There’s a storage alcove in my house aka the dumping zone; you may have something similar in your home. Inevitably I needed a heavy and awkward-to-move item that was at the very furthest, back, just-out-of-reach corner of the dump zone. Now that I’ve finished stretching, reaching, twisting, lugging and muttering that I really must have a clear-out, it’s gotten me thinking about our movement patterns. Most of the time we use our bodies in a predictable way. The ways in which we RARELY use our bodies but would benefit from using them are the topic of concern here today.
I know and have heard this more times than I can count. However, what most of us do is move in a few, very similar patterns for most of if not all of the time, performing repeated movements that are not big, varied or testing.
So you might walk and garden and walk the dog and do the housework and go to the gym. You may even be in line with recommended exercise levels… But how varied really are your movements during these activities and – honestly – what proportion of your time do they take up? Even the more aerobic activities like running, cycling and swimming are limited in their movement variety.
What I’m getting to here is:
The sort of full-body, stretching, twisting and turning movements that you will do in martial arts, climbing, yoga, Pilates – you will in my class anyway! – and some gym-based exercise classes. The sort of movements that you would probably do without a thought if we hadn’t created a world where we can work, eat, socialise, run our homes and live with relatively little physical effort. This when compared to how our ancestors lived and how our bodies are designed and want to be used.
As a Physiotherapist this is a key focus for me, particularly the ‘lazy and inactive bit’, after all, doesn’t that apply to most of us a lot of the time?! A great way to make the everyday movements that we already do easier and more comfortable is to work into some less-tried-and-tested positions. There are a tonne of activities, exercises, stretches, strength moves, classes and more out there to help you do this. There are also some INCREDIBLY EASY AND LAZY WAYS in which we can help ourselves to move better.
So let’s move differently! How?
I’m not even asking you to set aside precious spare time. Simply look at what you already do and, every now and again, do it differently.
Below are a handful of suggestions:
RAISE A LEG: break out of those lazy hip & knee ways by lifting your leg as high as you can – in front, out to the side, circle it around – any which way! Been stuck sitting in one position for a while? Stand up (which you should be about to do anyway) and pop a few of these in.You’re also sneaking in a little balance “fun” for good measure…
BACKWARD WALKING: ever considered how different and challenging it is to actively walk backwards? From a nerdy Physio point-of-view it’s incredibly varied and a great one to do. Just turn through 180deg occasionally to walk, trot, run – whatever your level – and don’t forget to cast the odd glance over your shoulder!
GET DOWN…: What do you always do sat at a desk or table that you could perhaps do sat on the floor? Floor-sitting requires lots of different movements and muscles when compared with our usual ‘right-angle-everything’ chair position. It also sneaks in the effort required to get down onto and back up from the floor – a critical move that we should all be able to do and one that has even been linked to life expectancy and quality of life!
TWIST & TURN: Swap the single plane movement for two or even three planes of movement – turn, twist, lean backwards, reach sideways for items that you’d normally do a bog-standard bend or forward lean for.
TWO AT A TIME: Ask a little extra and a little variety of your hips, knees and gluteals (the big, strong muscles that are our bottoms) and miss out the odd step. Remember to push with your legs, squeeze your bottom muscles to drive you forward and upwards and use a handrail for balance and assistance only if you need to.
STRETCH & CURL: One for the beginning or the end of the day – bring your knees into your chest and try to use your muscles to keep them as close in as you can, pulling a little with your arms to help, then do the complete opposite movement and s-t-r-e-t-c-h everything out, reaching as far above your head as you can, flatten or arch your back whatever feels comfortable and make those legs as straight as you can.
Watch how children move. They squat and leap and roll and bend and stretch. They do this because they can and because they don’t mind and aren’t afraid of the effort. They move in ways that most of our adult bodies and brains have forgotten how to. We lose flexibility and mobility as we get older, predominantly because we stop challenging our ability to move (there’s more on this in last month’s article). But take heart, there is a dormant ability in all of us to move better, more easily and more comfortably than we do. Have a go and let me know how you get on!
Obviously this is Part 1, by way of incentive to get me to follow up with part 2, so watch out next month for more movement thoughts and tips…..