Illness is typically looked at as physiology gone wrong. I assert here that in most cases, our physiology is responding exactly as it should to the types of movement we have been inputting. Instead of thinking of ourselves as broken, we should recognize our lack of health as a sign of a broken (mechanical) environment.
~Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA
Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I think we all know we need to move more, don’t we? I mean the message is getting hard to avoid since it’s all over social media: sitting kills, sitting is the new smoking!
But I think the idea that how (and how much) we move our bodies is directly responsible for causing disease is a new-to-us idea. It’s called mechanotransduction and I had to look it up. This is what I learned, here.
You know, weird and radical stuff like that.
The amount we need to move to maintain health isn’t up to personal choice, based on how we feel, how much time we have, or whether it is convenient. Except it kind of is because this is new territory. The people who are living this now (we early adapters) are considered out of the ordinary, with our walking everywhere while wearing shoes without any sort of heel, sitting on the floor instead of comfy chairs and asking for standing work stations at the office habits. You know, weird and radical stuff like that. Some of us have even gone so far as to create a furniture free home! (Which is anyway, the norm in many parts of the world).
Back in my yoga days, I remember heated discussions around a new book which discussed the idea that we choose to be ill. I strongly disagreed then; I saw it as a ‘are we broken, or are we whole by nature?’ philosophical debate and I have always believed that we are whole by nature.
It’s just that ‘stuff’ happens (like the industrial age) but we can learn from experience and greater understanding and, because this is the Information Age, get the knowledge out there faster. We can acknowledge and accept that in order for our bodies to work as a whole – and for optimal health – we need an amount of movement based on something more than choice. If we don’t start getting more movement even after this new information becomes common knowledge I conclude that people do choose to be ill – maybe not actively and consciously, but perhaps through apathy. Even regular exercisers can be included in this.
The difference between Movement and Exercise
I am not going to attempt to write much about the difference between movement and exercise because it has been done, brilliantly and thoroughly here. But here is something I just thought of that I could add. You know how when you are exercising hard to lose weight and/or ‘get in shape’ and afterwards you are ravenous and end up eating a bunch of food you probably wouldn’t even eat ordinarily? It defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? The difference between movement and exercise can be similar to that.
From my own experience teaching fitness classes, a lot of the time I crashed after teaching a class. A good workout can put the damper on getting more movement for the rest of the day due to fatigue, or maybe something hurts: the knees, lower back, hips — and the tendency is to think exercise is finished for the day, or week, so we can take it easy. We end up getting a lower amount of total movement than if we had walked to do errands, were mindful of how much we were sitting, changed our position frequently and did some Restorative Exercise™ . Do you see? It is the difference between 1-2 hours of exercise which has a physiological cost (maybe) and the potential of 10+ hours of movement which has no physiological cost, only gain.
No one is saying you need to give up your class (or biking, running, etc.) There are so many benefits to my personal favourite the Nia Technique(tm), for example, not the least of which is community building. However exercise comes with a disclaimer: if you constantly push yourself to the brink, or beyond, of injury and/or exhaustion AND you get less overall movement as a result, your exercise practice is bringing you a step closer to a broken mechanical environment, than a step towards health. You need to be aware that aches and pains, and fatigue, are signals from your body that something is wrong.
Some people will demand a precise formula for enough movement for optimal health, and Katy Bowman acknowledges that it is a natural tendency to want to conserve energy. Personally I find that all day movement fits the bill on both counts. I try to move more by doing things slower (like walking greater distances rather than hopping in the car or bus) and doing more things the old-fashioned hard way. Is this the ‘Slow Movement’?