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See Also Naturopathic Therapies
See Also Physical Medicine
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The body needs to move, either as a part of an active lifestyle or a structured exercise program. Movement is linked to every function and process in the body. Bernarr Macfadden (1868 - 1955) wikipedia reference was the founder of the physical culture movement in the early 1900s. He embraced diet, lifestyle and exercise. He was very influential in pioneering today's exercise industry.

Types Of Movement

External movement of the body is dependent on joints and muscles and requires activities that work them continuously. Every joint has an ideal range of motion which refers to the movement it has in any direction. Some joints, like the shoulder, can move in all directions - forward, backwards and to the side. Other joints, like the knee, have a hinge-type movement and move forward and back. Internal movement is dependent on the contraction of smooth muscles, blood pressure, breathing and external movement. To a large degree, the outward flexibility that a person possesses is a mirror of their inner flexibility both physiologically and psychologically. To ensure that the body can move freely and easily requires movement in every plane and in various intensities as part of everyday life.

  • Lateral movement is what is associated with bending and moving side-to-side.
  • North-south movement or cephalic-caudal movement is achieved by bouncing, rebounding and jumping.
  • Flexion and extension refers to increasing or decreasing the angle of a joint. For example when standing the knees are extended and when bending down to pick something up, the knees must flex decreasing the angle between the thigh and the calf.
  • Abduction and adduction refers to moving a body part towards or away from the midline. Lifting the arms to the side, away from the body, is a form of abduction and the opposite of that which brings the arm back towards the midline is a form of adduction.
  • Shaking movements are movements preformed by an individual that shake the body or a specific part of the body. Shaking helps to decrease stagnation in an area.
  • Vibrational movements refer to the use of vibration to stimulate left to right movement within the body. Vibrations are generated by a machine that one stands on to transmit vibrations throughout the body.
  • Passive movement refers to movement without any additional load or weight added to the body.
  • Resistance movement refers to the use of external force (like carrying a package or lifting weights) to increase muscular strength and bone density.
  • Aerobic movement refers to movement that increases heart rate, increases oxygen demand and intake, thereby conditioning the cardiovascular system. Aerobic movement can be accomplished with various activities including walking, running, biking, swimming, elliptical trainer, jumping, etc.


Movement is essential for every aspect of health. At a very basic level, human beings are simply energy in motion. It is difficult to separate the difference between moving and living. The more sedentary your life is, the more important it is to inentionally move.

  • Ensure ease of physical movement To a large degree, the movement of each specific aspect of the body is based on the philosophy of “use-it; or lose-it”. Any joint or muscle that is not used on a frequent bases will lose part of its function. If there is a lack of movement a person will typically experience movement that becomes more deliberate, difficult, stiffer, heavier, weaker or movement that is accompanied by pain and discomfort. Bottom-line, you need to continually move so that you maintain the ability to move.
  • Assist with internal movement The degree and type of external movement directly impacts cardiovascular function, muscle development, hormones and every other system of the body. Movement is required to pump lymph throughout the body and to aid in the return of blood from the extremities. The movement of blood, nutrients, oxygen and cellular energy is dependent on external movement.
  • Strength A person’s strength is based on the load that a muscle can hold or endure. Strength is developed and maintained by engaging muscles in activities that work the muscles and that train them to hold, carry or lift increasing amounts of weight.
  • “Get up and Go” The “get up and go” or “energy” that a person experiences on a daily basis is linked to their activity level. An active lifestyle or daily movement may be the tools needed to combat fatigue and restore energy levels. Sedentary individuals, who begin to engage in regular movement, have reported an increase in energy levels and a decrease in feelings of fatigue.
  • Sleep Movement promotes improved sleep quality by allowing for smoother and more regular transitions between the cycles and phases of sleep. Individuals who are active have fewer episodes of sleeplessness and fall asleep easier and sleep more soundly compared to sedentary individuals. Aerobic movement three times a week has been shown to increase the amount of time spent sleeping and decrease pre-sleep anxiety in individuals who suffer from sleeping difficulties.[1] Also, the change in body temperature promoted by exercise triggers areas in the brain that help to initiate sleep.[2] Yoga has also been shown to decrease anxiety thus promoting restful sleep if anxieties and a racing mind are associated with lack of sleep or poor sleep] quality.
  • Maintaining body weight Generally speaking, body weight is a balance between calories consumed versus calories burned, or expended. Movement and exercise increases caloric expenditure to balance the calories. Each individual has a basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories the body burns in a given day for basic physiological functioning. With resistance training there is an increase in lean tissue and muscle mass which causes an increase in BMR forcing the body to burn more calories at rest. This beneficial adaptation to weight training is essential for weight maintenance and also essential to combat the typical decrease in BMR following weight loss.[3]
  • Mood and stress reduction All types of activity, aerobic or anerobic contribute to improved mood and stress reduction. Endorphins, the body’s feel good neurotransmitters, are released during activity creating a natural feeling of well-being, decreasing feelings of stress. Movement is also a form of meditation in motion. When one engages in movement the mind is focused on the body leaving little time for thoughts of life’s stressful events. Movement has also been proven to decrease levels of depression, anxiety and improve self-esteem.[4] Yoga, or stretching movements, has been associated with a decrease in tension and anxiety.[5] Regular movement has also been shown to have an anti-depressive effect in patients with mild to moderate depression.[6]

