When most people think of movement, they think of exercise. Almost everyone acknowledges that exercise is good for us. After all, it’s more effective at improving your health and longevity than any drug a doctor could prescribe for you. But movement encompasses more than exercise. Exercise forms just a fraction of a greater movement practice. Let me explain. If you wake up, drive to the gym before work, exercise for an hour, then go sit at your desk all day before driving home, you are leading a sedentary life. That’s right. You could exercise an hour per day, every day, and be sedentary, if you are spending the rest of your day not moving. The larger (in terms of time and frequency) component of a movement practice, is made up of lower-load, non-exercise movement. To avoid the detriments of being sedentary, you need to sprinkle these throughout your day.
Michelle Seger, in her book No Sweat, refers to these as ‘opportunities to move,’ or OTMs, for short. The ability to incorporate this into your movement practice starts with an awareness. If you’re looking for a chance to move, the opportunity will present itself. If you look for excuses, those are in ample supply too. (‘I work x amount of hours,’ ‘I have x many kids,’ etc). Kids are actually a great impetus to practice movement. You can move at the same time as being present for quality family time. You just have to lean into it. Every parent knows the feeling of the toddler asking you to come play on the floor when you just want to sit in your comfortable chair! I used to abhor being on the floor, and my kids would even approach me with a pillow for me to sit on as part of their request to play. Getting down on the hardwood is still not my idea of a comfortable roosting place, but now I view children’s play as an opportunity to move.
If I’m in one place, I’ll practice a deep squat, sitting in a hero pose, or sitting in a 90-90 position – all positions that are challenging (for me) to hold for any extended period. The floor is also a great place to practice animal flow movements. Seemingly, whenever you get down to work on one Lego building, your Lego retrieval services are needed across the room. A bear, crab, monkey or frog walk is a way to locomote across the floor while training mobility and strength. Your kid can walk but wants to be carried upstairs? Great – another opportunity to move. Outdoors, opportunities are even more readily available. We walk our neighborhood as the kids scooter or bike. Kids love playing tag, and that’s an easy way to get some really active movement, though the intensity can make that more of an OTW (opportunity to work out) than an OTM. Kids at the playground? Can you traverse the monkey bars as lithely as a 9-year-old?
Kids instinctively know that humans are built to move. It’s only after years of being made to sit in seats at school that this is beaten out of them to produce the sedentary adults that our society cultivates. Engaging in movement with your family is a great way to reconnect to the innocent joy of youth.
It doesn’t have to stop there. Other ways I move through the day include:
Waiting for the shower to get hot: I do a plank
Commuting: Whenever possible, I opt for the human-powered commute – biking or running for me.
Walking: This is great to use as a short break when working, such as a quick trip around the block at lunch. On arriving somewhere by car, I park far away from buildings instead of close. Walking is also a great way to connect with someone, or to collect your thoughts while alone.
Pull-ups: I have to walk past my pull up bar to get from my car to the house, inviting me to bang out a few pull-ups on the way in. When out with the kids, I might grab a tree branch or playground equipment instead.
Carrying stuff: instead of slinging a heavy briefcase on my shoulder, I might carry it in my hand and see if I can maintain good scapular posture. I’ve heard (I can’t remember where) of some guy who carries a kettlebell around with him all day. That might not fit in with my medical practice but I like the ingenuity!
Postural awareness: A big part of my job is standing in one spot over a table and working with my hands. Intermittently, I will try to engage my core, telling myself ‘core-aware.’ In addition to providing light core engagement, it helps my workplace biomechanics, decreasing the toll that surgery takes on my body.
Choosing standing over sitting. I’m writing this while standing and choose to stand as much as possible when using a computer at work, too. Three weeks ago, I asked if sugar was the new smoking. But one could make a case for sitting as the new smoking as well!