Movement does not have to be viewed as yet another accomplishment and worn as a badge of honour. It is simply something that we evolved to do as human beings to meet our need for food, shelter and play.
Exercise - movement's younger, trendier incarnation - is a term I have deliberately avoided using for reasons I will expand on in subsequent articles. For now, suffice to say that most forms use a lot less of our bodies than we think and, therefore, cannot possibly provide the vim and vigour required to meet life's challenges well into old age.
I recommend a slow, gentle start with easily achievable goals that you can build on over a period of time. I love Katy Bowman's concept of stacking one's life to accommodate natural and varied movement on your own or as a group and/or family. For example:
- Pepper your day with varied movement breaks. Even the most dedicated gym goer is prone to prolonged periods of adopting the same position (be that standing or sitting) and/or repetitive movement. A two-hour workout is no use if the rest of the waking day is spent driving to work, sitting at a desk all day before driving home to "relax" by sitting on the sofa to watch television, for example. Aim for a 5-minute standing break every hour, stack it by adding some stretches and vary what you do each time. You might get some strange looks at work but it will be a small price to pay when you find that you become more energised, productive and supple over time as a result.
- Hang. Trees, door frames and climbing frames in parks are free and offer opportunities to improve your grip strength, the loss of which is unprecedented in our modern age. If you are new to this you can address your technique here.
- Walk as often as you can. This is not meant to be a sweat-inducing power walk. A leisurely 5-minute stroll around your own garden taken periodically throughout the day is absolutely fine to begin with. You can eventually progress to walks in the woods with your children or run errands on foot in your local area. Try to do this in progressively thinner-soled shoes until your feet feel strong enough for barefoot ones. Barefoot shoes have ultra-thin soles and, therefore, enable your feet to feel the terrain they are walking on. This sends sensory feedback to your brain which helps it to advise your body on appropriate adjustments to your gait, greatly minimising the risk of injury.
- Pick up and carry heavy things - or people. Walking to the shops with nothing but some bags means that you will have to use extra effort to bring your purchases home - especially if you are shopping for the week. You can choose to go with your children, friends or partner if you want to start with a lighter load to begin with and share out the rest. You could also take/pick up parcels to/from the Post Office on foot, depending on how big/heavy they are and what you feel you can manage over a certain distance. Walks with little ones often present opportunities to give them piggy back rides when they get tired.
- Do as much of your own housework - and gardening - as possible. Try this with your favourite music on and get your children involved.
What is your favourite way to weave more natural movement into your days?