Prevention of disease Internal and external movement in the body is essential to keep the body working optimally and prevent disease. Any disease, in any system can be decreased or prevented with regular movement.

  • Cardiovascular health The heart is responsible for pumping blood and oxygen to every organ and cell of the body. Engaging in activities or exercise that increases heart rate strengthens the heart and makes it more efficient.
  • Bone density Resistance training and weight bearing movement, such as jogging or walking stimulate bone formation and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Osteoblasts, the bone building cells, are stimulated when we engage in exercises and activities that put stress on our bones. This beneficial stress causes the bones to adapt and thus maintain or increase bone density. In order to prevent the age related changes in bone density, it is imperative to engage in regular movement that puts a beneficial stress on the bones. Vibration training has also been shown to be very effective in preventing and treating osteoporosis.
  • Digestion Although digestion is improved by regular movement, also while at rest, the body is in a parasympathetic state which allows the body to ‘rest and digest’. When beginning to move or exercise the body shifts to a sympathetic state allowing one to ‘fight or flight’. When the body shifts from a parasympathetic state to a sympathetic state blood flow is shunted away from the digestive organs to the exercising muscles. This shift in blood flow causes food in the digestive tract to move quicker and thus has a quicker transit time through the intestines. Less water is absorbed and food moves faster improving sluggish digestion in individuals who suffer from constipation. Daily movement is a key component to digestive health.
  • Immune function Movement can have a beneficial effect on immune function. Frequent tai chi has been shown to increase T-lymphocyte count in the body. Moderate intensity exercise has revealed beneficial effects on leukocyte or white blood cell concentration in the blood following exercise, as well as, an increase in neutrophil, a form of white blood cell that is often the body’s first response to an infection.[7] Lymphocyte levels also increased during exercise.

An increase in immune response with exercise seems to be limited by intensity and duration. Intense training can prove to hinder the immune system. Rigorous or prolonged training can induce immunodeficiencies in some athletes resulting in increased infections.[8]When it comes to exercise and the immune system, moderation is the key.


Lifestyle is by far the most important factor that determines the type, degree and frequency of movement that a person engages in. Historically, most jobs (hunting, farming, and construction work) required people to be active, to use their full range of motion and to engage in activities that required lifting and carrying. Today, many people lead sedentary lifestyles. With inventions and “industrial progress” most people can live their life without “lifting a finger” or “moving off their chair.”

Age Movement has proven to help reverse or delay some of the age related changes that happen to the body. In order to live a happy, healthy life into ones senior years’ daily movement needs to be incorporated into the routine. Unfortunately, play and active movement is often associated with the young. Yet, people of all ages need to move and be active.

Health Status One's health status can greatly impact the ability to move freely and the desire to want to move. Suffering ill health often puts a damper on energy levels and motivation to move. Exercise and movement is an important part of recovery, both physically and psychologically. Movement can greatly impact psychological well-being and can decrease pain. It is important to start slow and listen to the body when beginning any movement or exercise program. A person’s health status will often dictate the type of exercise, intensity and frequency that is ideal. Work with a trained professional to determine what is best for you.

Nutrition Proper nutrition is essential to the success of any movement or exercise program.

