Health: We were made to move

To some, the idea of exercise brings to mind four-letter words, like pain and work.

But physical activity is not just for athletes and kids. It is essential to all of us.

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Healthy physical activity is one of the four foundations of self-care (a healthy lifestyle). The others are a healthy diet (what you put into your body), healthy relationships (how you relate) and emotional health (how you feel). The most important predictors (what you have control over) of your future health are the habits you practise today.

We were made to move. When we don’t our health suffers. When we do, we thrive.

The human body evolved to survive in times when food was scarce and life more physically demanding. Our genes are more suited to the prehistoric world. That’s why we crave fatty, high calorie foods and why we accumulate body fat

if we don’t keep moving.

If physical activity is a part of your everyday life then your life every day will be better. Daily physical activity can boost your mood and reduce anxiety. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, muscle strength and tone, coordination and comfort in your own body.

We need a certain level of fitness in order to do the essential activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing, meal preparation, housework and getting out of the house to do the things we want and need to do.

Fortunately, we have bodies and brains that are highly adaptable. With regular practice, physical activity becomes easier: we grow in strength, skill, speed and grace. We can acquire healthy new habits.

Though technology intends to improve the quality of our lives, it often degrades the quality of our health. Most of us would be much healthier if we walked or cycled instead of riding and driving. For many young people, thumbs get more exercise than legs. Even the couch potatoes of the ’60s got more physical activity than couch potatoes today. We now use remotes to avoid the few extra steps to change the channel.

If you’ve become less active because of the demands of everyday life or if you’ve just fallen into some bad habits, it’s not too late to change. Being more active can benefit you at any time in your life. It can make the difference between just getting by and feeling great.

I invite you to take the first steps on the path to better health.

May 9 to 15 is the Doctors of B.C.’s Walk With Your Doc week, and doctors throughout the province will be promoting physical activity in a variety of community events.

On Saturday, May 9, we’ll kick off the week with a free and fun 2 km walk at Kitsilano Beach Park at 9:30 a.m. As the event’s emcee, I’ll be there with many of my colleagues along with our patients.

Even if your doctor isn’t there, you’re welcome to attend. All members of the public are invited, but come early to get your free pedometer. For more information about this event, check online at bcma.org/walk-with-your-doc.

To celebrate the World Health Organization’s Move for Health Day on Sunday, May 10 (Mother’s Day), many cities are hosting a variety of fun physical activities. Check your local community centre.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His Healthwise column appears regularly in this paper. You can read more about achieving your positive potential in health at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.

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