Light Motion Activity vs. Exercise
Lots of us use exercise as a way to de-stress (and as an opportunity to show off our strong bodies and ability to create and protect, like a mating call). That post-work run or spin class makes us feel good, productive, and provides an outlet for working out frustration with our boss, our spouse, or that annoying client. The endorphin rush feels great so we put on our workout gear, lace up our sneakers, and hit the treadmill day after day.
Americans in particular seem trapped in a vicious cycle of eating way too much and then working out way too hard to burn all of the extra calories they’ve consumed. We are a society of excess for sure. The common belief about exercise is that if a little bit is good, a lot must be great. Not so, and here’s why. When you exercise, you are heating up your body, causing DNA and protein degradation, pain, swelling, friction, and more heat. It stimulates epinephrine and cortisol and steals blood flow from the core central organs. The kidneys and digestive track take a huge hit!
Exercise and digestion tend to be mutually exclusive activities. When you exercise, your body doesn’t use its energy for digestion. Instead, it slows any digestion currently taking place so it can divert as much blood as it can to feed your muscles and your lungs. Repetitive exercise increases the destruction of our bodies causing rapid damage and dysfunction. Repetitive motion injuries are another concern altogether – tennis elbow, runner’s knee, tendonitis, just to name a few.
There are other ways to de-stress that are less harmful to your body: yoga, Tai Chi, walking, and light motion activity that is meditative and regenerative to name a few examples. These types of activities allow the flow of blood to the core, brain, and bowels where it’s needed and don’t create an immune reaction that is more damaging and destructive. A 2017 study from Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics found that as exercise intensity and duration rise, the likelihood of intestinal injury increases.
My advice: SLOW IT DOWN. I say this to my clients, co-workers, and friends like a broken record. Get off the hamster wheel (my name for the treadmill), elliptical, and racing bike. Don’t sit still, but you don’t have to be so intense with the exercise. Walk instead of run. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady may not win every race, but the average life span of a tortoise is over 100 years with some species living almost twice that. Coincidence . . . I think not.