Our five-month-old grandson is in constant motion. Kicking his legs and waving his arms, all the while babbling like he has a very important story to tell us. In other words, doing the developmental things he is supposed to be doing. All of his movement is building neurological pathways that will eventually bring him to crawling, walking, and not long from now, running. Say a prayer for his parents.
I have just finished reading “Move! The New Science of Body Over Mind” by Caroline Williams. It was recommended to me by my friend and yoga teacher, Lori Gaspar. This book is about correlations between movement and the health of the mind, and how scientists have mapped the areas of the brain that benefit from different forms of movement.
For example, we have all taken a walk to clear our head at some point in our lives. Now there is science to back it up. Walking is said to be linked to activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is where our thoughts occur. The movement of walking has been shown to bring more clarity to thoughts. A literal clearing of the cobwebs that enables us to have more of those “aha” moments.
Dance and free form movement have been shown to be a mood enhancer. The inner ear, where our sense of balance is, is tied directly to the limbic system. This is the place that signals the sensations of pleasure. When we dance, we are taking ourselves slightly out of balance and each time we right ourselves the body comes back to a place of stability. Repeating this action over and over brings a sense of pleasure. No wonder so many of us love swings, rollercoasters, skiing, biking and any other activity that shifts us from standing on two feet.
A strong core from exercises like pilates, yoga and tai chi not only enhances good posture, but also helps alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Scientists now believe a strong core also helps our minds. As we age, our chances of falling increases. This is often due to a change in posture, perhaps because our core weakens and we become more stooped over. While scientists have not yet found the direct link between an upright posture and having positive feelings, it makes sense that when we stand tall there is a sense of confidence. This then leads to a sense of well-being.
Whether we are walking, dancing, or working out, movement is good! Our lack of movement, according to scientists, directly correlates with a rise in mental health issues like anxiety, stress and depression. It’s time for everyone to get moving again. Our grandson does it on instinct. The rest of us need to make it an important part of our daily or weekly routine.
It’s often said that sitting is now the new smoking. I believe it, and scientists are proving that movement is vital to our well-being not only physically but mentally and particularly as we age. The saying “Use it or Lose it” is actually the truth. So let’s get up and move. I’m getting up now to go dance around my kitchen.