Movement decreases pain and improves quality of life

Got to keep on movin'The joy I feel in my body and mind when I dance to Latin music in zumba class; the satisfaction of savasana after an hour of deep breathing and conscious releasing of muscle tension in yoga; the meditative openness and acceptance of possibilities that comes with a walk or run around Greenlake or Discovery Park in Seattle.

I could not experience happiness without these times in my life. Similarly, I could not do without my weekly or bi-weekly massages from my favorite massage practitioners in town.

As a massage practitioner myself, I know what it’s like to work at a physically demanding job week after week, and without attending to my own body’s needs, I could not give my clients the high quality of therapeutic massage they need and deserve.

I’ve had countless clients who say to me how difficult it must be for me to work at such a physically demanding job, and yet they are the ones who suffer chronic pain and tension sitting at a computer for eight hours a day, and perform little other physical activity. (I have occasional stiffness in my back and neck that quickly dissipates after simple yoga stretches, an epsom salt bath, or an hour of massage).

Typing on a keyboard and mousing while sitting for extended periods of time creates both physical and mental tension, which can lead to mental fatigue, muscle pain, and high amounts of stress. The tiny, overlapping erector spinae muscles along the spine (so named for keeping the spine erect) must work as much overtime as you do to keep you seated upright as you work.

Staring at a computer screen in the same direction for hours, makes your neck muscles stiff and tired from lack of movement in the cervical spine.

Thankfully, the solution to the daily grind is not copious amounts of Advil, sugar, and caffeine to keep you going! These “quick fixes” only bring the inevitable return of pain and the mental stress that accompanies it.

The solution is movement. (Notice I didn’t say exercise). I don’t like the word exercise, it sounds boring and chore-like in nature. Of course we need exercise, but what I think we need more is a different way of thinking about it.

There will never be a time in our lives when we don’t need to have muscle flexibility, and strength to move our bodies around our world. So you might as well have fun while you’re exercising.

Tired of paying for gym fees, when you dread going? Go to Try a dance class or other movement class at a studio, join your company’s softball team, get on a trampoline (amazing leg workout and great for improving balance), go for a light jog or brisk walk in nature. And find a yoga class that’s close to home or work, with a teacher you like. Did you love playing basketball as a kid? Take it up again, there may be a park in your neighborhood with a basketball hoop, and the equipment is a minimal cost compared to the benefits.

For someone who is returning to movement after a period of inactivity, be gentle with your body, don’t try to make up for lost time by taking a cardio kickboxing class when you haven’t done anything physically active in a while. Start with a daily walk on your lunch break, or a gentle yoga class once or twice a week. It’s much easier on the body to gain strength over a longer period of time, than to try to condense your workouts into an intense, fat-burning couple of months before summer only to develop overuse injuries and chronic pain.

In my experience, being consistent with frequency of movement and love of what you are doing wins out over sporadic bursts of activity or paying for something you hope you will stick with.

My clients are dancers, swimmers, rowers, cyclists, soccer players, and yoga practitioners, to name a few. And they are mostly middle-aged women who accept a different view of aging – life doesn’t stop at a certain age, so why should you?