Can we reclaim our health through simple movements?
Beyond exercise- The importance of natural movement
In the previous post, we explored the idea that our modern lifestyle leads to insufficient movement — both in quantity and quality. To keep our bodies healthy, we must move frequently and in a variety of ways.
In our modern world, most of us get our movement through exercise. Indeed, exercise can nourish us with some of the movement we need. Yet it is essential to think more broadly about movement and health, and to consider these topics outside of the gym and yoga studio, or your habitual run and bike ride.
Exercise, while greatly valuable and even necessary for most people living in the modern world, does not provide us with the full quantity and variety of movement we need.
If we start to think about movement in a fuller sense, we can greatly expand our current beliefs, and see that there are many opportunities for health-giving movement throughout each day. We simply tend to miss them because we are habituated to using technology to outsource movement.
Reflect for some moments, and think about all the ways in which you outsource the movement of your upper body, for example. Do you use a cart to get your groceries from the store to the car? How often do you use a stroller or sling to carry your child? How do you grind your coffee — with a manual or electric device?
Because our lives barely require our upper body to work, most of us have very weak and tight shoulders. To test your shoulder mobility, try this:
- Raise both arms straight up and over your head, towards the ceiling.
- Notice your chest and ribs — Did they move up and forward?
- Notice your spine — Did it change shape and arch more?
- Repeat this exercise, but this time, do not allow your ribs to move or your spine to change shape.
When you move, what does your body tell you?
When most people do the exercise above, they unknowingly cheat. They arch their spine (make it more concave) and lift their chest and ribs, so that they can more easily raise their arms overhead. This allows people to bypass their shoulder tension. To truly mobilize the shoulders, you must keep your ribs down and prevent your spine from changing shape.
Movement tips — Move more. Move well.
If we want better health, it is essential to integrate fundamental, natural movements into our daily life, so that we are moving often and in diverse ways.
Here are some easy ways to do this:
- Walk somewhere instead of driving. Walking is the single most important movement for our biological health.
- Avoid escalators and elevators, and take the stairs. Imagine you are climbing a mountain!
- Squat at every opportunity. For example, squat to pick something up off the floor, instead of bending at your spine.
- Use your upper body as often as possible. Carry your bagged groceries instead of using a cart. Leave the sling or stroller at home, and carry your child. Hang from monkey bars or a tree branch.
- Get out of the chair and sit on the floor sometimes to restore lost mobility, especially through the hips. Sit on pillows and bolsters to make it comfortable.
Each day, we shape our bodies and health by choosing how to move. If we can expand our ideas about movement and allow for a larger context — movement as a principle of life, and as being all around and within us — we can surely find more, and perhaps even new and joyful ways, to move.
Move more. Move well.