  • Water Adequate hydration before, during and after activity can help prevent muscle cramps, headaches, dizziness and dehydration.
  • Carbohydrates are the muscles direct source of energy. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles and when moving or exercising the muscles call on these stores to supply energy. Eating a balanced diet with carbohydrates before exercise can help supply the muscles with the energy that they need.
  • Fat When engaging in slow, low duration, aerobic movement the body and heart uses fat as its main energy source. It is important to eat the right kinds of fat to help decrease inflammation after exercise. Eating good quality omega 3 fats helps decrease inflammation which will in turn speed up the recovery process allowing one to return to activity sooner. Trans fats need to be avoided.
  • Protein are the muscles building blocks. Without an adequate protein supply in the diet the muscles cannot rebuild and regenerate. When engaged in exercise muscles break down slightly and need to be regenerated which require protein in the diet. Eating a balanced diet ensures adequate protein stores and supply.
  • Minerals are an essential part of recovery and clean-up from intense exercise aor activity. They also help the body to achieve

optimal PH balance. Clothes Wearing proper clothing while active is important to prevent injuries or discomfort.

  • Shoes Proper footwear is essential for pain-free movement. A good base of support provided by a good quality athletic shoe will promote good posture and beneficial joint alignments leading to less pain and discomfort.
  • Clothing Wearing proper fitting, comfortable clothing allows for free movement and prevents the clothing from getting in the way of your movement or exercise rhythm. Clothing that is too tight or uncomfortable hinders movement and does not allow for ease of exercise. Belts are also not recommended while exercising as they can impede breathing and movement.

Excuses There are a myriad of excuses that people make up to avoid activity. Some of the most common include:

  • Not enough time Most individuals will complain that there is not enough time in the day to exercise. By planning ahead and creating time for movement one can enjoy the health benefits associated with increased activity. Having increased energy following a regular exercise routine will undoubtedly help to create more time in the day to help one accomplish all their daily tasks including an exercise routine.
  • Weather Living in a climate with four seasons can provide a likely excuse to not move or exercise. Winters create a unique challenge to exercise as one now does not have the ability to simply put on some running shoes and go for a walk. In addition to cold weather, the lack of sunlight and shorter days enables one to excuse themself from their exercise routine. Purchasing a gym membership or performing exercises out of your home is a great way to continue to move and be active throughout the four seasons. Some of the local malls also allow for early morning mall walking which is an inexpensive and effective workout.
  • Don’t like exercise Some people just simply do not like to exercise. It is important to find activities that one enjoys in order to continue to be active throughout a lifetime.
  • Injuries an injury can serve as an excuse not to move. Although proper rest is very important following an acute injury, movement and regaining muscle strength through exercise will help heal the injury. Having a thorough assessment and exercise rehabilitation plan designed by a qualified health practitioner will help you return to activity in a timely manner.
  • Environment Living environment and accessibility to gyms and recreational activities can be an excuse. If one does not drive or does not have access to a transit system deliberate exercise can be more of a challenge. Finding activities one can perform in their home or activities that are easy to perform in their own environment can be the ticket needed to engage in daily activity.


Difficult movement or discomfort in movement With inactivity and lack of movement, the body follows the rule of “use it or lose it”. Lack of movement within a joint leads to stiffening and tightening of the surrounding musculature, tendons and ligaments. This leads to difficult movement or discomfort when moving. Engaging in regular movement can help to bring nutrients and keep flexibility within the surrounding connective tissues allowing one to move freely without pain.

Weight gain Generally speaking, maintaining a healthy body weight is a balance between the calories consumed versus calories burned. If one leads a sedentary lifestyle there are very little calories burned leading to a surplus in the body. This surplus of calories forces the body to store it as fat. Overtime, this leads to an increase in body weight. Ensuring a balance between good nutrition and exercise will help to maintain caloric balance allowing the body to maintain its optimal body weight.

Musculoskeletal injuries

  • Joint pain can be due to the inactivity itself, poor posture, injury or can be a consequence of carrying extra body weight. A sedentary lifestyle predisposes individuals to weight gain which will put more force through each joint. As each joint is designed to bear a certain amount of weight, any additional weight causes stress in the joint leading to pain. Joint pain can also be caused by inactivity. As inactivity does not allow the joints of the body to move through their physiological range, the surrounding connective tissue will tighten up leading to contractures and pain within the joint. It is important to engage in daily exercise to preserve and protect the joints of the body.
  • Arthritis or inflammation of the joints is a condition that can make movement or exercise very difficult. Arthritis is characterized by pain and degeneration within the joint capsule. Lack of movement does not allow the joints to move through their full range. When joints are moved through their physiological range there is internal movement that happens within the joint capsule. Nutrients are moved to the joints and waste products are moved out. If nutrients and protective cells are moved through the joint to nourish the area, there is less waste accumulation and less breakdown of the joint.
  • Osteoporosis is an imbalance between the osteoblast cell (bone building cells) and osteoclast cells (bone breakdown cells) activity. Lack of movement and exercise predisposes individuals, typically females, to osteoporosis. Weight bearing movements or exercise stimulate osteoblast cells to remodel and strengthen the bones. With inactivity the bones are not given the signal to remodel and rebuild leading to a decrease in bone density.

