The Benefits of Movement for Virtual Practitioners

Truth be told, I barely leave my home office on the days I’m running my virtual practice. I’m embarrassed to admit that there are some days I don’t even step outside! The day seems to fly by much quicker when I work from home compared to when I go into an office, and I have fewer chances to get away from my desk. 

I thoroughly enjoy the convenience of working from my home office (my prayers to no longer sit in traffic have been answered!), but that convenience also has its drawbacks. The increased demand for health and wellness services during this pandemic has made already long days even longer for so many practitioners. And with more back-to-back client sessions and administrative tasks that need doing every day, practitioners are susceptible to leading more sedentary lifestyles. 

Research shows that sitting for long periods of time can have serious implications to your short and long-term health. And as we all continue to live more and more of our lives through virtual mediums, the long-term benefits of movement are becoming more clear. 

A meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015 pooled data from 47 studies, and found that people who sat for longer periods of time had higher rates of death from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In addition to driving the most common causes of death among the US population, a sedentary lifestyle also increases risk for long-term health conditions. 

How the Benefits of Movement Can Improve Work-From-Home

As hardworking practitioners and entrepreneurs, we spend so much of our energy taking care of others and building a successful practice. We become so caught up in those things that our attention is inadvertently pulled away from our own wellbeing

Of course, health and wellness is top of mind for us all, including the benefits of movement and exercise. But many of us, myself included, get so caught up in the rush of the day-to-day of answering emails, virtually visiting with clients, and writing notes that we neglect to take mental and physical breaks away from our desk. 

Move More. Sit Less.

Regular movement during the day improves your physical strength and stamina. It also promotes healthier bones, muscle and joint mobility, and balance. Especially as we age, exercise also helps us maintain a healthy body weight, as well as better overall bone and muscle health. 

In turn, that healthy weight helps to reduce body aches and pains, tightness, and risk for injury and falls. And just as a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of long-term health consequences, regular movement can help alleviate the risk of early death, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

Another benefit of movement and exercise is the impact they have on mental wellness as well as physical. It nurtures our emotional wellbeing by reducing levels of stress hormones—like adrenaline and cortisol—and increases the neurotransmitters that send happy signals to the brain. This can promote better moods and a sense of calm, which can ultimately reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression

Beyond our personal wellbeing, incorporating intentional and joyful movement into our lives can have a direct impact on the quality of care we provide. When we regularly move, it can improve our cognitive performance including our memory and attention span. A clear mind enables us to focus on the tasks at hand, improving our productivity and inspiring creativity in our day-to-day. 

5 Ways to Incorporate Movement Into Your Day

I could keep going on about the various other benefits of daily movement, but the most important takeaway is—whenever you can, stand up and move a little. Here are five ways you can get away from your desk and move your body. You’ll be one step closer (literally!) to a better self.

I. Brisk walks 
A quick lap around the block to get fresh air, sunshine, and vitamin D is a great way to get your body in motion. Set a timer for at least 10 minutes or longer, if you have the time between clients, to walk at a quick pace. Try to break a light sweat and get your heart rate up.

The good news is that multiple short bouts of exercise add up and render comparable health benefits as one long bout of exercise. Remember any amount of exercise is better than none. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) spread throughout the week. 

During moderate-intensity activity, you will breathe quicker but still be able to talk and hold a conversation. Moderate intensity exercise raises heart rate between 50-75% of your max heart rate. To calculate your max heart rate, subtract your age from 220. 

II. Downward-facing dog

Jamie demonstrate downward facing dog

  1. Place your hands and knees on the floor in an all-fours position, with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  2. Walk your hands slightly forward from your shoulders. Spread all your fingers wide apart and press your palms down into the floor. 
  3. Tuck your toes and on an exhale, draw your belly button in as you press into your hands to lift your hips up and back. Your body should be in an upside-down V shape. 
  4. Keep a slight bend in your knees as you reach your tailbone away from your hands to lengthen out your spine.
  5. Press into the base of your palms and wrap your triceps towards your face to slide your shoulder blades down the back and spread your collar bones wide apart.
  6. Relax your neck so all four sides lengthen and steady. Soften your eye gaze to one point of focus.
  7. Take five slow, even breaths.

III. Crescent high lunge pose

Jamie demonstrates crescent lunge

  1. From downward-facing dog, step one foot forward in between your hands. 
  2. Align your front knee over your ankle as you keep your back toes tucked.
  3. On an exhale, draw your belly in as you press into your front foot (more weight toward the heel) and the ball of the back foot
  4. On an inhale, lift your torso and arms up, palms facing each other. 
  5. While keeping your knee over your ankle, bend your back knee as you draw your belly button toward your spine and lengthen your tailbone down.
  6. Straighten your back leg by extending through your back heel. This will stretch your front hip, thigh, and foot.
  7. Alternate bending and straightening your back leg 5 times, moving with your breath.
  8. Lower your hands to the ground. Plant your palms down to step back to downward facing dog.
  9. Repeat with the other side.

IV. Wide-leg forward fold with C-grip

Jamie demonstrates wide leg forward with c grip

  1. Stand with your legs wide apart (approximately one leg-distance) with your feet parallel.
  2. Interlace your hands behind you and stretch your arms back to lift your chest. 
  3. Ground down through the outer edges of your feet and ball of your big toes so the arches of your feet lift. Engage your thighs so your kneecaps lift as well. 
  4. On an inhale, draw your belly button to your spine and lift your chest.
  5. On the exhale, fold forward with a flat back.
  6. As you are folded forward, shift more weight toward the fronts of your feet.
  7. Allow your inner thighs to slightly rotate behind you. If you feel any tension in the lower back, then bend your knees so your back flattens and you are folding from your hips.
  8. Release your head towards the ground, relaxing all four sides of your neck. Slowly turn to your head side to side.
  9. Keep interlacing your fingers to stretch your arm back or drop behind you if your shoulder allows. (You can also leave a soft bend in the elbows if that feels better to you.)
  10. Take slow, even breaths and stay in this fold for at least 30-60 seconds.

V. Reclined pigeon + twist 

Jamie demonstrates reclined pigeon

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, then reach your arms forward to grab behind your left thigh or your left shin.
  3. Gently draw your left thigh closer, while using your right elbow to press your right thigh away from you.
  4. Release your hands and lower your left foot to the ground. Continue to cross your right thigh over the left, then drop both your knees to the left for a spinal twist. 
  5. Relax both shoulders on the ground as you extend both arms out to the side and bend elbows (so you look like a goal post.)
  6. Gently turn your head to the right.
  7. Takes 5 slow, even breaths in this twist. 
  8. Repeat on the other side.

We’ve talked already about how one of the biggest benefits of movements like these is simply the effect they can have on your overall health. But they also allow you small moments of rest throughout the day—something that helping professionals especially need more of now than ever. Use these small moments during the day to nourish your mind as well as your body, so you can keep up the energy for the things you love to do—both during your sessions and after.  

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