Physical Activity and Movement Part 3

Once you understand the benefits of a daily movement habit, it will be hard to resist engaging in the process to create this new routine. The benefits are innumerable. In my book, Authentic Health, I talk about the fact that if I could bottle all of the benefits of physical activity and place it in a capsule, and then sell it as a prescription, that everybody would want it. I talk about how people would be willing to pay the price, no matter how much. Then I remind them that the great news is there is no price. It’s free for you. All you have to do is take advantage of it.

Once you understand the benefits of a daily movement habit, it will be hard to resist engaging in the process to create this new routine.

How Does Movement Help Me?

Because our bodies are designed for physical activity, we experience a lot of positive benefits when we use our bodies properly. Creating a habit of movement provides results like these:

  • Lowering blood pressure;
  • Lowering resting heart rate;
  • Reducing insulin resistance;
  • Improving blood sugar control for people with diabetes;
  • Providing a metabolic signal that can assist with maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight;
  • Reducing your risk of atherosclerosis and having future cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke;
  • Boosting the health of your metabolic systems, your cardiovascular system, and your mind;
  • Increasing blood flow to the brain;
  • Enhancing a sense of wellbeing, including positive emotions like joy, peace, and gratitude;
  • Activating neuroplasticity, the ability to create new pathways in your mind to enhance your experience of this world and create new habits;
  • Alleviating emotional stress responses by reducing fear, anxiety, worry, irritability, and other negative emotions;
  • Improving your ability to get to sleep and sleep deeply through the night;
  • Refining the conditioning of your muscles, the ability of your body to use energy properly when needed, the health of your connective tissues, and the density of your bones;
  • Reducing your risk of injuries and falls;
  • Helping your balance by improving proprioception and how your body sends input to your brain to understand where you are in space; and,
  • Enhancing cognitive functions, allowing you to think better.

Bicyclists and runner outside exercising together

You get the idea. There’s an incredible amount of benefits to physical activity, and it’s for a clear reason: our bodies were designed for it. Not getting physical activity is similar to not sleeping, breathing, hydrating, or eating. Now, it’s not quite the same, because obviously without breathing you’ll die very quickly, and without drinking water, you’ll die pretty quickly as well. But nonetheless, the absence of physical activity will slowly deteriorate your body and lead to earlier death.

Sounds Good, Right?

I imagine that everything that I’m describing is something you want. You may already be engaged in a very healthy foundation for physical activity. If so, that’s great. Keep doing it, and let this reinforce it. But if you’ve struggled with being regularly physically active, if you’ve had ideas about it that it’s painful, and hard, and tiring, we’re going to correct that. It’s going to give you energy and reduce your pain. You’re going to feel better. And you’re not going to have to make yourself hurt to do it.

Yes, it requires some action, some initiative, and occasionally feeling a little uncomfortable. But I promise you it will not be hard.

There’s an incredible amount of benefits to physical activity, and it’s for a clear reason: our bodies were designed for it.

How to Begin …Today!

Think about starting today. Today, use your body a little bit more. Pay attention to your body and how it’s feeling. Move your shoulders, your neck, your hips. Feel your toes and fingers. Pay attention to your body, your posture, your breathing. Take an opportunity to walk for a few minutes, or just stand a little more. Take the opportunity to squat, kneel, lunge, hang, push, pull, or walk up the stairs. Whatever it is you’re capable of doing.

Man standing on stairs smiling wearing vegan tshirt

Rather than looking at two trips up the steps as tiring and something to be avoided, look at it as your trip to the gym. This will work for you. Embrace this paradigm of physical activity. You’ll not regret it.

In the post ahead, we’ll begin to outline the holistic approach to a movement habit that provides good health.

 If you have questions about a personalized path to your wellbeing, contact us. You also can like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

Physical Activity and Movement Part 2

Before we get into the details of the movement program, I want to emphasize that this is meant to be fun. You have to drop your previous thoughts about exercise as work. This program cannot be something you ought to do, or should do, or have to do. If that’s the case, you’ll always have to apply significant willpower to get started. And we know from my other teachings that willpower can only take you so far.

