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Move Your Body!

Move Your Body!

If you don’t have time for exercise, make sure you make time for illness.

– sign in my doctor’s office

We do know, from our own experience and from decades of scientific research, if we don’t move our bodies regularly, we get stiff and sore in our joints and lose strength and range of motion in our muscles.

You may also know, from your own experience and from recent scientific research, if we don’t move our bodies every 60-90 minutes, the brain goes into mental fog and fatigue. We can’t think as quickly or as clearly.

Getting more exercise is a common – and popular – intention for many of us in the new year.  “Sitting is the new smoking” is the new catch-phrase. We’re all probably doing more sitting at our computers and texting from our phones than we used to.

Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist at Stanford University, has just published her wonderful new book The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, illustrating through inspiring stories and solid research how movement is integral to our happiness and to our humanity.

[See inspiring excerpt below]

I will be teaching “What’s good for the body is good for the brain” and how “Exercise Makes the Brain Smarter” at my Caring for the Brain: The Neuroscience of Well-Being workshop at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, D.C. March 19, 2020. Truly, for our brains and bodies both, we “use it or lose it.”

[Read the Joy of Movement excerpt below…]

Nora Haefele of Stowe, Pennsylvania, didn’t start racing until her mid-fifties.  Haefele, a tax accountant, first started walking on a treadmill at work, but quickly realized that exercising indoors wasn’t for her.  She began looking for something that would get her farther from her cubicle and discovered volkssporting, German for “the people’s sports.” Volkssporting takes a non-competitive approach to outdoor walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, and cross-country skiing. You can show up at any event within the start-to-finish window, participate at your own pace, and take in the scenery and the company. 

Haefele started participating in the 10K walks throughout the United States, enjoying both the travel and the people she met. To challenge her fitness more, she registered for her first timed race, a 5K walk. “when I signed up, I was terrified,” she remembers. “I thought, it’s going to be six-foot-tall twenty-year-olds, and they’re going to look at me and say, ‘What is that fat old woman doing here?’”  To her relief, it wasn’t like that at all.  She felt welcomed, finished the face, and realized, I can do this.

Haefele isn’t fast.  “Typically in a race, the gun goes off, and I’m alone within five minutes, and I’m alone until the end of the race,” she says.  She often crosses the finish line last, but she’s found that more people cheer even harder for runners at the end of the pack.  “I don’t mind finishing last so someone else doesn’t have to.”  She takes particular pride in persevering. At one half marathon in Harrisburg, it was raining so hard that the puddles were ankle deep and drivers were forced off the road.  Haefele was the final runner to reach the finish line, but she earned first in her age group because everyone else in her category had backed out.

With more training under her belt, she signed up to walk a half marathon in Birmingham, Alabama, just “to see what it felt like.”  She was surprised to find that she enjoyed that, too, and decided to try running.  “There have been times when I’ve been out there at mile ten, thinking, Why did I think this is fun? This is horrible.  Other times I’m on cloud nine.  I feel strong. I feel powerful.  I’m accomplishing something. When I approach the finish line, I feel great.”  After Haefele passed the milestone of her seventy-fifth half marathon, she decided to aim for a hundred.  “My races are a source of joy. At sixty-one, I feel privileged to feel that way.”

When I asked Haefele if the races reminded her of anything, she instantly said, “Church.  It’s my way of celebrating the world.  We’re all out there celebrating, and sort of worshiping what’s been given to us, and we’re all grateful.  It reminds me of a church service.”  After a pause, she added,

“It’s also like going to a rave.  After a race, I’m in love with everybody, and sometimes it lasts the whole day.  The person who’s selling me a coffee at the convenience story on the way home, I’m like, ‘I love that guy.”  I’ve never done ecstasy, but that’s how I image in its: All’s well with the world, everybody’s wonderful. If all you have to do is run thirteen miles to get that, it’s so worth it.”

Haefele is a recovering alcoholic, and she hasn’t had a drink since 1988.  “this is now my drug of choice,” she told me. “It fills the same need, but it does it in such a good way.”

Respectfully excerpted from The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage by Kelly McGonigal, PhD. NY: Avery, 2019.

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