Move more, gym less?

As you know, proper nutrition and exercise are important to health and wellbeing. It is important to nourish your body and exercise daily. The two truly go hand in hand – from losing fat and building muscle, to the complex cellular level where your body uses food to make energy for movement.

If it sounds like a tall order to increase exercise and improve nutrition, you can stop stressing. There are several ways to increase your daily activity and incorporate nourishing foods into your daily life.

In the motivating article below titled, Humans, Made to Move, Dr. David Katz discusses how “sitting is the new smoking” and how more daily movements, not necessarily exercise, can improve your health. 

Humans, Made to Move It

You might be wondering where nutrition comes in to play in this discussion. First, the more you move, the more energy you expend, thus, you increase your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Expending more energy than you consume can help with weight loss.

Second, and more complex, moving more improves your metabolism (or, what your body does with what you eat). This occurs at the cellular level. Increasing movement, also referred to as physical activity, increases the demand for energy in muscle tissue and other tissues and organs throughout the body. Your cells must provide that energy; therefore, they adjust and adapt to meet the increased energy demand.

Adaptations to physical activity include:

  • Increased mitochondria in the cells to provide energy from fat stores

  • Increased glucose receptors on cell membrane to facilitate glucose uptake

  • Increased capillary density to supply blood and oxygen to muscles

  • Increased activation of neuromuscular units that result in increased muscle strength and power

  • Decreased resting heart rate and blood pressure

From a nutritional standpoint, your body becomes better at using the food you eat and have stored to make energy. This is referred to as metabolic flexibility. For example, someone who uses a stand-up desk most of the day, takes the stairs, and walks around the office a few times in the morning and afternoon is more metabolically flexible than someone who sits at their desk for 8 hours a day. The active person expends more energy and makes energy from the food they eat and have stored better than the sedentary person because they have trained their body to do so. This is likely reflected in their health markers such as blood pressure and lipid profile.

Ways to increase movement or physical activity throughout the day include:

  • Take the stairs

  • Using a standing desk

  • Sit on a stability ball instead of an office chair

  • Take a walk after lunch

  • Walk while you meet with a co-worker

  • Stretch for 5 minutes a few times throughout the day

  • Get creative! Even fidgeting expends energy!

Nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods enhances these adaptations in addition to other physiological benefits. Whole, non-processed foods are the best sources of nutrients and your body and metabolism thrive on.

If you are struggling with your eating habits, set a goal for the rest of the week to have protein, fat, and vegetables for each meal. Here is a quick guide:

  • A serving of protein is 4oz of uncooked meat or palm of your hand.

  • A serving of fat is 1-2 tablespoons.

  • A serving of vegetables is approximately 1 cup or handful.

Men: 6-8oz of protein, 1-2 servings of fat, 1-2+ servings of vegetables

Women: 4-6oz protein, 1 servings of fat, 1-2 servings of vegetables

To summarize, simply moving more throughout the day can improve the way your body makes and uses energy from the food you eat. You also get better at using the fat and carbohydrates you have stored. Second, when it comes to nutrition. Think simple. Stick with non-processed foods and have protein, fat, and vegetables at every meal.