Most people probably don’t think of their health as a house of cards. (Although our current “health” care system seems like one). But I’m getting ahead of myself… Let’s go back to our childhood for a moment, okay?
Remember making houses, building towers, or creating other architectural masterpieces out of cards? I remember the controlled way of delicately balancing one card on top of two, then shifting my own weight in tiny increments so as not to create too much motion in the air. I knew that if someone breathed the wrong way the cards would become an unfortunate pile on the floor. It was a lot of work to make those things stay still.
Luckily, real-like architecture is not quite as precarious. Have you ever considered the constant movement that any building must account for in every moment? Think of the constant changes in pressure as people walk in and out the door. Consider shifts from outside forces such as wind, passing cars and people, rain, snow, etc. You could say that the health of a building is dependent on it’s ability to withstand movement. It’s what makes it stable.
The human body is similar in that it is designed for movement, and that movement can improve our health. The complex (and fascinating) way that our bones grow in spirals, the way muscles are attached on diagonals, how blood is always flowing, and organs are always moving to perform their functions remind us of the importance of motion. Motion is essential for health. Why? Well…
Because we are designed to move!
Unfortunately, life as we know it doesn’t necessarily support this moving body. From desk jobs, hours of television, lazy boys, and other events and experiences that promote passive lifestyles more than active ones, it is no wonder that more people are feeling distant and disconnected from their body. No wonder we are in a health crisis. And while I do support the idea of getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, we often find any means possible to disconnect from the sensation of movement through mp3 players, DVDs, or other distractions.
In reality, that 30 minutes calculates into only 2% of our day–not a great way to a healthy life… what about the other 98%?
Now I’m not suggesting that we stop working or forget our responsibilities in order to jump on a treadmill for 8 hours a day. (Please don’t do that!) I am suggesting that we find ways to allow motion back into our lives. If our bodies are machines (a metaphor with some interesting assumptions… but again, another blog topic…) then they are the only machine that breaks down when we don’t use them!
Adding more movement into your day will lead to better health. Period.
So I leave you with a few tips on how to get moving. You may be surprised by how easy many of them are and the health benefits they provide:
1. Get up!
- If you spend a lot of time at a desk or have any sort of job where you body remains in one static position, make sure you move at least ten minutes every hour.
- Pay attention to your breath, stretch away from your core, and move your spine to keep your energy high.
- If you are at work, walk to a co-worker instead of emailing them.
- If you are in an environment where it is acceptable, skip! The more joy you find in motion the more you will keep at it. The key is to move.
2. Test your own stability.
Just like a beautiful building that is stable because it can adjust to tiny, constant movement, we also can enhance our own stability through motion.
- Change out your normal chair for a large physio ball to strengthen your core muscles and enhances posture in a dynamic way. (Not mention it is a great way to “just say no” to horrible chairs.)
- If the idea of sitting on a giant ball is either too intimidating or too “weird” for your office, consider getting a balance disc to place on the seat of your chair. It will have a similar affect with less chances of falling down in front of a co-worker.
*Note: Make sure that the ball or disc are at a proper height for your desk. Ideally, you hands should fall easily at your keyboard without “scrunching” your shoulders or forcing you to reach up to type.
3. Don’t forget your face!
Between television, movies, and computers we spend a lot of time focusing our eyes in a fixed location. Remember that your eyes enjoy movement, too.
- Expand your vision to see various objects nearby.
- Look out a window and see how far you can see.
- Dance with your eyes to balance the muscles that help you focus.
- Make exaggerated faces to stretch and rejuvenate the muscles of the face.
- And of course, smile.
What else did you expect a dancer to say? Obviously I love what I do, and I feel dance is a great way to help this body reach its potential. However, I’m not suggestion that every person needs to sign up for a dance class. Rather, I think of this tip as a reminder to find joy in expression through movement. Simple tasks like cleaning the house, cooking, brushing your teeth, making the bed, can be excellent opportunities to “strut your stuff” and move your bodies in new ways. Turn on some music, if you need it. Move your hips, spiral your spine, reach up high the air, bend your legs… explore the joints of your body. Find new ways to move. You may be surprised by how you feel.
What are your favorite, tried-and-true ways to get more movement into your day? How has it affected your health?
(top featured image by undereachsnare92, Flickr)
This piece is from the “original” Thank Your Body Archives. Originally posted November 9, 2009. Updated and improved for your reading pleasure.