What percentage of your day are you moving your body in diverse ways? If you’re anything like me, it’s a struggle to get a workout in once a day for an hour. And even if I do that, I am still only four percent more active than someone who doesn’t exercise at all. While that four percent absolutely makes a difference, what we do the other 23 hours of the day are much more important than the one hour of exercise.
We have engineered movement out of our lives. We don’t walk places anymore. We no longer harvest and prepare our own food. We no longer chew things that are tough anymore. Those with new cars don’t even have to turn their head to back up in vehicles because of the backup camera.
If you had the choice, do you think you would sit as much as you do? Would you walk as little as you do? Would you think of exercise as something that has to be scheduled?
Our bodies were designed to move in a variety of ways. If you really want to move more, you have to add diverse movements into every day.
1. Diversify sitting
We spend the majority of our waking hours in a seated position and most often it’s the exact same one: sitting in a chair. Katy Bowman, biomechanist and writer, says we’re overdosing on sitting in the same way we overdose on carbs and sugar.
Here are some ways to start changing how you sit:
- Consider how many hours you sit every day and compare that number to the number of hours you are awake.
- Standing more is an option, but don’t only stand in the same position for long periods of time.
- Create different areas to work in your living space so you sit or stand in different positions and for shorter amounts of time. The more diversity and awareness we can add to our resting positions, the more our body will be working throughout the day to hold ourselves up.
- Instead of sitting at your desk, try sitting on the floor – without something to lean against.
- When you are in a chair, sit on the edge so you have to hold your body upright.
- Use a stool.
- Sit on your shins.
- Whenever possible, move instead of sit. Listen to your books on tape while you go for a hike or prepare your dinner. Use a study group and share the reading load so you can move more and sit/read less.
2. Walk With Bare Feet
The soles of your feet have lots of nerve endings. Before people wore shoes, our feet passed along sensory information to the brain to help make decisions about how and where we walked. Shoes cut off the communication between our feet and the natural world. So…
- Walk around in bare feet when you can.
- Most of the flat perfect surfaces you walk on throughout the day aren’t available in the natural world.
- Consider buying a cobblestone mat for your home to stimulate the soles of your feet.
- When you walk barefoot, seek out diverse ground – walk on sand, woodchips, grass, rocks, dirt, etc.
3. Rethinking Exercise
The real difference between exercise and movement is that exercise is done purely for health benefits. The downside of exercise is the reliance on repetitive motions that can cause injuries and tension.
Natural movement is a similar physical process to exercise, but occurs throughout your day, not just in a gym. Your natural movements are also less predictable, engage more of your body and aren’t scheduled.
Here are some ways to increase the health benefits of your natural daily movements:
- Walk as much as possible. Better yet, go for a walk on an uneven surface.
- Don’t avoid cleaning up; view it as an opportunity to move your body in a variety of natural positions. Vacuum, wash the dishes, put things away on high shelves, squat down to pick something up and stand up again and repeat.
- Work in different areas if possible and get up from your desk at least once an hour. Spend an hour at the library. An hour in a stool at a coffee shop. An hour at your standing desk. An hour on the floor.
- Incorporate nature and fun into your movement. Climb trees, swim in lakes, balance on rocks, jump from one thing to another, dance, play games, swing, etc.
The more you can move throughout the day, the better. The more fun it is, the more often you’ll want to do it.
Often, incorporating more movement into your day requires multitasking with movement and your other responsibilities. Be sure to also do some movements each day with attention. Consider what messages your body is learning through the soles of your feet. Think about what smells you take in and what messages your body learns when the breeze touches your skin. Think about all the tiny movements in your feet and ankles when you walk across uneven surfaces. One of the easiest ways to do this is to leave your phone at home and take a walk through the woods, looking for interesting mini-adventures on the way. Balance on a log. Climb a tree. Look for animals. Jump from rock to rock. And do it all with awareness. You’ll be amazed what you gain from the experience.
To learn more about this philosophy of movement, check out articles and books by Katy Bowman.
This article was written by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator with Campus Health Service.