I have always enjoyed work that involves physical movement.
One of my first jobs was painting houses with my uncle. Painting the ceilings was always notoriously challenging. We would hang upside down from the rafters, reaching up while bending backwards for hours at a time.
Regardless of how physical the job was, we always had plenty of energy left to go surfing, before and after work. Sometimes we slipped out during working hours, when the waves were good.
You could always paint at night; surfing not so much.
A few years later I got involved in filming for movie productions. This was high pressure work. Long hours on your feet. And people get really intense on set. Shouting matches were not uncommon. Every second that passes, big-dollars are spent and if you mess up, you're gonna get it. But despite all the pressure, life was cool, man.
I still got away on my off days. Road trips to find waves. Hiking to find snow in Africa. Happy days.
The problem with these "physically demanding" freelance jobs, was that they were unstable. I rarely had enough money to support my active lifestyle.
I decided that if I am going to build the “life I wanted” I needed some financial security. So I moved back to the city and got a "real job".
When I took my first job at a desk, all seemed good. A pay check on the same day every month and medical benefits. Whoo-hoo. Killing it.
It didn’t take long before I wasn’t feeling so great anymore.
I got sick often. (Thank goodness for those medical benefits because I was at the doctor all the time.) I felt a dark cloud looming over me.
Stagnation begets stagnation
This was the first job I ever had that was not physically demanding. I sat at a desk for 6 hours a day. It did not occupy as much time as my previous work. I had been used to 12 hour-physical days for less pay.
And yet somehow, with more time and more money in my pocket, I wasn't going on any adventures any more. I didn't surf. I didn't hike. I didn't skateboard.
I started smoking as something to do on my breaks. Drinking became a regular pass time. After work I would "chill out" a lot. I put on tons of weight. Doing exercise (like gym stuff) did not even cross my mind. It was not something I ever had to think about before.
For the first time in my life, I had fallen into depression and I didn’t exactly understand why.
I eventually blamed my job. I hated it. I knew I wanted to do something outdoors again. Out of desperation I summed up the energy to get a tourist guide licence for nature guiding. I sold everything of value (except my surf board which I hadn’t used in months) and after a year, I finally left the desk to work as a freelance hiking guide.
It was a ton of effort, but I made it out.
I was unfit. Had no transport. Lost my medical aid. Downgraded my apartment to a dingy hole and worst of all I didn’t have a clue where my next clients where going to come from.
I had more reason to be stressed, anxious and/or depressed than ever before, but I felt great.
Movement begets movement
Every time I came home from a tour guiding job, after I had been on my feet all day and paid peanuts, I felt energised. I wanted to do more. I wanted to go places again. If I couldn’t afford the bus, I would skateboard to where I needed to be.
I was broke again, but alive.
That desk job was terrible, but it gave me some much needed perspective. Through this experience, I came to appreciate that my depression wasn’t from the job at all. The desk job did not cause my misery, it just triggered an unfortunate stagnation period. I stopped moving the moment I started working there.
Because movement was built into my work and my hobbies, I was oblivious to its benefits. I had taken movement for granted in my life. Only after I had, by chance, reintroduced it into my daily routine again, did the shackles in my mind lift.
Movement is at the core of how I remain functional. I would have easily been absolutely fine at that desk job with a little bit of an exercise plan. But I was none the wiser at the time.
I'm glad it happened.
Today I find myself back at a computer most of the time. Building sales pages, editing videos, writing blogs, sending emails (and a bunch of other administrative tasks). These things occupy most of my working hours. But now that I know how important movement is, I will always strive to include it in my daily routine.
If I make sure to...
- get outside for a film shoot now and then
- keep doing stretches and pushups next to my desk everyday
- keep surfing, hiking and doing other physical activities I love
... I know I can conquer tomorrow! Movement is the ticket to a healthy body and mind. Without movement in my life, I lose my sanity.
Don't just take my word for it
Movement is scientifically good for you. Below is a list of research & links.
Also, for more practical advice on how to introduce movement into your life, go to ikario Podcast Episode 002:
How to Get Your Sh*t Together: Physical Health & Fitness
Or watch it on youtube: https://youtu.be/gfYaJ9TTqzE
List of Links & Sources:
If you are interested in more information, studies and research about the benefits of movement, please see the list of links below to back our claims.
Recommended Book: Spark by John J. Ratey
A groundbreaking and fascinating investigation into the transformative effects of exercise on the brain, from the bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD. Read Summary.
- Science Daily: Try exercise to improve memory and thinking, new guideline urges
- Berkley University: Movement and your Mind
- Harvard University: How simply moving benefits your mental health
- University of North Carolina: Movement & learning
- Pubmed Research - Exercise for depression
Conclusion: Not highly effective against depression
- Pubmed Research - Physical activity and the prevention of depression
Conclusion: Good for prevention of depression
- Blog by Dr. Ellie Cobb: Is Movement Beneficial for Your Mental Health?
- University of Colorado: The Six Benefits of Movement
- Helpguide.org: The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
- American Psychological association: The exercise effect
The sea squirt eats its own brain...
Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert starts from a surprising premise: the brain evolved, not to think or feel, but to control movement.
In this entertaining, data-rich talk he gives us a glimpse into how the brain creates the grace and agility of human motion.