I spend a fair amount of time learning from others. Books, podcasts, social media, etc. Experienced and knowledgeable fitness and health professionals help me become a better trainer because I can incorporate their ideas into my programming and the information I share with clients. One such brilliant individual is Katy Bowman. Her books have opened my eyes to the importance of movement outside of exercise and how convenience is tied to changes in our bodies, our health, and our environment.
I live in a culture that values convenience. If you live in the US, you probably do too. Products that make tasks easier are often number one sellers. We build our daily and weekly routines to make living more streamlined and efficient. We pay more for pre-processed packaged products and order goods to be delivered directly to our car or our front door. And all of this has a cost beyond the bank account.
We have largely reduced the amount of energy, time, AND movement needed to complete activities required for living, at least on our end. Katy refers to this as outsourcing movement. (Others work, so we don't have to as much. If you are interested in learning more about that as well as environmental impacts, read her book Movement Matters). This is supposed to free up our valuable time for other endeavors: presumably leisure and life-enhancing activities. But often it ends up that we spend that “extra” time working more hours or in activities where we are sedentary. Many of us can lead very productive lives without moving much from our desks, couches, and cars. We can also be entertained and socialize without leaving home or even getting up. BUT we need movement for healthy, functioning bodies. A few exercise sessions per week, while important, aren’t a replacement for regular and varied movement throughout the day.
We aren’t lazy. We are working. But we aren’t moving and it’s costing us. One of those costs is that it has literally become harder for us to move. Our jobs and habits keep us tied to our desks and computers or phones. As a result, our bodies adapt to the positions in which we spend a lot of time. Shoulders become rounded. Weaker gluteus muscles. Tight, short hip flexors. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with greater incidence of arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems. Our bodies are meant to move and we have "convenienced" ourselves out of that movement.
As with most things, improvement is much easier said than done! A lot of jobs require hours spent on the computer and if you have deadlines or are very busy, regular breaks aren’t always available. Building more movement into your day is a necessity that requires a bit of forethought and planning. In addition, research suggests human beings are predisposed to conserve energy. Many of us may have gotten a little too good at it! Let's go over some ways you can bring more movement back into your life.
Time to Wake Up & Get Moving
I spend 3 to 5 minutes moving and gently stretching before getting out of bed after I wake. I tend to sleep on my right side and I can feel and hear the effects of staying in that position for many hours. I often have to do this morning routine to a chorus of running feet and occasional barks because I have two dogs that want to be fed NOW. I do it anyway. You may have circumstances that make it difficult to immediately take the time to gently move your body and do a few stretches. If you absolutely cannot spend that extra time in bed once you wake up, find a few minutes while you wait for coffee or tea to brew or before you get dressed.
Hint: One of my favorite “follows” on social media is Joe Therapy. He posts mobility and stretching exercises to YouTube and Instagram.
Considerations as you get ready for the day: how conveniently placed are your clothes and toiletries and items in cabinets? Have you minimized the need to move? What if you placed objects in a manner that builds in more movement without adding much time to your morning routine? For example, I keep my coffee filters on the top shelf in a cabinet and not just because it was the only place they’d fit! Brushing your teeth is a fantastic time do a few lower body exercises. I've been known to do calf raises, wall sits, and hip extensions. Got something in the microwave? This means it's time to do an elevated plank or push-ups using the counter. You may get teased by family members at first but eventually they may join you!
During the Day
We all know that parking farther away from your destination will get you a few more daily steps, hence more movement! Another option would be to change the route you take to the door. Is there an incline or stairs you don’t usually take? Can you occasionally trade the car for a bike ride or a walk? That's not always feasible but worth consideration.
During the day, it can be challenging to move more if you have a busy desk job or if you spend a lot of time traveling. I did the desk job for a few years and I know it is HARD! I found I was much more productive when I was able to take mini-movement breaks. Could you use the copier that’s a bit farther away? Volunteer to be the one to go get more supplies from the closet. Arrange your office so you can work well and in good alignment but occasionally need to reach, bend, or stretch. Stand up while on the phone or while watching yet another long, boring webinar. The goal here is to figure out how can you build in movement without completely destroying your productivity and flow.
This is where a fitness tracker may come in handy. Most of them come with a programmable "reminder to move".
If at all possible, DO NOT eat at your desk. Go for a short walk, do a stretching session, or spend some time outside. At the very least, change the position in which you are sitting for the duration you are eating.
The principle applies to after work as well. How can you build in movement to the activities you must do? Making dinner, doing a few chores, or running an errand can all incorporate a variety of movement. If you decide to watch television, could you use this time to do some foam-rolling/mobility work on the floor? I do this quite often despite the inevitable doggie interruptions. What about creating a movement related game to what you are watching? As in every time a character says or does something that's commonly said or done by that character, you do 10 body weight squats or some other exercise of your choosing. Do you catch yourself having others do your bidding so you didn't have to inconveniently move? I'm totally guilty of asking my husband for a glass of water or a snack, "since he's already up" so I didn't have to get off the couch. I am a lot more aware of this now and don't do it as frequently.
It is quite amazing how quickly we can accomplish tasks that previously took hours or days. Some of us live in areas where we'd never have to step into a store again if we chose not to do so. Go ahead and take advantage of advances and services that make life's tasks more convenient. Work efficiently. AND make movement a priority. After all, being unhealthy due to lifestyle is definitely an inconvenience! It may take some time but small consistent actions will eventually become habits.
Movement & exercise are both part of living your best life. If you want more information about the importance of movement, check out Katy Bowman's books. When you need guidance on establishing a consistent exercise habit, let's chat!