Our bodies were made to move. If they don’t, they begin to weaken and break down, causing all sorts of problems such as weakened immune systems, joint problems, decreased emotional capacity and an increased risk of various diseases. Literally it’s: move it or lose it!
The primary reason for keeping our bodies in tip-top condition is because we have a responsibility to take care of our earthly vessels. God is in control, but we play a part in keeping our bodies healthy so that we can do the kingdom work He’s called us to do. If we are sick, weak, and tired, we will have little margin left to help others or to grow our own capacity.
For most of us, getting our bodies moving takes some intentionality. We live fairly sedentary lives in North America so exercise takes planning and discipline. And let’s be honest, how many of us like to exercise? I’ve been a dedicated runner for nearly 10 years but that doesn’t mean I want to lace up my runners every morning. I do my devotions first and when I’m sitting in my cozy pajamas and sipping hot coffee, the thought of gearing up for an exercise routine is always hard! But knowing how good I’ll feel afterwards, or how brutal I’ll feel if I don’t, gets me up and going.
Health experts agree that it’s important to get your heart rate up for at least 20 min 4-5 times a week. Babies and toddlers need 30-60 min of play every day while preschoolers and older kids need 60-90 min per day! [I’ll give ideas for how to get kids moving at the end of this article, so keep reading.] There’s no quick fix or supplement alone that will make our bodies healthy. We need to move every day.
Why? Because exercise strengthens every part of our body!
It strengthens our bones and muscles, helping support healthy growth and development and increasing longevity. Recently, I watched a documentary on why some cultures tend to live longer than others. One of the factors that has been found to lead to a higher life expectancy is strong upper thigh muscles. Surprising? It’s because this muscle is the main muscle that keeps us mobile, which in turn delays the onset of many life shortening diseases. Exercises that build this muscle are simple: walk, bike, run, kick box, or do squats. Most anyone can start with these simple movements. Besides the thigh muscle, the other important area to strengthen is your core because it supports stability and posture; again, keeping you mobile longer. Planks, push-ups and abdominal crunches are great for building your core.
Getting active also strengthens your brain. When you cause your heart rate to go up you are increasing blood flow and oxygen to your entire body, including your brain. This leads to an increased ability to concentrate and an improved ability to learn and retain information (which for kids usually means better academic scores). It can also delay or lessen the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. My husband uses a stand-up desk in his office so that he can stay focused during long hours at the computer. When my kids are losing focus during their school work, we do jumping jacks or stair runs to get their brains going again. It really helps!
It’s also the most natural way to get your digestive system going. When babies are constipated, you’re supposed to move their legs like they are riding a bike. The same is true for us adults. Getting your legs moving is an intestinal message! For years I struggled with constipation and abdominal pain. Once I started drinking more water, eating more raw foods and exercising daily, I no longer had these issues.
Besides all the many physical benefits, exercise has important emotional benefits as well!
I recently read a great quote that said, “I run to get rid of the crazy.” It’s so true! One of the biggest reasons I started running was to get rid of anxiety and stress. I can handle my kids and my daily life better when I’ve had that release of energy. Exercise stimulates various brain chemicals called endorphins that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Because of how it regulates hormones and insulin, exercise can also help with depression and anxiety. So again, you can either move it, or lose it (on those around you).
This is true for our kids too! When they are in a disintegrated state: overwhelmed, not able to control their emotions or just in a funk, getting them moving can help. Go for a bike ride or walk with them, toss a ball back and forth, play chase or turn on music and just watch what happens to their mood. When the gate to the upstairs brain is locked, a change in their physical state can release some of their tension and help their brain reintegrate. This is because bodily movement affects brain chemistry and emotional states. If you don’t believe me, try frowning and slouching your shoulders for a minute. Then trying pushing your shoulders back and smiling. You can feel the change just with these simple movements.
This is why our bodies need to move! It’s something we need to do for life. And anyone can do it, even if you need to start small.
Find what works for you so that it’s sustainable. What you like to do and how are you wired? Do you need people to hold you accountable and keep you going? Or do you prefer to do it alone? As a mom with little kids, is it hard to leave the house and do you need to invest in some work-out videos or exercise equipment for your basement? Talk this through with your spouse and work out a plan for how you can make sure to schedule this into your days. Maybe you can buddy up with another mom and trade childcare. It just takes a little planning.
You’ll also need to be intentional with getting your kids moving! Once the weather warms up there’s all sorts of things you can do outdoors. But there’s also lots you can do indoors.
Activity for babies can be tummy time, bath time, nursery rhymes, helping them sit or stand and crawling.
Toddlers love action songs, pretending to be animals, obstacle courses or follow the leader, tossing a ball and playing chase.
Older kids can do all those too plus they also enjoy things like playing fitness center or gymnastics, tag, one-minute challenges, and swimming.
And did you know that if you do these activities with your child your brain will sync with theirs and joy bonds will be formed! In our home, we find that getting active together is one of the best ways to get our kids to talk and share from their day.
I’ll leave you with this… you may be the exception but I have never heard anyone who starts exercising say they wish they never would have started or that they don’t feel better for doing it!