Everywhere we look around us, we see advertising campaigns about the health benefits of moving and doing exercise. Colorful, visibly displayed, beautifully designed advertising banners about yoga, Pilates or tai chi classes, the next fitness center around the corner, even a walking retreat in the Swiss Alps attract everyone’s attention for a moment. It’s a fact: we are not a sedentary species by nature, on the contrary, we are a very active one. Moving our bodies daily and regularly is vital for our mental and physical health. Movement is one result of the constant energy flow that courses through our bodies as a biological norm of our existence. Movement affects everything, from circulation to digestion, to metabolism, to immunity. With movement, our bodies regulate hormone activity, stimulate the detoxification processes, and breathe. We are designed to move and have an active harmony of flow and balance with our environment.
What is movement?
Since ancient times we have been hunting, gathering, crawling, walking, running, climbing, swimming, lifting, and even dancing! These are all movements our human body is designed for because that is the only way we create awareness of our surroundings. With movement, we develop skills that allow us to explore, learn and discover life. Movement is not something temporary or something optional: movement is essential for our existence. To keep us alive, our body moves in different patterns, cycles and rhythms that we use as means to fulfill a task, collect food for our nourishment, move from place to place, build our shelters, and reproduce.
What is exercise?
A few decades ago, the exercise paradigm had a big impact on our perception of movement. Completing a work-out to achieve an external goal became the most accessible way to stay physically active, and to find time in our daily life to move. Classes and machines became the instruments to break our bad habits, stay in shape, and move our bodies. The concept of movement changed then from being something essential to something optional. The reason for that is that many kinds of exercise we do is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional, which we perform during a period of time that we have specifically arranged. It becomes part of our general movement (physical activity), which uses one or a few parts of the body, rather than exercising the body as a whole. This kind of exercise means repeating a low variety of movements, with consecutive and limited patterns, which have fairly few demands in terms of complexity and adaptability of movement. There are, however, certain activities that are much better suited to exercising the body as a whole, such as TRX and functional training.
What kind of movement does the human body need to stay healthy?
Humans are born to be able to move in different patterns, cycles, rhythms, and environments. We have the ability to sense and respond to movements that stimulate us in ways that promote our own ongoing movement. This movement is varied in great scale and degree, constantly changing and adapting to the demands of our environment. It is an ability that challenges the body as much as the mind as it cultivates attentiveness to our own movements. In other words, it is a rewarding combination of technical, physical and mental collaboration.
The key to developing this collaboration is to use the body and mind as a whole; to blend and combine as many movements and forms of pushing the body as possible, and to incorporate them into the whole.
Out of habit
We adapted to sitting down for long hours, because our jobs and means of transportation were designed that way. Anatomically speaking, a prolonged sitting position is neither comfortable nor a natural position for the body and exercising at one planned time a day, so we are able to “stay healthy”, is not a solution to counteract a 10-hour period of physical inactivity. Exercise is mainly used for aesthetic purposes – to burn fat and build muscular frames – or to supplement specialized sporting practices. We train the body to a certain extent, strengthening some specific tissues, but we leave others underdeveloped, which leads to unhealthy loads, deformation and injury. Both tendencies cannot adequately nourish us physically or mentally, and the results are general physical debilitation and a lack of skills and abilities when it comes to movement.
The key to stay moving and healthy is to mix different kinds of physical activities that we can do throughout the day. We need to learn to combine movements and explore and play with them so that when we feel that one movement has become difficult and has exhausted us, we can continue with another to allow the body to recover and to be able to perform as a whole entity. Therefore, while we are working, we can learn to change our sitting position regularly. We need to learn to stand up from our chairs from time to time to stretch, squat, or even work standing for a while. While we are in the gym, we need to incorporate exercises for the whole body in each routine. Thus we will carry out a complete training routine that is integrated and not isolated.
The amount of time we spend sitting is as important as how much time we spend moving. Those who spend more time sitting down versus being up and about are more likely to experience health problems. This is independent of exercise habits. Those who sit the most, have the most health issues, even if they exercise regularly.
We are capable of guiding ourselves to participate consciously in all actions and areas of our lives in ways that keep us moving. We can achieve these physical activity skills and abilities by pushing ourselves to the point of interaction between mind and body.
Daily task-oriented new habits
We are going to acknowledge throughout each day the opportunities we have to move in small and more frequent ways that add up to decreasing a sedentary lifestyle overall.
- Walk as much as you can.
- Stand at work rather than sit.
- While sitting, switch positions as often as you can.
- Hang from things when you can.
- Carry things from point A to B instead of pushing them.
- Walk as you talk (in meetings or when on the phone).
- Embrace floor life to move your body using its full range of movement.
- Practice stretching + breathing techniques.
- Get down on the ground a few times a day and then get back up using your own strength.
- Squat as you read a book or reply to emails.
- Foam roll while you watch TV or read.
- Walk or bike rather than drive whenever possible.
- Have a picnic on the dining room floor.
- Hike once in a while.
- Go trekking at least once a month to the nearest park or forest.
- Take your shoes off during work time and roll your feet on a tennis or lacrosse ball.