Made to Move

Editor’s note: This is the story of 53-year-old Marcia Gouveia’s recovery from chronic depression and anxiety.

“The first wealth is health” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the age of forty-eight, my mother was diagnosed with Chronic Anxiety and Depression. Unfortunately, it is the fate of many of us today living in such a fast-paced, high standards world; where we have to be informed about everything and at the same time be the most productive, with little space for rest and care. She started losing zest for life and became negative about herself and others around her. Everything seemed too difficult and the lack of joy was dimming any light that came her way.

Like many of us, she had heard all about the secrets of longevity, and how people living in the Blue Zones, like the Okinawans, were able to live healthy and happy past 100 years of age, and the residents of Loma Linda and Sardinia who were also famous long-lived people due to their lifestyle.

She also understood the perspective of whole-person health and all the scientific evidence about lifestyle impacts
on health. She lived in a green and rich area, her faith in God was strong and she practised her spirituality daily, she had been vegetarian with a balanced diet with mostly home-made meals rich in fibres and plenty of water, but looking closely at the secrets to an abundant life, the physical activity component was almost inexistent.

At first, she didn’t want to admit it. After all, she was running errands and working all day long, never having time for anything else. Wasn’t this enough? Well… it turned out that when she looked closer to understand
what physical activity really was all about, and how it was a key component of a balanced lifestyle, a whole new worldview shaped in her mind and meaningful solutions started to arise.

Dr Longo’s newest book, The Longevity Diet talks about how exercise is a vital component for longevity because our muscles need to keep active. Muscles can only grow and keep strong when challenged. People living
in Costa Rica for example, are very physically active all their working lives, walking over one hour per day, climbing
stairs and always in motion as part of their lifestyle. But how would sedentary and people working indoors
find time and motivation for physical exercise?

My mother’s solution was simple, but it required willpower and a community supporting her choice to take the first steps. After learning about an 80-year-old marathon runner who began running in her sixties, she felt empowered to try it. She had never run before, not even an intentional walk.

But as she began, step by step – only a few minutes the first day – she progressed little by little and within a few weeks, she was running 30 minutes without stopping and producing lots of happy hormones. She started training
for a 5km race and has never stopped running since. It became her best medicine for anxiety and depression. As Anthony Robbins put it, “Emotion is created by motion”. Whatever you’re feeling right now is related to
how you’re using your body.

My mother is now fifty-three years old, and she has won countless races, started 3 running clubs – including
one in Newcastle – and she is now a happier person and inspiring others around her to do the same. Anytime she
feels anxious, she knows what to do and it always works. It’s true that running is not for everyone. Some would
say that cycling is the best exercise for longevity because it puts less stress on the joints. However, studies have shown that running is actually not associated with osteoarthritis in healthy adults. Swimming is another great low impact exercise… and the list goes on.

In his latest amazing book, “Live More Happy”, Dr Darren Morton reminds us that “motion creates emotion” and it gives us a chance to control the kind of emotions we want to produce. He shares a basic principle that can be the key for us to create positive emotions: “Act how you want to feel”.

So let’s get started, even if it’s only 10 minutes each day. Stand up straight, take a deep breath, take your first steps, go for an active walk, then maybe a jog. But whatever it is you decide to do, keep moving and enjoy the journey.

Author: Camila Skaf – Co-founder & Executive Director of Seeds Newcastle

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