Where Do I Start?

If you’re on a quest for your best health, then you have to start with a strong desire to experience your best health. Desire is the rocket fuel for reaching your goals. Desire is based on intrinsic inspiration. With that comes intrinsic motivation. You’ll not have to motivate yourself, it will just become what you do. It will feel natural and good. In fact, it will be hard not to follow this program once you make it your habit. It will become such an automated part of your daily behavior and habits that it will feel strange not to apply these principles.

When you’re taking the long view of movement, there is no rush.

This is supposed to feel good and be fun. You have the freedom to take it very slowly. We’re approaching this from the long view, not the short view. The short view is what feels good in a particular moment, and we often end up giving up our long-term goals to whatever will help us feel better in the moment. I’ve discussed this at length in my blogs. It’s why I’ve emphasized the role of mindset, habit formation, understanding your desires, and how to develop willpower so that it can assist you in hardwiring your new habits of health.

When you’re taking the long view of movement, there is no rush. You don’t have to drop 30 pounds in 6 weeks, flaunt six-pack abs, or complete a competition by a particular timeline. You’re just simply thinking about how to wake up each day a little healthier. You’re thinking about how 5 years from now, your body will be working well for you, and you’ll delight in what it can do for you.

The long view does not take heroic efforts. It simply takes a little daily focus. That’s the wonderful thing about this. I think you’ll appreciate the small, simple steps that you’ll be able to take that will reduce pain, improve function, give you energy, improve your sleep and mood, and help you experience your best health.

Visualize Your Movement

So Step 1 in this program is to do a little visualization. We’re going to stop and close our eyes, breathe easy, and just relax for a moment. I’ve provided other blogs that talk about the power of visualization and how it awakens our creative mind and integrates both hemispheres of our brain. When it’s combined with positive meditation and contemplation, it creates a powerful thinking and feeling state. The more we visualize what it is we wish to become, the more likely we will be to achieve that goal. It’s a simple principle that’s been proven over and over again. It does not take long.

The long view does not take heroic efforts. It simply takes a little daily focus.

You’re going to close your eyes and breathe, take a moment and just relax. While you do this, I want you to smile. Smiling will immediately make you feel better. Regardless of whatever limitations you have, think about how grateful you are to have this body and that you’re able to experience life through this body. Think about how it works for you, and how you want it to work for you. Think about how good it would feel, every day, to have this body be able to work to its highest potential for you, again, regardless of whatever limitations you have.

Woman with long hair reflecting while sitting and looking at waterfall.

Begin By…

While you do this, do a scan of your body. Feel your fingers. Move them. Feel the muscles and the tendons in your fingers work properly. Wiggle your toes. Bring your attention to your jaw, and relax it. Relax your neck. Feel your breathing, and the muscles of your chest and your diaphragm assisting you in your breathing. Feel your core muscles and how they hold your body up against gravity. Experience the feelings in your hips and legs as you gently pedal them back and forward. Take delight in this physical body.

In your mind…

Picture how good it feels to get up and use your body, how nice it feels to move it through space and to experience its function.

Think about how good it would feel to swim in cool water, or hike up a challenging slope to an incredible vista.

Reminisce about how good it feels to take a walk in nature, by yourself, with friends or family members, or with a beloved pet.

Recall how good it feels to experience the world through this body.

Now you’re going to imagine what it would be like to do this every day. What would it be like to use your body to improve your own health? What do you need to do to maximize the experience of enjoyment of your own body?

You’ll Need Awareness

It’s very important that you begin to get in touch with your body, feel your body, and understand your body. You have to have awareness of your own body, and awareness of what you desire for it, if you want to achieve your goals.

One of the foundational principles of daily movement habits is simply biomechanical awareness, or kinesthetic awareness.

It’s the sense of your body working rightly for you. It takes a heightened level of intentionality and awareness to notice this and begin to cultivate the movement patterns that help you to feel good. But you can do it. And as you do it, it takes less and less energy. Eventually, you won’t have to think about it at all. Your body will just function as it is meant to.

