After spending several years questioning knowledge I acquired during my Master’s of Physical Therapy program, I’ve learned that the way most of us go about improving our health is built on some false assumptions. As a culture, we strive to achieve an image of health that is sold to us but isn’t true to our biology.
We seem to think health is a destination we eventually reach by working really hard and doing things that make us miserable, like eating bland salads or running on a treadmill alongside others who also wish they weren’t there. We view fitness as a quest to become tanned and lean, with abs that show and a marathon to brag about. And we view movement as a supplement to be taken (called exercise) and our physical body as an innately flawed machine that falls apart as we age.
I am proposing a new story. One that expands awareness, gives hope to those who have given up, and one that I have found to be true both in my own life and from the feedback we receive every day from our Foot Collective community. In this new narrative, health isn’t a destination we reach, but a process we engage in daily. Movement is seen in a broader context as a fundamental basic need and a part of everyday life rather than a supplement prescribed by a doctor. In this new reality, the body is an amazingly adept, self-healing machine that adapts to the inputs we give it and only fails us if we’re not using it correctly. Through this new lens, fitness means being physically capable to live a life aligned with our physiology and being resilient enough to withstand physical challenges that we encounter along the way.
It’s time to shift our cultural perspective and rehumanize movement, basically going back to the way we were built. We need to drop the exercise-based, work-centric mindset and, instead, adopt a movement-based, play-centric one.
It is said the human body positively adapts to the demands we expose it to. Indeed, the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID) principle is a foundational truth in physiology. When it comes to our ability to move efficiently, it boils down to some simple arithmetic: the more time you spend exploring a variety of different movements, the more efficient your movement patterns become. It also works the opposite way: the more time you spend in a fixed position (sitting in chairs, for example) the better the body becomes at sitting in a chair – at the expense of all other movements.
The problem with sitting for eight or more hours a day and then “working out” for one hour is that you’ve just spent eight hours training your hips to be proficient at not resisting gravity and not being able to extend. You then ask those stiff hips, that are great at sitting, to not only move beyond the range of a chair but to do it under load, fatigued and for extended periods. Injury is exactly what should result.
Working out is a risk factor for getting injured when you spend most of your day sitting in a chair; your workout could be doing more harm than good.
So how do we solve this? Re-integrate movement into our day and avoid spending prolonged periods in a single static position. Simple strategies can include replacing chair-sitting with floor-sitting, kneeling, squatting, standing, standing on one leg or lying on your side. The more variety, the better. Essentially, we are rehumanizing movement or moving the way we were born to so we can be empowered to do our best to create strong, functional, pain-free bodies.
Think of sitting like salt. A bit of salt on your food is fine but eating a pound of salt will kill you. It’s not parking your posterior in a chair in and of itself that is the problem, it’s the dose that does the damage.
Another element in the mission to rehumanize movement is to expand your options beyond exercise. If the realm of movement was an entire swimming pool, what we view as exercise would only be a few cups of water out of that entire pool. There’s a lot more to explore and more than enough variety available. Find something you enjoy doing. Better yet, incorporate more of that water into your daily life by taking little sips throughout the day.
It’s time to shed our old stories and embrace one where movement isn’t a supplement to take but a way of life. Where the process of health is viewed through a lens of playful and creative exploration. Find your own path. A good place to start? Spend five minutes on the floor tonight instead of on the couch and try a new movement that puts a smile on your face.
IMPACT Magazine’s 2021 Inspiration Issue
Read about our 2021 Canada’s Top Fitness Instructors – our top 30 from across Canada! Go beyond traditional thinking to optimize movement through stretching, find out about 7 DIY hacks to improve the air quality in your home, learn about taking care of your heart through proper nutrition, enjoy some of our best plant-based recipes yet, and work out with our Canada’s Top Fitness Trainers!