities. Hussain volunteers at the mental health charity Run Talk Run as the West Midlands regional leader, where they use movement to help forge conversations and peers support. It is his strong belief that lifestyle can be a powerful tool in the fight against many conditions both physical and mental, while being a great way to socialize and stay connected with our community. He is a keen triathlete and UK Athletics leader in running fitness and tries to use his own personal journey of taking up physical activity from a previous sedentary lifestyle and improvement in his own nutrition and knowledge of food to promote its benefits for our wellbeing. He delivers numerous talks and lectures to various audiences both professional and public including a regular slot on Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4.

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