Doctor’s Conclusion

So I want you to think about how much fun this is, how relaxing it is, and how enjoyable it is. I want you to think about how maximizing the health of your biomechanical frame, and your mind, will give you the ability to experience life in the best way possible. You’ll get to go to the places and see the things that you desire. You will not be limited.

With this positive intention, we’ll move forward into some ideas about what it will take to optimize the health of your body through a physical activity habit.

Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Physical Activity and Authentic Health Part 1

This is my new series on the many benefits of physical movement. Our bodies and minds are designed for activity. Just think about how we’re made: muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, connective tissues, extremities. It’s clear that the physical use of our bodies is integral to the design of our body.

Use Your Body Properly

If you think of this from an ancestral standpoint, you’ll see that the human body adapted over millennia to engage in physical activities that promoted our survival. I’ve prescribed physical activity or exercise to my patients for the entire scope of my practice. Virtually everyone knows that they should exercise. The challenge is that it’s a form of work, that it can be fatiguing, that it can feel hard. For some, it also feels embarrassing. Many have bad memories from middle school or high school gym classes. A lot of people don’t enjoy being in gyms.

Being well-conditioned can be associated with good health, but it is not a definition of good health.

We tend to view the health aspect of physical activity as that of being exceptionally well-conditioned. Pop culture uses images of aesthetically pleasing physiques with six-pack abs performing incredible feats and training themselves in very intensive ways. Being well-conditioned can be associated with good health, but it is not a definition of good health. You don’t have to be exceptionally defined to be physically healthy; you just simply have to use your body properly.

People dancing

Why Adopt a Daily Movement Practice?

Throughout this series, we’ll describe what it means to adopt a daily movement practice that gives you back your best health. That’s the goal of this series. If your goal is to get your best time for an IronMan competition, or to win at the CrossFit Games, then this series isn’t going to be your primary source of information. There are many other professionals writing and producing excellent training programs for that level of fitness. This is about promoting and protecting your authentic health.

The pattern of activity I’m going to describe will feel refreshingly simple and liberating to many of you.

My suggestions are geared toward providing a way to your longest and healthiest lifespan, and enjoying how you feel in your own body. This is not going to be directly related to your weight, although it will help you maintain it. It also isn’t specifically related to how you look in your bathing suit, although you’ll certainly improve the odds of looking the way you want to by adopting these habits.

This is about feeling good every day and feeling good about yourself. The pattern of activity I’m going to describe will feel refreshingly simple and liberating to many of you. Even well-conditioned individuals I see in my practice who’ve exhausted themselves with intensive exercise have often felt liberated when I’ve explained this paradigm of physical activity to promote their best health. They feel like they finally have the freedom to just relax a little and take it easy, not to always push themselves to their edge.

Is This Movement Something I Can Do?

I occasionally will suggest that we push our limits. That is a part of maintaining good health. But it will not be nearly as often as you think it has to be, nor will you have to join a gym or buy exercise equipment to follow this program. This is done with just your body and whatever your environment allows for you.

People road biking on mountainside


I understand that many people have limitations based on prior injuries, or perhaps conditions they were born with. Not everybody has the freedom of movement that a completely healthy, and normally developed human body would have. Some are confined to wheelchairs, some have conditions or injuries that really restrict their ability to use their body to the fullness of its design. That does not matter. This is for everyone. Whatever your current context of physical health and capability, you can apply these principles to improve your health. It will still work for you.

This series is the truth of physical health. It is based on our body’s design and genetics. You can then take it as far as you want to go. If you want to become a high-performing endurance athlete, or a powerful gymnast, then by all means, go for it. But this program is for everyone to serve as a foundation for good physical health.

We focus on overall body movement with a few key principles about how to maximize your use of your body and the potential that’s integral to its design. Follow along with us. There is so much to learn!

If you’re interested in learning more about physical movement or a more personalized approach to healthcare, order the book Authentic Health, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram!

