Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reading List: "Move Your DNA"

For several years now I’ve been wondering: why are we so focused on exercising when for most of the day we are largely sedentary - sitting in our cars to and from work, sitting at our desks working, sitting in front of our TV/iPads/iPhones (list favorite device here), sitting eating lunch, sitting eating dinner.....you get the idea. How could 1 hour of exercise each day (assuming you’re even exercising 60 minutes each day!) possibly counter the other 23 hours of inactivity?

But I battled this thought because exercising is what people do and we’re told we’re supposed to. But all the while I had a problem with this.

You know as well as I do that we live in a sedentary society. I think it would be safe to say that today humankind (in the western world at least) is perhaps the laziest it’s ever been. It is un-cool to do any physical labor. We look down on it. You walk somewhere and people want to give you a lift. What’s wrong with walking? There are gadgets and appliances for everything. We needn’t move a muscle. It’s catastrophic, really, how little we move.

But for a while now, there’s been a new message. “Sitting is the new smoking”, the headlines read. Thank God! It’s about time! But hasn’t this been obvious all along: we need to move more, we HAVE to move, or our muscles will atrophy. Sitting for hours on end, really any kind of inactivity (even standing all day), is not healthy, because this is not the way in which we were biomechanically designed. We are meant to move, and fairly constantly. It’s part of our DNA.

Katy Bowman
Biomechanic Scientist & Author
I think of myself as moderately active, but I’m the type who thinks there’s always room for improvement. So when I heard about a biomechanic scientist named Katy Bowman, I was interested in learning more about what that was. She has a degree in the mechanics of the body and has devoted herself to sharing what she knows about how the body is designed to move. She’s written several books about movement, fixing our painful feet, and strengthening our pelvic floor. I’m currently reading “Move Your DNA” and "Whole Body Barefoot” (all about ditching our heeled shoes and going to minimal footwear, and why that’s important not only for our feet, but for our hips, backs and overall health). She does a great job explaining the “why” of the importance of moving regularly, but also the “how”, along with diagrams and photos. She’s super smart and clearly knows her stuff. Her website is www.nutritiousmovement.com. Staying true to her message about moving, she’s got quite a collection of podcasts you can listen to (on iTunes and Soundcloud as well as a few other platforms) so that you can move AND listen at the same time!

The message is this: get off your butt! Spend as little time on it as possible. Walk instead of drive. Lift heavy things to put load on your muscles and bones to keep them strong and healthy.  Lug your kids around instead of pushing them in a stroller. Stretch and move ALL parts of yourself, not just general body parts. Make an effort to engage EVERYTHING. Don’t take the easy way out: don’t “outsource” your activity to devices and gadgets. Try to do more for yourself to keep your body in motion.

Allow me to quickly digress at this point because I want to share something else with you that underscores this concept about moving more.

Years ago, I heard about a man named Erwan Le Corre, originally from France, but now living in Arizona, who developed a program called MovNat to help reteach people how to move naturally. Seemed kind of silly at first. Shouldn’t we know how to do this already? His argument is that we do not. We have unlearned how to do this because of our sedentary lifestyle. His focus is on moving the body, rather than “exercising” as we know it, although most of the movements you’d recognize as common “exercises”: pushing, pulling, squatting, along with climbing, jumping and running, but so much more gracefully and naturally than how we’re doing it now. Rather than slugging it out in a gym, he proposes we get out into Nature and move as we were meant to move. It’s hard to explain, so I think the best way to understand this is to watch this incredible YouTube video. (Click on the Play button on the video below). Once you see this you will understand his philosophy.

Now this looks like so much more fun that sweating in some stinky gym, doesn’t it? I’d bet this is exactly what Man would have done before “civilization”. Crouching under branches, gathering logs and materials to build things, climbing rocks to get higher to look for enemies or herds of animals to hunt, swimming to cross rivers and lakes, maybe even for fun, jumping and running to outrun wild beasts in hot pursuit. This could very well have all been done in the course of a normal day. It seems obvious that we would have been a lot more interactive with the environment in which we lived.

We’ve lost that. But we don’t have to. Followers of MovNat and what’s called the “functional movement” community claim it’s not hard to recreate this kind of movement in our daily lives. We can visit a nature trail to hike, run, jump over boulders and maybe even climb. At our local park we can use the jungle gym, right there alongside our kids. We can create agility courses for not only our dogs, but ourselves as well. If we are creative, we can find ways to incorporate more movement into our lives and get a more natural workout. Most importantly, using our bodies in ways that they were meant to be used. “Functional movement" says that the exercise routines we are doing overtax the body parts we are focused on improving, while other parts remain underutilized and weak. This creates an imbalance that isn’t healthy, which can lead to injury. This makes sense to me.

While we probably can’t all get out and do a MovNat workout like in this video every day, or even every other day, something we can all start to do right away is spend less time sitting. I’ve got a standing workstation that I use about 1/2 the day. Not a fancy thing for $300-400, but something I made from Ikea for less than $20.  I recently went to a health summit where I saw another rather inexpensive workstation from Ergodriven that is even easier to assemble. When I first started thinking about standing at work, I googled images on standing workstations and was amazed at the plethora of ideas that people had to fashion themselves a standing workstation. It doesn’t take a lot of money to do this, just a little imagination!

Get up and move around every 20-30 minutes. Go visit people in their offices rather than calling or emailing them. Walk during your lunch break and include some stretching. Sometimes I stand in the break room and eat my lunch instead of sitting down. Stretch throughout the day and not just at home. Be on your feet from the time you get home until dinner is served. On weekends, why sit at all? Ditch the couch and sit on the floor instead. If you’re asking why or how, you’ll have to read Katy’s book to find out.

I invite you to check out this new way of thinking about exercise and movement. I think there’s something there for all of us.

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