Why movement is the ultimate 'poly pill' that prevents and manages all kinds of chronic conditions and diseases

Everything you need to know about the why movement trumps all wellness trends.

Harper's Bazaar India

While wearable tech and optimised biohacking are buzzwords dominating the wellbeing and fitness worlds right now, momentum is growing for enhanced movement health, which takes physical activity—something in rapid decline—back to basics.

As more and more of us live sedentary and inactive lifestyle, research shows that around 34 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women are not active enough for good health—something that can lead to dementia, depression, obesity, some cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and premature death. 

“It is vital we raise awareness of movement health if we want to slow and reverse this trend,” wellness consultant Stephen Price tells us. Having founded Movementum—the first brand to focus entirely on movement health—alongside Hollywood trainer David Higgins, he’s on a mission to get us all moving more, and moving better.

“Improving our movement health doesn’t just improve our physiological health, but our emotional and psychological health too—which all have a significant impact on our overall quality of life and life expectancy,” he tells Bazaar.

What is movement heath, exactly?

Movement health refers to the power of movement in helping prevent and manage our health, both physical and mental, simply by becoming more active in our daily lives and reducing extended periods of immobility.

“Movement is what is commonly referred to as a ‘poly pill’,” Price notes, in that it is “a cheap and easy lifestyle strategy that can help prevent, as well as manage, many chronic diseases”.

What we should all know about movement health

The concept of movement health is very simple, and—unlike many topics in fitness—is inclusive and free to all. Consider these three points:

Movement health is for everyone, at any age or stage

Regardless of age, weight, physical capabilities, goals or desired outcomes, every single person has the potential to make progress with their movement health, Price feels. “It’s a unique, lifelong journey and about fulfilling your own personal potential. You don’t need to compare yourself against others—it’s your progress as a holistic person that matters.”

Movement health doesn’t have to be strenuous or serious

You don’t need to do a daily HIIT workout or embark on regular 10k runs to improve your movement health, he continues. “Keep it simple and most importantly, enjoyable. Go on a walk with a friend, do some gardening, stretching for five minutes in the morning—the most important thing is that you move on daily basis.” Note the emphasis on likeable activities; “this will increase your motivation to move and as a result help to create consistency and form healthy habits,” he explains. “Maintaining a consistent routine of regular low impact activity will provide so many benefits, from improved strength and mobility to supple joints, strong muscle tissue and a regulated nervous system—all helping to prep and prime your mind and body for a healthy, capable and energised lifestyle.”

Movement health feeds a virtuous cycle

Investment in movement can spark a holistic chain reaction. “By implementing enjoyable, realistic physical activity into our routines, we’ll be motivated to move more and as a result will build physical and mental competence and an overall feeling of capability,” Price says. “This feeling of capability boosts confidence and self-esteem, and by enhancing positive emotions such as these, we are more likely to explore new ways of acting or behaving and achieve our goals more effectively.”

Mistakes we can make with movement health

In his experience, Price sees three common mistakes people make when approaching movement health, whether they formally work out, or not.

“The most common mistake I see is a lack in consistency,” he notes. “Whether someone is sedentary, or very active, both can suffer from an inconsistent movement routine.” The UK Chief Medical Officers’ Guidelines recommend each week adults do the following:

- A minimum of 150 minutes moderate intensity activity, 75 minutes’ vigorous activity, or a mixture of both

- Strengthening activities on two days

- Reducing extended periods of sitting

Secondly, Price sees sedentary people trying to achieve too much too soon. “They set unrealistic goals and try to fit absolutely every type of movement into one day, which actually hinders their motivation to move consistently.” Often, people may skip a day—likely because motivation is waning—and try to make up for it by ‘over’ exercising the next day. “This inconsistency has a real impact not only on physical wellbeing but psychological wellbeing too,” he says, “decreasing the motivation and confidence required to stick to a consistent movement routine, which impacts mental and physical health”.

And thirdly, he says that people who are more active tend to lack consistency in that they will do nothing on their ‘rest’ days. “Recovery days do not mean rest without movement—it’s the opposite: it means doing the right type of movement to help them rest and recover in the most effective way in between heavier fitness days.” Even mild exercise or movement on rest days will help with a number of health benefits such as improved sleep, decreased muscle soreness, increased energy levels, better mood state and motivation, he adds.

Specific ways to enhance your movement health

For all baseline advice, NHS Choices has a range of information and support to help people get and keep fit, including Better Health which has lots of free tools. Public Health England also recommends using the apps Active 10, which helps you build brisk walking into your routine, and Couch to 5k to help beginners take up running. The charity Activity Alliance provides advice for disabled people to get active.

If you’re intending to invest, Price designed Movementum—a brand aimed at improving physical literacy through a unique ecosystem of studio classes, spa treatments and premium products, all available at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London – to empower anyone and everyone to move freely and confidently on a consistent basis.

In India, earlier last year, Spry, India’s first movement health start-up, launched a self-assessment portal for Indians. The AI-based tool provides users with a comprehensive assessment of their mobility and flexibility, along with an indicative set of strength and endurance levels, by means of a scorecard. It also suggests follow-up action. Whatever works for you, counts.

This piece originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar UK