How much time do you spend thinking about how you move throughout the day? If you're not getting the health results you want as you age, your movement is likely a huge factor!
Movement really comes down to a matter of convenience. Today, moving more to accomplish daily tasks is viewed as an inconvenience.
We now have access to devices serving the sole purpose of making our lives easier, from electronic kitchen appliances, to phones, to vehicles. These devices externalize the work of our muscles, effectively outsourcing the work of our body. And we tend to rely more and more on these devices as we age.
“Upgrading” our products results in doing less work throughout the day. This is promoted by advertisers as a sign of status, progress, and luxury. A device that results in less work is the ultimate end goal and this message is thrown at us from every direction.
However, these "conveniences" come with a major downside...
Humans were intended to move. Our movement impacts not only our physical health, but our mental health and overall wellbeing as well.
The focus of our clinic is to facilitate healthy aging through movement. Over the years, we have noticed a common theme among medically compromised individuals who depend on the management of their conditions through the healthcare system. Their mindset shifted and they view as "inconvenient" rather than a necessary part of a full and healthy life. We are now left to help people reverse this mindset as it contributes to declining health over time.
Further complicating the issue, over the last 30 years or so we continue to interchange the terms “movement” and “exercise”. However, these are not interchangeable. Many of us feel we need to go to the gym to get an hour of exercise in, only to spend the rest of our day avoiding movement with daily activities.
Through the modern construct of “exercise”, mindfulness has left movement as individuals depend on external factors to determine their success with movement programs (such as weight loss, PR times, etc.) Instead, we can keep it simple (though simple is not always easy) and start to build more movement into our daily lives by trading out perceived conveniences for inconveniences. Over time, this slowly eliminates the need for separate “exercise”. This may seem counterintuitive but contributes to health in the long run.
We guide our clients to getting back to a better quality of life by helping them initiate a regular movement practice. Developing an understanding of the guiding principles of a movement practice will get you started on the right foot.
Movement is a physiological requirement for humans like food and water. Similar to food, our movement should be of high quality and offer a variety of “movement nutrients”. However, modern life and our environment often result in repeated movement patterns and a lack of variation in our movement. We now tend to look at movement as something we need to get out of the way or block off time for rather than something done all throughout the day.
Everybody needs to move in some way every day. Just as our diet must consist of a variety of vitamins and minerals for us to stay healthy, our movement needs variety as well. Repeating the same movement patterns day in and day out can starve certain cells of our bodies and lead to muscle imbalances over time. Underutilizing muscles creates immobility in certain parts of the body.
Movement science focuses on the importance of daily “exercise” and what defines the best type of exercise. However, somewhere along the way we've forgotten that “movement” is not the same as “exercise”. Exercise was created in response to the negative consequences of our modern environment on the human body. As modern conveniences continue to make our lives easier, our bodies suffer from the effects of convenience leading to ever-increasing rates of diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. A new field of exercise science was created to undo these effects and the byproduct was an emphasis on daily exercise.
However, exercise does not exist in a vacuum. The daily recommended MINIMUM of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day doesn't “undo” the effects of being sedentary for the other 23.5 hours of the day. The purpose of using exercise should be to work toward incorporating new mobility and strength into larger natural movements that are used regularly throughout the day. For example, the calves of modern humans have become tight from the shoes we wear, excessive time spent sitting in chairs, and lack of uphill walking. The implications of tight calves include balance issues, changes in walking patterns, and inability to squat. Therefore, we teach the calf stretch in order to restore ankle mobility, which leads to better squatting. Squatting regularly uses a range of ankle mobility that resulted from calf stretching... so squatting throughout the day would eliminate the need for calf stretching.
At this point, you might find yourself wondering why should you care about squatting. Later in life,q squatting becomes a life-saving skill and may be the determining factor in your ability to get on and off the floor after a fall.
The conversation of movement science has become very polarizing and definitions of “movement” have become more narrow. This makes our society feel as though we are separated into “exercisers” or “non-exercisers” rather than all people being considered “movers”. All of our movement differs, some of us use movement as a means to get around our homes and communities while others are competing in the highest levels of the CrossFit Games. The commonality, however, is that movement is essential to all of these individuals.
Movement matters for everyone from those competing in the Olympics to the most medically compromised individuals. Whether your goal is to be able to safely walk to and from your bathroom, or deadlift hundreds of pounds your movement matters.
With all of that being said, some movement is always better than no movement. However, not all movement is created equal. The human body functions best if we walk 3–5 miles throughout the day. Our circulation, immunity, and strength of our bones depend on the function of our muscles for beneficial activities like walking. Riding a bike is not the same experience as walking for your body. Riding a bike, however, is objectively better for your body than spending that time on a couch. By a similar token, walking on a treadmill is not the same as walking overground. Recognizing that not all movement is the same is an essential component of being a better mover.
Movement is complicated, and yet such a simple concept. There are more nuances to movement sciences than most of us realize. It is not as easy as defining movement or exercise as “good” or “bad”. It all depends on your goals. If your goal is to win the Tour de France, then practice by riding a bike. If your goal is to improve the bone density of your hips, walking overground in a different alignment is the best choice. Learning how to work toward your goals depends on having a basic understanding of movement or “physical literacy”.
Now that you understand the basics of movement you can start to build your own movement practice. Understanding that your body adapts to how you move is the first step. From there, you can start to make observations of your own movement to learn where you need to make changes. How can you get moving today?