The Seven Mental Benefits of Moving More

(Photo: Stock image.)
A couple walks in the woods. (Stock image)

Many in the health and wellness profession have said that “motion is lotion” when it comes to improving the health of a sedentary person, someone who has joint injuries or suffers from poor overall health and just needs to move more and eat better.

Simple movement can be not only life-changing but life-saving. Most people think that movement and exercise only affect the muscles and joints of the body, but there is a long list of other positive benefits. Moving more will help you live a healthier life.

How Important Is Movement to Body Function and Healing?

We all have heard of the RICE acronym that explains the importance of rest, ice, compression and elevation. Many in the medical professions are beginning to use the term MICE, replacing rest with motion in some cases for healing injuries.

Obviously, fracture or traumatic injury is excluded from the group of injuries where movement is an option to promote quicker healing and blood flow to a particular region. According to Dr. Jennifer Robinson of British Columbia, even the MICE acronym needs some adjustment and has evolved to a new methodology altogether called MOVE:

Movement, not rest.

Options offer variations for cross training.

Vary rehabilitation with strength, balance and agility drills.

Ease back to activity early for emotional strength.

Here are the benefits of getting and staying in motion as much as you can, versus sitting more than four hours a day:

Movement Is Not Just for Muscles and Bones.

Muscles and bones will get stronger and more flexible, and the joints will be more mobile if you stretch and move. You also will have more stability, improved posture, coordination and better balance moving through life. These qualities also can help you with injury prevention and keep you from being too sedentary during injury recovery periods.

Your brain, heart, lungs and stomach are going to work better if you move more and avoid prolonged periods of sitting. Just walking every day for 15-20 minutes can help the big four by reducing or slowing cognitive decline, reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks, increase overall endurance and improve food digestion.

As I age, some of my favorite personal records (PRs) are now with my annual blood work, body weight and blood pressure scores. See your doctor for annual checkups just to make sure your movement and exercise routine is effective.

And yes, more movement will increase your desire to have sex.

Mental Benefits and Stress Relief

1. Mental health: Moving leads to the release of hormones that can make you feel better and counteract stress hormones, creating a positive emotional response and warding off anxiety and feelings of depression.

2. Discipline: Not everyone is 100% motivated to move. Everyday exercise can be a challenge, especially when it competes with comfortable early morning sleep, busy work schedules and other commitments. Those who build good habits early will find a way to make it work. Exercising even “when you do not feel like it” is a powerful boost to your work ethic and proves that your initial motivation has evolved into discipline.

3. Improve digestion and decrease inflammation: Developing your muscles produces anti-inflammatory cytokine, and regular exercise reduces fat and adipose tissue inflammation, a condition known to contribute to systemic inflammation.

4. Self-Esteem: When you exercise or even walk, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.

5. Reduce stress: Movement and exercise reduce the body's levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

6. Improved cognitive function: Think more clearly, remember things better and communicate effectively.

7. Improve sleep: Sleep is our number one recovery tool. Movement during the day (especially in morning sunlight) will help you sleep better at night.

Studies have found links between sedentary behavior and cancer. Sitting all day at work or sedentary behavior in general during work or leisure is associated with increased colorectal, endometrial, ovarian and prostate cancer risk and cancer mortality.

These deadly diseases start off with a metabolic syndrome warning years in advance. Metabolic syndrome results from the combination of a sedentary lifestyle and overeating. Sedentary leisure time of greater than four hours a day also is associated with higher odds of elevated waist circumference, a low level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol), high blood pressure and higher risk of elevated glucose numbers. All of these together make up the precursor metabolic syndrome.

More Important Sayings

Some have adopted the saying “sitting is the new smoking,” but a better one is “exercise is medicine.” Though it is hard to compare the two activities (sitting and smoking), there is no doubt that a sedentary lifestyle is a dangerous way to live.

Obviously, smoking creates a higher level of danger and causes a wide variety of cancers and lung diseases that will force sufferers into a sedentary lifestyle, compounding the harm of the contraindicated activities.

“Exercise is medicine” is a more useful quote. There is extraordinarily little disagreement in the scientific, fitness and wellness communities as to the efficacy of exercise.

Get moving and keep moving. Moving each day keeps the doctor away.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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