With our society becoming more unhealthy as a whole each year, movement professionals find ourselves in a position to reframe the discussion around health, wellness, and movement.
We all understand the benefits of exercise for healthy aging, yet adhering to an exercise routine tends to be a completely different story. The most important conversation we have with new clients is discussing their physical activity history. This gives us a clear picture on how set our clients up for success in their health and wellness goals.
And one of the most common reasons we hear for not sticking to an exercise routine is lack of time or interest. The guilt and shame associated with not going to the gym creates a further aversion to exercise, becoming a vicious cycle.
But what if we told you there is a way to age well that doesn't involve traditional "exercise"? Sound too good to be true? We promise this is not only possible but also ideal for your health.
The solution is a movement-based lifestyle. In fact, those who follow this type of lifestyle tend to be even healthier than regular gym-goers.
What if we told you there was a way to incorporate more high-quality movement into your life without changing your daily routine? That you could work, spend time with your family, and even cook dinner all while getting healthier? This is what a movement-based lifestyle looks like.
By moving throughout the day as a regular habit, you eliminate the need for a whole separate "work out". Need further convincing? This movement-based lifestyle even sets a great example for those around you, especially your loved ones.
This concept was introduced by Katy Bowman in her ground-breaking book Move Your DNA (we highly recommend any of her books): we should start thinking about moving the same way we think about eating habits. And “movement” is not the same as “exercise”. This idea not only changed the way we practice at the clinic but also how we view our personal health and movement habits.
Take a closer look at exercise habits. Many might be proud to say they spend an hour per day at the gym and call themselves exercisers, but what are they doing the other 23 hours of the day? This meets the recommended amount of activity per day, but then what impact does being sedentary for a majority of the day have? How much do we think about our movement beyond the time at the gym?
To bring back the comparison to eating habits, we’re all aware that we can’t eat just one healthy meal per day while eating junk the rest of the day and expect to be healthy. We also know we can't supplement our way out of bad eating habits. There is no substitute for healthful eating. Our thoughts on movement should follow the same philosophy.
Exercise for whole-body movement can be equated to a multivitamin or supplement to replace a whole food diet. Exercise can't replace healthy movement distributed throughout our day and expect to be healthy. Humans were meant to move and move often, so you might find yourself asking what a day full of movement looks like.
Enter nutritious movement. Nutritious movement focuses on increasing both the quality and quantity of movement in your life for optimal health. For example, focusing on squatting throughout the day, sitting on the floor, and walking on a variety of surfaces in order to be better movers as opposed to better exercisers. In order to do this, most of us will need corrective exercise to strengthen specific muscles and find new mobility due to the movement habits we may have had most of our lives. Many of our muscles and joints have suffered a lack of use for years and are in need of attention.
The first step begins with corrective exercise to wake up parts of our body that likely have not been used for years, but the goal is to work away from these specific exercises over time. The key to this is to change how we move throughout our day to use these muscles and our newfound mobility on a regular basis.
For example, humans used to have no option other than to sit on the ground to rest but now we find couches and chairs in our sitting spaces. Furniture is robbing us of the chance to use our full knee and hip range of motion, which limits our mobility over time making it increasingly difficult to sit on the floor. So, we do corrective exercises to lengthen and strengthen specific muscle groups to help our knees move through a full range again. But then what if we continue to spend most of our day in a chair as opposed to floor sitting or standing? We would just continue to be dependent on these exercises, rather than sitting on the floor so we use that mobility on a regular basis.
Corrective exercises are simply the building blocks to living a healthy lifestyle. The point of doing exercises to strengthen specific muscles is not to just continue doing these exercises our entire lives. We need to ask ourselves why we are doing these exercises. The answer is to improve our movement patterns throughout the day so we can live our best life.
Incorporating squats, calf stretching, and reaching into daily chores to boost our movement throughout the day seems like much less of a mountain to climb than setting aside specified time for exercise. It’s long past time to change our thought process about movement and exercise to make a lasting impact on health. How might your day look different if you focused on “movement” rather than “exercise”?