Cardiovascular Disease

Regular cardiovascular exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and helps to maintain a healthy weight, two factors which decrease the risk of developing hypertension.

  • Hyperlipidemia Physical inactivity and excess weight contribute to hyperlipidemia. Exercise helps to decrease cholesterol and triglycerides which decrease the risk of developing hyperlipidemia. Exercise can also help to increase HDL levels in the blood, the good cholesterol, and decrease levels of LDL the bad cholesterol.

Psychological Disorders

  • Depression Anxiety and depression are associated with unhealthy lifestyle in patients at risk of cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis , 339-344.</ref> Physical inactivity can contribute to feelings of depression; as well, depression can lead to inactivity. Regular exercise stimulates natural feel good chemicals within the brain which can help increase overall feelings of well-being.
  • Anxiety has been associated with physical inactivity. Movement leads to the release of endorphins within the brain which stimulate a natural feel good feeling and help to decrease stress and anxiety. Decreased anxiety is also related to the distraction hypothesis, which state that exercising creates a distraction in everyday life allowing a bit of a break from mental worry and anxiety.

Other Chronic Illness

  • Diabetes notably type II diabetes is a condition of insulin resistance and high blood glucose, or sugar. Poor diet paired with lack of movement or physical inactivity makes the cells in the body resistant to insulin. Insulin notifies the cells that blood sugar is high and sugar should be taken into the cells. With prolonged high blood sugar the cells no longer respond to insulin and the body is said to be insulin resistant, leaving blood sugar high. Physical activity has been shown to improve glucose control and insulin sensitivity.[11]
  • Tumors and cysts Lack of movement leads to less internal movement within the body. With less movement the fluids in the body are prone to stagnation. This stagnation and accumulation of fluids can lead to tumor and cyst development. Adequate movement promotes lymphatic movement throughout the body impeding the development of tumour and cysts.
  • Cancer Physical inactivity increases the risk of certain cancers such as colon cancer.[12] Exercise improves colon transit time and causing less exposure to toxic bowel waste, potentially preventing the development of cancer. Women who were active in their teenage years as well as after menopause have a decreased risk of developing breast cancer.[13]


On a yearly basis it is important to do a thorough assessment of the body’s movement. As restricted movements typically only appear when there is a significant lack of movement or it begins to impair normal functioning, a yearly checklist allows one to assess movement and take corrective strategies to help restore normal movement. There is a common misconception that movement should decrease with aging. This is definitely common in our society, but it is not normal. It is possible to enjoy great movement and range of motion of each joint well into one's senior years. See the checklist below to see if you are maintaining good movement. (See section on posture for assessment of strength and flexibility)

  • Is a lack of movement interfering with your daily life?
  • Has your routine changed to accommodate your new movement patterns?
  • Can you walk stairs with no discomfort?
  • Can you walk unaided and with ease?
  • Can you get down to the ground with ease?
  • Can you get up off the ground with ease?
  • Can you touch your toes?
  • Can you get out of a chair with no support?
  • Can you put your hands behind your back?
  • Can you touch the back of your head with both hands?
  • Can you bend your wrists up 90 degrees and down 90 degrees?
  • Can your hands reach over head?
  • Do you have full movement and dexterity in your hands and fingers?
  • Can you look up to the ceiling and down to the floor?
  • Can you look over your right and left shoulder?


Article The Influence of Quercetin on Exercise Performance and Muscle Mitochondria, 2010 May Natural Medicine [1]

Identify and address factors contributing to decreased or restricted movement. Ensure that your daily activities and/or your exercise include all types of movement.

General Rules of Thumb: Choose exercises that complement your lifestyle; don’t mirror it. For example, if you have a sedentary job, choose an aerobic type of exercise instead of just yoga. Increase your daily activity When it comes to exercise and movement it is true that every little bit helps. Here are a few tips to try to help increase the amount of exercise engaged in on a daily basis.

