Movement is a fundamental part of living. Our bodies are designed to move: to run, jump, lift, and throw (and generally be goofy if you so choose).
Not only are our bodies masterfully constructed machines capable of these amazing feats, moving is actually good for us. The health benefits of movement (often referred to as “exercise” these days) are numerous.
Unfortunately, in today’s society, the movement potential of our bodies often goes to waste.
Its sad to see. Looking at other animals (made of tissue, muscle, and bone – just like us), you can see the beauty that comes with truly graceful movement and usage of the body. A wildcat chasing down prey or a hawk flying gracefully through the air are using their bodies to their potential. The same can be said of watching some elite athletes practicing their craft. They have honed their ability to move to such incredible lengths that they can accomplish truly amazing things.
Even a human baby, unencumbered by years of sitting, shows some of the greatest and purest forms of movement imaginable.
One of the greatest impressions made on me during my anatomy lab experience in medical school was the realization of how the human body in its design gracefully mixes efficiency with function into a physical machine. It is at the same time truly beautiful and amazingly complex. There is a reason why engineers have had such a hard time creating robots/machines that can replicate the way a human walks. Such a simple movement to us is actually an infinitely complex mechanical process – muscles, tendons, bones, and nerves all working in an infinitely complex harmony.
The reason I’m waxing poetic on the beauty of movement for the human body is because too often in our society, people waste the human body’s potential. This is not exactly earth shattering news to anyone I’m sure, but I do think that we as a society tend to lose the true meaning and importance of movement in everyday life. Instead of running, jumping, and playing, people are stuck riding in cars to work only to spend the entire day sitting at a desk before riding back home to spend the rest of the day on the couch watching TV.
And the only movement most people really get, if anything, is in the form of “exercise”. This “exercise” thing is usually made up of clocking in 30 minute intervals on the treadmill or the elliptical.
Granted, I’m not saying that it would be better for people to be sitting around instead. But as a physical medicine physician with a soft spot for body optimization, I am constantly looking at how we can take advantage of the gift we are given at birth that is our body.
The point is this – movement is good for you. It’s good for your body, it’s good for your mind, and it’s good for your life. Going through life having dealt with numerous sports injuries (as well as taking care of those who have suffered injuries far worse than mine), I’ve come to realize how truly important it is to use your body and harness its potential.
It is for this reason that I recommend to my patients that they work on developing what I call a “movement practice”. I first encountered the idea of a Movement Practice after listening to a talk by Kelly Starrett of mobilitywod.com. Since then, the idea has stuck with me as I’ve seen firsthand how developing and honing my body’s ability to move has led to pain relief and a significant improvement in my own quality of life.
The ideal movement practice looks to improve your physical body in multiple ways, including strength, flexibility, balance, endurance, etc. It is learning to harness the potential of the human body. That doesn’t mean you have to become an Olympic level athlete, it just means harnessing the movement ability ingrained in our bodies.
The main reason I emphasize that this is a “practice” is because it is something you work on and develop over time. Just like learning to play an instrument, it is a collection of knowledge and skills that expands with continued performance and “practice”.
The point is to make fitness, movement, and exercise into something more than another entry to check off the daily checklist. Sticking with the treadmill/elliptical doesn’t harness the body to the level true movement can. The point is learning to use your body well. And in doing so, you can reap amazing benefits.
In particular, in maximizing your body’s ability to move, you will help treat and/or prevent the aches and pains that haunt people in our society. So many of the pain complaints and injuries I see on a daily basis are related to deficits in strength and mobility.
Not only this, but having a body that is strong and moves well honestly feels good. Think back to when you were a child, running around outside jumping, climbing, falling, doing anything you could think of. You could do that because your body was strong and mobile. Once you hit the 9-5 desk job, you lose that chance to move and use your body. As a result you muscles get weak, your joints tighten up, and that pickup basketball game you go for on a whim leads to a torn ACL or Achilles tendon.
If you want to prevent that, you have to move, and you have to learn how to move correctly. Use your body and it will reward you, both in the short term and the long term.
We’ll continue to expand on movement, its benefits, and how to incorporate it into your (likely busy) lives. Keep your eyes peeled, good stuff is coming soon.