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 8

Your brain regulates your energy balance and your body weight over a span of time. How this is done is complex, but a major influencer of weight and energy balance is an area of your brain called the lipostat, located in the hypothalamus. This is a non-conscious regulator of body weight and energy balance. That means you do not consciously control how this part of your brain regulates your weight. You cannot just change the setting and get a response the way you do with your thermostat in your home.

Lipostat, Hormones, and Regulation

The job of this area is to make sure you maintain a stable energy balance, and stable weight, over time regardless of external circumstances. This area of the brain will allow you to use stored energy when necessary, and allow you to regain stored energy when circumstances allow this to occur. Generally speaking, your genetics determine this set point for your weight. But it can be changed over time.

When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms.

One of the influencers is the hormone leptin, which we discussed earlier. Leptin is released by your fat cells, and its job is to tell the brain how much energy we’ve just consumed, and how much excess energy we have stored up as fat. The more body fat we have, the more leptin will be in our blood.

The brain makes decisions based on leptin levels about:

  • Your hunger
  • Daily calorie intake
  • How much nutrients to absorb
  • How much energy to use and store

Then, it cycles back to regulate leptin production in a loop that will help keep your energy and body weight balanced over time. Your brain can increase energy expenditure by making you fidget and sweat. It can also decrease energy expenditure by lowering your metabolic rate. I talk about this in my book, Authentic Health.

When your metabolic rate is lowered in response to cues from your brain, you’ll tend to feel tired, grumpy, brain-foggy, and have a whole host of other symptoms. You think you have low thyroid, and in a way, you do. Your brain has downregulated thyroid function because it’s downregulating your metabolism to save energy. This is a situation we want to avoid. This is why we don’t recommend daily reduced calorie diets over a longer period of time.

Healthy salad with olive oil

Remember, when I say reduced calorie diet, I’m talking about for those who are eating appropriate calories. If you are consuming excess calories daily, you will need to reduce calorie intake to lose weight. I’m talking about eating in accordance with your energy demands. Long-term low-calorie diets will fail. Your body does not like this. It will regulate against it.

But right eating will restore healthy body weight over time in a natural way.

So if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin remain stable over time, then you’re going to be more easily satisfied during and between meals. You’ll be less hungry. You’ll naturally eat the proper amounts of food, and not eat again until an appropriate time interval. Also, your metabolic rate will stay high, and you’ll have good energy.

If stored energy and leptin drop over time, it’ll send a message to the area of the brain we discussed earlier that the body needs to start preventing starvation. The brain will use several strategies to do this.

It will make you hungry.

Like, really hungry.

Like you can’t control this level of hunger.

Willpower has nothing to do with it. It’s hormonal hunger.

Also, you’ll move around less. You’ll find yourself wanting to just sit around. You’ll think you’re lazy, but you’re not. In addition, your metabolic rate will slow down, as I just discussed.

Person balancing on rock in sunset

So you would think that if your stored energy, or fat, and leptin went up over time, you’d want to eat less. Well, that’s supposed to be true, but it doesn’t seem to always work that way. How much your leptin goes up when you eat will vary from person to person. How your brain responds to leptin also varies from person to person. Our physiologies vary a lot, as do our genetics. In some people, when the leptin rises, their brain will decrease their appetite, and it will increase their energy output. In others, it doesn’t seem to work the same way.

But for most people, most of the time, the leptin feedback loop works well to naturally regulate our energy expenditure and our consumption. Unless we disrupt it.

Doctor’s Conclusion

We’re going to discuss how we disrupt it in the next post. The point of this post was to give you a basic lesson in how your body is regulating its fat storage, and to let you know it’s not directly under your conscious control. Ultimately, your consistent habits over time will influence it, but today, you don’t get to choose. However, the choices you make today will make a difference a week from now, or a month from now. That’s good news.

As I emphasized, you do get to choose to choose. But you have to be willing to wake up and truly choose. Otherwise, your brain is going to continue to run the show, and as you’ll see in our next post, you will continue to struggle because the specific foods you choose to eat can actually change how the brain controls your eating behavior.

Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

Eating Behaviors and the Brain Part 5

How do we decide what we’re going to eat? There are two primary driving forces behind eating. 1) There is homeostatic eating, which is where we eat so we can get the energy and nutrients our body needs to maintain homeostasis or a normal internal environment. 2) Then, there is hedonic eating, which is where we eat for pleasure or to manage our emotional states.

Hormones and Eating

Almost all of our meals are a mix of both homeostatic and hedonic eating. There are many hormones that influence our appetite. One of them is known as ghrelin. It’s often called the hunger hormone. It will stimulate our appetite. It peaks before meals and falls to lower levels during and immediately after eating, as our body knows we’re now getting the energy and nutrients we need. But this is not the only hormone that influences our eating.

There’s also a hormone involved in satiety, or a feeling of satisfaction, called leptin. Leptin is secreted by our fat cells and helps regulate energy balance. What’s supposed to happen as we gain weight is that leptin levels will rise and tell an area of our brain that we should not eat as much, that we have adequately stored energy in our body. However, for many people, as they continue to gain weight, their leptin levels proceed to rise, but they continue to be very hungry. The brain stops listening to the leptin. This is thought to be due to leptin resistance and is one of the challenges of losing weight if you’ve had chronic obesity.

This is a hormonal issue, and not under your conscious control.

Doctor’s Conclusion

Your hunger and eating are shaped by many factors, including your genetics, social cues, learned behaviors, environmental factors, your circadian rhythms, hormones, stress and emotional states, getting enough sleep, and your physical activity. So you see, it’s very complicated. Science still does not have the secret to hunger and eating, although we’re getting closer. We don’t really understand everything that makes us start eating.

But we’ve learned a lot about what causes us to stop eating. There’s more on that in our next post in the series.

There is an uncomplicated and understandable truth about eating and health. We want to make it easy for you. Join us at Health Shepherds, follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Transforming Your Habits to Transform Your Health Part 17

Almost everyone has some self-control. It’s just a matter of where they’ve applied it. When the brain’s reward system is strongly activated, we lose self-control. That system is designed to override your self-control and keep you engaging in behaviors that enhance your chance of survival. Unfortunately, eating sugary cereals while watching television does not enhance your survival. It’s working against it.

We live in a time where most of the things triggering your reward system are actually harmful to you and lessen your lifespan and your health rather than improve it. We have to get this balance back by focusing on well-being. When you have well-being, willpower naturally comes more easily. So we’re going to focus on the activities that enhance focus and improve awareness and higher brain function, such as:

Willpower happens when you’re fully aware. Willpower happens when you’re able to make choices consistent with your highest desire. I want you to revisit the whole concept of desire and what you really want for yourself.

We live in a time where most of the things triggering your reward system are actually harmful to you and lessen your lifespan and your health rather than improve it.

Generally speaking, you’re choosing according to your desires. If your area of struggle involves food, then think about what’s happening when you experience the craving for food. Just pay attention to the feelings and observe them, and then begin to think about what you really want for yourself. You have to be aware in the moment to even make choices. Otherwise, it’s just too challenging.woman sitting writing in journal with awareness

So this week, we’re focusing on our awareness. We’re focusing on the experience of craving, the areas where we seem to lack willpower. But we’re also focusing on the areas where we do have willpower, the parts of our life where we’re always able to take care of things in a way that serves our best interests or the interests of our family.

Next week in the series we’ll dive even deeper into willpower, bringing you more insight into how you can apply it to your daily life.

Health Shepherds is on a mission to deliver personalized and compassionate healthcare. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Want to ask us a question? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us.

I just saw a patient this past week, and it made me think about the concept of sending our brain the right message for weight loss that I think is really important for you to grasp. The book, Authentic Health, describes this in a little more detail in the chapter on what it takes to keep a body healthy. I would encourage you to read that, and really think about what I communicate there, because it is the truth.

