Kelly McGonigal has hit a home run again. She wrote The Upside of Stress and now has a new book called The Joy of Movement.
She weaves stories and research in a way no one else can and always leaves me feeling inspired. Yet her words in this book are beyond inspiration. She’s not trying to convince us to move, for the sake of our bodies and physical health. She’s putting words to feelings that so many of us already have experienced and flipping the more important reason to move.
Your Brain’s Main Purpose is to Get You Moving
I’ve mentioned studies in the past that show how exercise improves brain functioning. One study found there were brain-boosting effects after just four months of exercise.
The study included overweight and sedentary adults with an average age of 49. They underwent twice-weekly sessions of intense interval training for four weeks — which included circuit weights and exercise bikes — before and after which they underwent tests of their cognitive functioning, cardiac output, body composition and exercise tolerance and capacity.
By the end of the study, the researchers found that not only were the participants’ body measurements all improved — they also did better on the tests of cognitive functioning. “It’s reassuring to know that you can at least partially prevent that [cognitive] decline by exercising and losing weight,” study researcher Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention of the Montreal Heart Institute, said in a statement.
We have heard this news before, but Kelly McGonigal flips this idea bit. She notes, that our brain’s main purpose is for us to move? Why? So we can find food, seek safety and connect with others. Without movement, it’s hard to survive without a lot of support.
Movement for Happiness
So what if movement is the critical factor to keep your brain strong and in full working order? What if movement is the main key to happiness and joy? It is. And Kelly cites exactly how much movement we need.
“…experiments in the U.S. and the UK have forced moderately active adults to become sedentary for a period of time, only to watch their well-being wither. Regular exercisers who replaced physical activity with a sedentary activity for two weeks became more anxious, tired, and hostile. When adults are randomly assigned to reduce their daily step count, 88 percent become depressed.Within one week of becoming more sedentary, they report a 31 percent decline in life satisfaction. The average daily step count required to induce feelings of anxiety and depression and decrease satisfaction with life is 5,649. The typical American takes 4,774 steps per day. Across the globe, the average is 4,961.”
So there we have it. Some real guidelines as to how much movement is needed. For most of us, we’ve felt this. We know this, and now we are validated. What’s fun and feels good, is the very best thing we can do for our minds and our happiness.
And now I’m off for a run.