Although civilization has advanced at an impressive rate, unfortunately our progress has gone hand in hand with the decline in our ability to move our bodies.
As opposed to being outdoors in our natural environment running, climbing, lifting, crawling and jumping, most of us now spend the majority of our time sitting – at desks, at machinery, in cars, or in front of the TV.
Like neglected old vehicles that have been left out to rust, most of our bodies have become stiff and bent out of shape. We are in the sedentary technological age, and it’s killing us.
Aside from causing issues with posture and mobility, studies have shown that sitting for prolonged periods can damage metabolic health and increase the risk of premature mortality.
Some people are proactive and try to combat the effects of excessive sitting with an hour or so of exercise a day, but it’s almost naïve to think that this short amount of movement is enough to negate the effects of a whole day of being static.
Instead, we need to make movement a part of our everyday life. We need to entwine it with the thread of our normal routine, before we lose the ability to move altogether.
Here are a few strategies that you can get started with right away.
1. Introduce a morning routine.
There’s something about the first hour of the day that is quite sacred.
If you look towards most of the successful people in the world, they don’t spend their first waking hour checking facebook, answering emails or rushing off to work. They focus on the internal things to set themselves up for the day. They meditate, they journal, they read, and you guessed it – they move.
Introduce some form of movement into your morning routine. It doesn’t have to be intense or last for hours. Perhaps start with just five minutes of basic stretching and mobility drills: leg swings, arm circles, deep squats, lunges – anything that gets your joints mobile and your blood flowing.
As you become more comfortable with your routine, perhaps after a few weeks, you might like to extend the time or explore new exercises. Keep it interesting, varied and playful.
2. Make things awkward
Often with movement and exercise we talk about efficiency, which is finding the optimal way to move, or the past of least resistance. No doubt it is important to consider, in a sporting sense and in everyday life.
But I feel that because we spend so much of our time inactive, we’re rarely challenged by movement, so it may be useful to sometimes make our everyday movements a little more inefficient, to overcompensate.
Our natural environment is much more unpredictable and harsh than the one we’re accustomed to. In the wild, paths are rarely as flat as the pavements we currently walk on, and there’s not a bus stop every fifty yards. Most journeys would involve a lot of walking, and some degree of balancing and climbing.
So make things a little awkward for yourself from time to time. Walk on your toes for a few meters, or balance on the curb. Park your car further from work and walk the rest of the way, or even cycle the whole way. Do what you can to gently challenge your body and encourage it to move more.
3. Alter your work environment
Work is where most of us spend the majority of our time, so it makes sense to try to make it more movement friendly.
Scheduling mini breaks can help to disrupt long periods of inactivity. Set a reminder for every forty minutes or so on your phone, telling you to get up and move a little. Then take a short walk or do a few squats – anything to increase your mobility.
It may also be worth considering upgrading to a standing desk. That may seem unrealistic in your workplace, but companies are becoming increasingly aware that a healthy workforce is a more productive one. Suggest it to your manager, and you never know what you might get.
Making meetings mobile can also help to reduce sedentary hours, and up your movement tally. Suggest talking whilst walking, or attend conference calls whilst doing your stretches.
4. Upgrade your home
When you’re not at work, you’re likely at home, so again it makes sense to try to make your environment as movement friendly as possible.
Restrict the time you spend sitting in front of the TV to a few hours a week, and instead opt for more active activities. You may like to purchase a yoga mat and leave it out ready to use, or install a pullup bar in a door frame.
You can then start to grease the groove, which is one of my favorite techniques for upping my overall strength and movement game. It involves performing a specific movement pattern in relation to a trigger.
So in this case is might mean doing a pullup or two every time you walk by the pullup bar. It might be performing a few squats whilst you brush your teeth. You essentially attach a movement to something you already do every day, and before long you’re moving regularly without much thought.
5. Build community
We’re all social animals at heart. We function best in small tribes where everyone is working together and helping each other out. As the old saying goes – teamwork makes the dream work!
Cheesy lines aside, building community around movement or any healthy habit for that matter is so valuable. Having a team or group that’s depending on you and providing you with motivation can really make a difference.
Consider joining an exercise class, perhaps gymnastics, martial arts, or yoga – whatever excites you the most. There are also online groups that are centred around movement, where you can recive support and accountability.
Over to you
I can share my ideas with you, but I can’t put them into action. That’s your job.
If you really want to get the most out of your body and be mobile in your old age, make the investment now, and start moving throughout your day.
It’s not something you’ll regret.
About the author
Luke Jones is a blogger and wellness advocate who spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in nutrition, movement, mindfulness and sustainability. For more articles from Luke, and to get a free copy of his starter guide to healthy habits, head to his site Health Room.