Fitness 101: Get Moving…Naturally

By Justin Kiger

Weelunk Contributor

Diary of an Unresolved Fitness Quest: Day One

January 2015 came in with all the resolutions every other year has in store: Get fit. Eat right. Join the gym. It’s nearly February and time to make the commitment and stick with it this year!

OK. So what am I going to do this year? It’s getting harder each year. Let me see…. last year I went to the gym every other day for seven weeks, and I did lose a couple of pounds. But it got harder to get there and well… I just got busy and quit going… So I just quit all together. But this is a new year, and I’m going to do it!!!

The big question is this: What program am I going to do? Man, there’s so much out there. Shaun T probably has something new this year. I might do “Insanity” because that’s got to work because it looks awful, and on the advertisement people look miserable, and they’re squatting and getting up and down from the floor. The plus side is that here are no weights, and I can do that from the comfort of my living room.

Nah… I won’t stay committed. I’m going to get a gym membership. Gyms have treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, and machines with seats for me to lift weights and pins to change the resistance of the weight if it gets too easy or too hard. I’ll do that. But wait… where do I begin?

Does this never-ending rationalization sound too familiar to you? Before continuing on this exhausting path of “fitness,” let’s take a step back from the thought of beginning an exercise program and consider the launch of a new routine of “basic movement.” That’s right – basic movements the way our bodies were designed to do in a pre-industrial society.

First let’s examine how we got where we are and what has happened to us? America is the most exercise-crazed society, but across the board, we are the most unfit people. There are more programs and more access to fitness equipment than ever before, but somehow we just can’t get a grip on lifetime physical wellness; therefore, we continue to yo-yo each and every year.

The number one reason we fail is that we don’t move well. However, our lifestyles have made this difficult, and it’s not our fault. Our culture doesn’t reinforce proper, basic movement. A culture that supports good movement has an environment that demands its people to squat, step, and lunge in order to survive. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much you like comfort) that is not the case in this country or most of the developed world in 2015. Here’s where the tough love comes in: We blame all of our shortcomings on everything and everyone else anyway, so we might as well lump this in too, right? Wrong.

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Movement is centered on mobility and stability. The ability to move well is dependent on unrestricted mobility and stability. At one time we all had it. Think about kids and their early development. At birth, they’ve got unrestricted mobility — freedom of motion in arms and legs, feet and hands, neck and back, etc. Full mobility is great, but it’s not functional until stability, which is the ability to create a resistance to change, occurs. It is then when we combine mobility and stability in a purposeful pattern to create a functional movement. Each phase has its purpose. It begins with eye tracking, head and neck control, rolling, sitting, creeping, crawling, kneeling, squatting and finally walking. If this is how we develop, why is it so hard to move anymore? The mobility and stability that we used to have years ago are now replaced by stiffness and pain. My best answer, as I said earlier, is we live in a culture that doesn’t reinforce quality movement.

Getting back to the basics of quality movement isn’t a radical adjustment, so don’t start throwing out the TV and moving off the grid to get all of your movement back. It begins with challenging yourself daily to squat, lunge, step, and sit on a floor. If you don’t incorporate these basic movements into your daily life, you will lose the ability to do so in the future.

Squat, lunge, and step all sound like an exercise to the common ear, but in reality, these are basic movements and not exercises. What’s happened is we’ve tried to make it an exercise when it was a movement first. Unfortunately, we have lost that movement ability, tried to make it an exercise, gotten pain with it and deemed it unnatural for the body and “hard on the joints.” Think back to kids at a young age when they would walk over to a toy on the floor and effortlessly squat to pick it up. It was once in you. It was once in all of us.

If you are relating to this and find yourself laboriously performing exercises each year and falling short of goals, it’s probably because you have attempted to surpass the one thing that has allowed us to exercise…..movement. Movement comes first, and quality movement cannot be attained through more time on the treadmill, elliptical or more pounds of resistance on the leg press or shoulder press. It comes from doing what we were built to do: moving.

Justin Kiger is a physical therapist at Mountain River Physical Therapy and is an adjunct professor at West Liberty University Department of Education, Exercise Physiology.