Movement & Function,
Why It’s Imperative to Health
It has long been accepted that regular movement can reduce your risk of chronic disease, reduce weight, and improve cardiovascular function, but what about the subtler impact a lack of movement has on your health?
One of my biggest learning experiences over the years has been that getting older doesn’t have to mean pain and reduced mobility. Quite the opposite, in fact, it’s never too late to get optimal function back into your body.
The term movement today is often used interchangeably with exercise, when in reality it relates to how your body moves throughout the whole day, and not just a designated period of time put aside to work out.
How many of today’s population, in the western world, spend most of their time sitting or looking down at phones and devices. Did you know that for every inch forward that your head sits on your neck, it adds an additional 4.5kg of pressure to the neck? It’s no wonder we are seeing an increasing incidence of headaches and neck pain in our community.
So how does an altered posture, (sitting at a desk or driving for long periods) affect the body’s ability to function?
Firstly, it is important to understand that the human body was not designed to sit for long periods. Aside from the overall reduction in movement, putting the body in an un-natural position –whether from bad posture or job related such as sitting (or even standing with bad form)- will cause some muscles to become chronically shortened and some muscles to become chronically lengthened.
The body, however, is amazingly adaptive and will start to strengthen and reinforce those bad postures to create more ease. So that when your body returns to its normal ‘upright’ or correct postural form, it can feel less comfortable.
What is the flow on effect of this to the bodies physiological processes?
Let’s consider a forward head posture which is one of the most commonly seen altered positions:
A forward head posture can drastically reduce lung capacity affecting oxygen to vital organs, as well as activating or feeding into a ‘fight or flight’ response within your body. The knock on effect of this simple postural change will affect numerous body systems including digestion, hormones, and immune function.
How can movement help?
"90% of the Stimulation and Nutrition to the Brain is Generated by the Movement of the Spine"-Dr. Roger Sperry (Nobel Prize Recipient)
Movement is often thought of as a quick session at the gym after work, or getting up early to get a HIIT session in before you start your day. Whilst all of these things are great, is this really negating 8-10 hours per day of sedentary life?
Let’s go back to basics:
Look at how kids instinctually move and you will see how an optimally functioning body can operate.
They don’t stoop over to pick something off the floor – they squat, keeping a neutral spine. They can’t sit still for long periods of time – they instinctually move onto their tummy to read or get up and walk around. They can hop, skip and jump and catch themselves when they are off balance.
We need to condition our bodies to return to more natural movement patterns. The years of de-conditioning that puts our muscles and spines into altered patterns and postures, prevent us from being able to carry out these simple movements. When was the last time you hopped, skipped and jumped?
Once we identify the areas of our body that are weak or immobile, we can use targeted movements to strengthen and return our body to full function. Maintaining a balanced and well-functioning body requires a shift in how we think about movement. Here are some ways to increase and improve daily mindful movement, to keep your body functioning at its best:
Movement as a daily practice:
- Don’t just work your body hard for one hour per day, find ways to challenge your body and move better ALL DAY.
- Set an alarm to begin with every hour to get up and do some form of movement- even if its 5 squats while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew!
- Take time to breathe. The power of breath is INCREDIBLE. From energizing and de stressing, to assisting with your whole body movement. Try breathing in for 5 seconds, holding for 5 seconds, breathing out for 5 seconds.
- Listen. Try to be in tune with your body and listen to those subtle cues of stiffness, pain and discomfort. Pain is not an indicator that you need to move less but an indicator that you need to move differently.
- Whole body movement exercise such as yoga and pilates can help with pain relief, fatigue, and stress.
- Get a movement professional to assess your movement patterns. What feels perfectly balanced to you may look completely different to a trained eye.
- Find something FUN to motivate you to move more. Habits are far easier to create when they are fun.
If you, or you know someone who would benefit from a functional movement consultation with Hayley to address limitations, weakness and to build function and flexibility, call Health Shack’s friendly CAs on 0435 443 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Hayley Korff
Functional Movement Specialist | Pilates Instructor