A Case Study

The gentleman I saw was middle aged, and he’s a little overweight, and he doesn’t feel as good as he’d like to. Again, it’s a really common scenario I’ve come across. He was in for a general checkup and we both agreed that losing a little weight would help him feel better. I asked him what plan he thought he may consider for this, and he said, “Well, I’m joining a gym.”

photo by Victor Freitas

Now I get this a lot. People like to join a gym. Gyms love this because they get a lot of memberships and oftentimes people don’t end up following through. If a gym is the best place for you to pursue exercise, then go for it. I’m all for that. I’m not here to discuss the ins and outs of the gym industry. My main issue is a consistency of movement for you.

My point is this: his answer to losing weight was to go to the gym.

I want to make it clear that I like the idea of him getting exercise. I have an entire chapter about the importance of physical activity and movement in my book. Strength training is a great message for the body. It strengthens:

  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Upregulates hormones
  • Improves metabolism
  • Lowers insulin resistance

It really is a great treatment for feeling good. I also think that regular aerobic or interval training, and mobility exercises are all really good for the body. Those are powerful messages that produce responses in your body that give you back physical and mental health. You feel good when you use your body. I’m a big fan of that.

Primary Weight Loss Tool

But that is not the primary way to lose weight. When we’re talking about losing weight, we’re talking about a change in our body composition. We’re talking about reducing the amount of fat stored on our body. If your amount of fat stored is actually at your genetic baseline, your basic genetic profile for your body composition, then losing that fat is going to be very challenging. It’s going to take ongoing maintenance. Unless it is a very specific goal for you to get as lean as you possibly can, I don’t recommend that for people who are at their healthy genetic weight.

In this case, this gentleman is 30 lbs heavier than he ought to be, and we both know it, and his laboratory data shows it. I do agree with his plan to lose weight. I just didn’t agree with his primary mechanism of doing so, which is to go to the gym. I agree with going to the gym, but that’s not going to produce weight loss for him. Yes, he will burn calories, and yes, that’s good. Of course, if you burn more calories than you take in in a given day for a period of time, your body will shed body weight.

photo by Anna Pelzer

However, we stress in our teaching how your body weight and body composition is regulated hormonally, and this is determined by a set point in a region of your brain. Ultimately, the primary messengers about this body fat are hormones. Hormones are messengers that respond to stimuli.

  • How you eat
  • How you move
  • How stressed you are
  • The levels of nutrients in your system

These things evoke a hormonal response. It’s all about what message you send your body so that your internal messages—meaning your hormones, and in your brain, your neurotransmitters—will produce the response you’re looking for. In this case, this gentleman wants to get leaner.

I had to point him back to his approach to nutrition. If he wants to lean out, it’ll come through how he approaches nutrition. The movement is great, but it’s a tiny part of the overall equation.

Nutrition is the primary message for weight loss.

Of course, that’s not what he wanted to do because that’s more challenging for him, as he himself stated. He really enjoys food, he enjoys his current pattern of eating, and he doesn’t really want to change that. It’s uncomfortable. Whereas going to the gym is an actual long-standing, positive habit for him. He falls out of it occasionally, but when he returns to it, he feels good, and it’s very familiar to him. It’s something that’s easy for him to do. He has the circuitry in his brain grooved for going to the gym on a consistent basis for a certain amount of time each year. There’s not much resistance to it, so it’s easy for him. It’s his default mindset.

photo by LUM3N

But changing his eating is a much harder thing. He does not have consistent circuitry in his brain that is grooved to help him achieve that. In the past, he has typically not had success. He could perhaps do a 30-day program, feel a little better, but then he reverts back to his normal eating habits. There are many reasons for this, and we discuss them in our various documents.

Ultimately, the challenge for him is to permanently alter his approach to food if he wants to lean out. I was able to give him that news and keep it positive, and tell him how slow he can go. He doesn’t need to lose 30 lbs in three months like he’d like to. He can lose this 30 lbs over the next year, and it won’t be that hard to do, and he will improve his health and how he feels. But it’s going to involve not just a temporary change in his nutrition, but a consistent change.