  • Park a little further away when going to work or out shopping.
  • Walk instead of drive to your destination instead of getting in your vehicle.
  • Take your bike. Not only is it great for your health but you can help save the environment in the process.
  • Take the stairs instead of taking the elevator or the escalator.
  • Gardening is a wonderful way to increase your daily activity and can provide you an opportunity to be outside in nature a few hours a week.
  • Getting off the bus, train or subway one stop earlier than your destination will allow you the opportunity to walk.
  • Planning weekend activities around hiking, biking, walking, swimming etc.

How Much Movement Is Essential? Determining the correct about of movement for each individual depends on several factors.

  1. Consider the amount of activity acquired throughout the day. Construction workers, for example, are far more active in a given day then someone who works a desk job, meaning that they will require less structured movement or exercise.
  2. Move as much in a day as needed to allow you to move freely. Listen to the body and maintain good movement and range of motion of each joint.
  3. As a general rule, 1 to 2 hours of concentrated movement or exercise is recommended for each adult and child throughout the day. #You want to ensure that your movement and exercise includes all types of movement.

Exercise Exercise is defined as “physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body. Exercise is utilized to improve health, maintain fitness and is important as a means of physical rehabilitation”.[14] There are several different types of exercises. Each provides the body with specific benefits. Cardiovascular training, resistance training and stretching are the three main variations of exercise.

  • Aerobic training or cardiovascular exercise, meaning “with oxygen”, is a form of endurance training that utilizes the oxygen metabolism system within the body. The goal of cardiovascular training is to increase heart rate, increase oxygen demand and intake, thereby conditioning the cardiovascular system. Various forms of cardiovascular training include: walking, running, biking, swimming, elliptical trainer, stair-master, cross country skiing etc.
  • Resistance Training or strength training is a repetitive form of exercise that utilizes body weight, weight training machines or resistance bands to add force to a movement preformed. This slow continuous movement puts stress of the muscles and bones and force a physiological adaptation to the musculoskeletal system, thereby increasing muscular strength and bone density.
  • Stretching and flexibility training is a form of physical activity that causes the muscles to lengthen to their fullest capacity. The goal of stretching is to promote elasticity within the muscles and maintain normal muscular tone. Yoga is a well known form of stretching exercise. Static, dynamic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) are other forms of stretching exercises that can be preformed. Static stretching: or passive stretching is a type of stretch that is preformed while the body is at rest. It requires holding a stationary position for 30 seconds to 2 minutes which allows the muscle time to relax and lengthen.
  • Dynamic stretching is stretching that is achieved through movement. Limbs are moved through their physiological range and held at end range for a maximum of 2 seconds. This dynamic process of controlled limb movements allows for relaxation of the surrounding musculature.
  • PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) is an advanced form of flexibility training. The muscle to be stretched is lengthened and held in tension for 20 to 30 seconds followed by active isometric (no change in muscle length) contraction of the muscle against resistance for 5 to 6 seconds. Following this contraction the muscle relaxes and is pushed through a controlled stretch allowing for greater stretching of the affected muscles. This cycle should be repeated 2 to 3 times for maximum efficacy.


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  3. Pizzorno, J. M. (2006). [[Textbook of Natural Medicine e-dition: Text with continually updated online reference, 2-volume set|Textbook of Natural Medicine (3rd edition ed.)]. St-Louis: Churchill Livingstone.
  4. Robert E. Rakel, M. (2007). Rakel: Textbook of Family Medicine, 7th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
  5. Firestein, G. B. (2008). Firestein: Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 8th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders company.
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  8. Fitzgerald, L. (2003). Exercise and the immune system. Immunology Today , 337-339.
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  10. Staffileno, B. M. (2007, March). Blood pressure responses to lifestyle physical activity among young, hypertension-prone African-American women. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing , 107-117.
  11. Kronenberg, H. (2008). Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. Philadelphia: Saunders, An Imprint of Elsevier.
  12. Giovannucci, E. A. (1995). Physical Activity, Obesity, and Risk for Colon Cancer and Adenoma in Men. Annals of Internal Medicine , 327-334.
  13. Suzuki R, I. M. (2010). Leisure-time physical activity and breast cancer risk by hormone receptor status: effective life periods and exercise intensity.
  14. Farlex. (2008). exercise. Retrieved July 19th, 2010, from The free dictionary: