Our bodies are designed for physical activity – to move and breathe and circulate our prana, vital life energy. In fact, getting regular exercise is one of the most powerful things you can do to stay healthy, relieve stress, and reverse the aging process. Unfortunately, modern life requires more and more of us to lead sedentary lives, which makes movement and exercise more important than ever.
Proper exercise helps to maintain fluidity in the tissues, alertness in the mind, lubrication in the joints, supports the body’s pathways of detoxification, and improves digestion, circulation, elimination, and lymphatic flow. Exercise also helps to release tension, clears stagnant mental and emotional energy, improves our ability to relax, and supports sound sleep.
Profound health benefits can result from small changes in lifestyle. There is now enormous evidence that simply standing makes huge differences to your health.
We all know that a sedentary lifestyle (read as “sitting too much”) has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death from any cause. The simple act of standing rather than sitting brings relief from depression and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
Studies have assessed the impact of standing on cardiovascular disease and diabetes by fitting participants with heart rate and blood glucose monitors to take ongoing measurements during the working day. A normal day sitting at their desks was compared to another day spent at a standing desk. The findings were that three hours after lunch, glucose measurements were 43% lower after standing up on the job compared to sitting. There’s also direct evidence for its brain healthy effects.
Besides a significant decline in upper back and neck pain, participants also felt more comfortable, energized, healthier, focused, productive, happier and less stressed. When we stand and work, we are doing two things at once because the brain has to control the body’s posture as well as tend to the cognitive task we’re engaged in. Multiple muscles are active even while standing. This creates “good stress” for our brain and this additional demand improves our ability to carry out certain mental tasks and raises productivity.
Although it seems hard to believe that standing for several hours a day could have such profound benefits, the evidence suggests it does. For those of you who think you are too busy to exercise, all you really need is a pair of comfortable sneakers/trainers. Here are some ideas:
- Ride your bike to and from work, take the bus or subway, or walk.
- Alternate between standing and sitting at work.
- Swim or work out at the gym during lunch time.
You really couldn’t ask for a simpler way to improve physical and mental health.
When it comes to incorporating more movement into your life, it’s often the small things that make the biggest difference.
While there are aspects of the Ayurvedic lifestyle that are generally good for everyone, Ayurveda acknowledges that each of us is unique, and that what might be therapeutic for one person can be harmful for another. The same is true of exercise. Ayurveda’s fitness recommendations depend on one’s dosha, or mind-body constitution, current state of health, age, the surrounding climate, and the season.
To keep your body in peak condition for as long as possible, you need to exercise it regularly, but this doesn’t mean pounding your muscles into shape. You can improve the benefits of your fitness routine by tailoring it to pacify the specific dosha that needs the most support in your system. If you don’t already know your mind-body constitution, you can contact me.