Your approach to eating is the primary driver of how your body regulates its stored energy: namely your fat.

What Is Your Approach to Eating?

If you’re trying to get strong, or build muscle, do strength training. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you need to change your eating behaviors. We have a lot of materials with different ways of accomplishing that, which can help you build a strategic mindset to increase your chances of success. In this case, this gentleman agreed the easiest thing for him was to not think about it, so he agreed to an intermittent fasting protocol that I developed for him. I suspect by following that program, we’re going to see him losing that 30 lbs over about 6 months.

If you want to get stronger, strength train. If you want to lose weight, change your nutrition. Send the right message to your brain, and you’ll get the right response in return.

If you need help with an individualized program, please contact our office, or come to our Facebook page and see how others are doing, or read some of our other materials. The main issue is, you are getting back the version of yourself that you are messaging to your brain. If you need to change that, you need to get the messages right.

Science has long proven the link between elevated mood and exercise. Physical exertion releases endorphins, which give the body and brain a natural high that can’t help but improve one’s overall mood and focus. Here are 6 simple mood-boosting exercises that don’t require a lot of time, space, or fancy equipment to accomplish.

mindfulness and brain cognitive function


All you need is some floor space, nonrestrictive clothing, and a little time. The combination of balance, stretching, and breathing increases oxygen to all parts of your body, including your brain. Studies have long shown yoga practitioners have reduced stress and anxiety levels and improved overall focus. Whether you’re trying to boost flexibility, lose weight, or calm frazzled nerves, yoga has many styles to practice to fit your needs.


Walking or Running

Taking a simple walk or jog around your neighborhood or at a nearby park is a great way to get the blood pumping. Cardiovascular movement increases the flow of oxygen and releases endorphins, often called “runner’s high,” which can elevate your mood for hours afterward. Proximity to nature adds the chance to absorb Vitamin D, another mood enhancer, and all that fresh air and beauty of the outdoors can make a simple trek a magnificent experience.


Not only does dancing not feel like exercise, with the variety of dancing styles, there’s no end to the amount of fun one can have. Taking a class with a partner or alone can provide a sense of accomplishment and learning, as well as getting a chance to socialize. Because dancing is also a form of self expression, it increases the connection between mind and body, fostering a sense of purpose and self confidence in just being yourself.

Tai Chi

A blend of martial arts and meditative moves, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that requires balance, muscle relaxation, mental concentration, and relaxed breathing. It doesn’t require a great deal of space to perform, and the increased strength, balance, and flexibility one achieves can be very empowering. Performing the moves can improve mindfulness and centering yourself in your body to show what it is capable of.


While this one does require a piece of equipment—a trampoline—bouncing around works the legs and core of a body in ways many other exercises don’t. It’s fun, can be done alone or with others, and it doesn’t take much before the laughter kicks in. There are even trampoline dodge ball games to be had at places like Sky Zone.

Meditating is important for your health. Learn the benefits of meditation.


Don’t underestimate the benefits of a good stretch, especially if you don’t have a lot of time for exercise. A simple hamstring stretch, runner’s pose, or touching your toes gets the blood flowing, relaxes your muscles, and increases oxygen. Find a wall, put your toes on the baseboard, and lean toward the wall with a slight bend to your knee for a great calf stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and put one ankle on the opposite knee, then twist to the side until the sole of the foot resting against your knee touches the floor. Leave your arms spread to the sides, and repeat for the other leg. You’ll feel the pull from your hamstrings to your shoulders, and all you need is a bit of floor space. Taking a few minutes to stretch each muscle group limbers your body, increases blood flow, deepens your breathing, and resets your mind so you can focus on the rest of your day.


Whatever your mood-boosting exercise of choice, even a few minutes a day of movement and breathing can help physically and mentally to soothe nerves and improve brain function. People who move more, regardless of how, achieve better sleep, cope better with stress, and overall have a more positive mood than those who don’t.

Combine these mood-boosting movement tips with our free 9-week nutrition program to help you lose weight, feel better inside and out, and change your mindset for long-term health.