If I ask how much you moved this week, I’m guessing that your mind will jump to - did you go to the gym, play sport, go for a run or do an exercise class like yoga & how often. But those activities, even for the most exercise-oriented among us, makes up a very small portion of all the hours in our week.
Perhaps you spent an hour every day dedicated to exercise – that’s 7 hours this week out of a total of 168 hours - approximately 4% of the hours in your week.
What movement are you doing with your body for the remainder of those hours? By separating out the idea of movement and exercise we can begin to look at how exercise really makes up only a small component of our daily movement. It's important to make this distinction as what we do the most of will have the biggest impact.
Movement encompasses everything that you do. The way you walk, sit, stand, bend, pick something up, reach, play sport, wriggle your toes, brush your hair and everything else. The accumulative effect of these movements, or lack of movements, has a huge effect on the way our bodies are then able to move. Our daily movement patterns are often not given much thought, but they matter. A lot.
So when asked – how much have you moved today? The question is much broader than have you exercised today. How many ways have you moved your body throughout the day in order to accomplish your daily tasks?
The thing is it’s easy to find our selves ‘outsourcing’ movement in order to get things done quicker and more efficiently. In today’s world a lot of modern conveniences have removed the need for movement in order to obtain something. We don't have to hunt and forage for food or walk far for water. Machines wash our clothes and our dishes, and usually if something is in an inconvenient spot we put it on a shelf so we don't have to bend and pick it up. Often our jobs require us to sit for prolonged periods or repetitively use the same action. Ergonomic support is substituted so our own bodies don't need to support themselves. What impact is this having on us?
Prolonged sedentary postures or repetitive movements will gradually begin to change the way your body functions and limit the range of motion available to your body. The way you walk will then be dependent on which movements – whether it is your feet, knees, chest or arms etc. – are being limited. When you return to a neutral position like standing you aren’t able to stand the same way and your posture will slowly change. The way we move, paradoxically, dictates our non moving body.
But it’s not only your muscles and joints that are affected by how we move. Every system in your body relies on movement in order to function well. For example your digestive system, immune system, nervous system, cardiovascular system and respiratory system – they all require movement of your body in order to function efficiently.
By changing the way we think and move throughout the day we can have a huge affect on the quality of our health.
So without quitting your day job what can you do to change the way you move?
First, start becoming aware of how little or how much you move through the day. Think of movement like a vocabulary - how big would your dictionary of movement be? Then, start to look where you are ‘outsourcing’ simple movements that don’t actually save time and start to incorporate these small movements back in. It's not just the amount but the variety of movement that matters. Make it a gradual process so your body has a chance to adapt.
Over the next few weeks we'll explore specific areas of the body, concepts of movement and the impact of this on our health and wellbeing.