Written by Founder and CEO, Sara Potler LaHayne
Move This World was founded on the basis that movement is essential to emotional wellbeing.
Our journey began in 2007, during my time at schools in Bogota, Colombia as a Fulbright Scholar. Students were learning about empathy and conflict resolution through textbooks, but the lessons weren’t sticking.
When I noticed students passionately rocking out to reggaeton music in the schoolyard, a light bulb lit up in my head. As a lifelong dancer, I channeled my creative energy and began teaching students these important social and emotional learning concepts through movements designed to connect our minds to our bodies.
Our bodies are made of water. They’re made to move. In motion, we are better able to focus, generate new ideas, and free whatever distractions or stressors are holding us back.
How do movement and exercise boost your mental and emotional wellbeing?
If I don’t move, I don’t feel energized. I can’t focus, and I can’t move our company forward. So I start my day by working out, as a daily reminder to prioritize what I need to be successful.
Though this connection is becoming more prevalent each day, the American Psychological Association (APA) has been reporting on the links between exercise and emotional health for years. Their cover story in December, 2011 titled “The exercise effect,” advocated for psychologists to recommend exercise to their patients more often.
Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University, spoke with the APA about the boost exercise gives our emotional health.
“The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” Otto said. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”
The endorphins released during my morning workout fuel my creativity and improve my ability to collaborate. I enter the office having shaken off stress, ready to focus on my morning tasks. Typically, I take on my most challenging projects first. By the time noon hits, I’ve already checked off major items on my personal and professional to-do lists, and use the energy of success to carry me through the afternoon.
How do you incorporate movement into your day?
Of course, I don’t stop moving during the day. In fact, we build in time to move in the office every day at 12:30 for a daily ritual we call Move This Day. Sometimes this involves stretching, yoga, meditation, or dancing, all designed to connect our minds with our bodies, as well as with one another.
Movement breaks can invoke sweat — like push ups, lunges, or jumping jacks — but can also be designed to have fun, laugh, build community, or exercise our brain by playing memory games. Try doing 20 jumping jacks with your co-workers while counting only even numbers out loud. You could do the same activity with the alphabet but only saying the letters of the first names of everyone participating.
It’s not always practical to come together as an office for such a routine, but there are still ways to build movement into your day. Walking meetings are one of my favorite examples, as they often produce a deeper conversation.
Conference calls present another opportunity. In addition to taking a walk, try stretching or getting down on the ground for a plank.
How do you fit exercise into your schedule?
It’s easy to start moving, but much harder to keep it going consistently. The suggestions above might not work for you, and that’s totally fine. It’s critical that you find what works best for you to make it as easy as possible to maintain consistency.
Timing can also be important for regularity. Does your job keep you up at all hours of the night or are you slammed during the lunch hour? Whatever your day looks like, don’t try to insert another layer onto your schedule when things are hectic. The new task of moving will quickly slide down your priority list and could eventually drop off entirely.
Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person? Ideally, you want to incorporate movement when it makes the most sense for you. However, you might also try it during the time of day when you’re not feeling all that great. It might just change your perspective as well as your emotional state. When that happens, you’ll be craving a workout at that time every day.
One of the best ways to maintain your movement routine is to find friends who will join you. Classes or communities that workout together form a bond that keeps people coming back. The more laughter involved in the activity, the more likely you are to keep going. While these activities can be challenging, they should ultimately bring you joy.
Of course, there are days when I wake up feeling tired, with a jam-packed schedule ahead. At moments like these it can be tempting for us to let our routines slide, but I know that starting my day with movement will bring me that sense of joy that I crave. My morning workout is part of my routine and, at this point, I’d be lost without it.