One of the big things I am learning these days is the difference between exercise and movement, I’m reading a whole book on it at the moment and it’s incredibly interesting and eye-opening. (click here to see more about Move your DNA Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement – this takes you to an affiliate link)
The essence of it is that there is a big difference between movement and exercise, exercise is a small quantity of time each week or day that you put aside for fitness purpose and movement is what you do (or don’t do) during the rest of your time. What is important is that if you are fairly sedentary during your day and then do the same or similar movements as your exercise you become ‘movement deficient’. This is because you are only using specific movements, specific joints and other joints and muscles are never used. This can lead to imbalances in loading to your muscles, joints and ligaments and create overall weaknesses or tightnesses in your body.
If you can create a life style that involves lots of different types of movement then this will result in a stronger, flexible, healthier body. (there is a lot more to it but for need I have tried my best to describe it as simply as possible – the book is well worth the read)
So I have decided to look at ways that I can include more movement into my daily life, this is relevant to anyone with a body but I feel, of particular importance to those of us who are preparing for the strenuous activity of birth.
1) Vary your sitting patterns.
Rather than just sit on a couch or chair, vary how and where you sit. (If you are sitting on a chair it is important to make sure you untuck your pelvis so you are not sitting on your coccyx – (I will cover this in a future post).
So try sitting on the floor – and a fun part of this is you can wriggle all you like – remember when you were told when you were little to ‘sit still, don’t wriggle’? Well it is important to move into different positions, sit on different surfaces. This means you are using different muscles, resting different muscles and stretching different muscles.
See how many ways you can sit – cross-legged, kneeling, supported squat, legs out in front, one leg in front…… use cushions, bolsters, rugs etc to support yourself or make it more comfy as needed. Getting tired? sit back on your couch but take a different position. Or sit on a birthing ball or see what else you can find to sit on.
If you get tired of sitting then stand for a while, you can also incorporate some stretching in here as well. (side note if you are at a ob where you are sitting for a long time it may be worth your while having a look at standing work stations and seeing how you can incorporate one)
2) Stretch, bend and twist
Most of our work surfaces, cupboards, drawers, storage is at a convenient waist height. Meaning we don’t do a lot of bending or stretching or even twisting regularly. As we are essentially still in need of the same sort of movements as our ancestors who gathered food from various heights it is useful to try and include bending and twisting and stretching as much as possible. So find all those things that you use everyday and put them at different heights, in lower cupboards, on higher shelves. And then find different ways of getting down or up to those levels – squatting, bending from the waist or stepping up on things or stretching, even climbing up onto another surface to get there.
Same with cleaning, ironing, folding laundry, preparing food – experiment – if you normally stand to do a task can you do it sitting? If you normally stand on something to get those cobwebs can you stretch up instead.
Being creatures of habit we tend to carry a handbag on the same shoulder all the time or always use a backpack, maybe if you carry your baby you always use the same carry or on the same side. Have a switch around, not only will this give your usual carrying muscles a rest it will work out those less used ones. How many different ways can you carry a bag – different shoulder, on your back, on your front, in your arms…. if you carry your baby in a sling how about some in arms carrying for a while, or a hip carry instead of a back carry, or left hip instead of right hip. (This will mean your baby also gets to use different muscles than usual).
Maybe even use a different type of bag, or can you put things in your pockets and swing your arms as you walk (it’s amazing how restrictive it can be to always have a bag by your side or your hands in your pockets)
Carrying relates to how you carry your arms too – if they are usually folded across our body or in your pockets get them out allow them to swing as you walk.
4) Walk every day
Don’t think of walking as exercise but as an essential part of your movement. We are designed to walk several miles in a day collecting food, so find a way to include more walking in your day – even small things such as getting up and walking to a printer more times, or making two journeys instead of one (give those carrying muscles a different work out), or parking further away from a shop or getting off a bus one stop earlier can start to make significant differences.
And walk on different terrains. Get off the beaten track, walking uneven surfaces helps with balance and your vestibular system. Help strengthen different muscles and joints. And walk at different speeds, shake things up a little.
On an emotional level getting out walking in nature can help calm your mind, process thoughts, help you connect with the world.
5) Dance every day
Put some music on and move, groove and shake your thang baby!
Dancing raises oxytocin levels helping you to feel happier and calmer, builds stamina and strength but also encourages you to move in ways you otherwise wouldn’t normally do.
Dancing that involves moving those hips is great birth preparation and many women instinctively move and sway during labour and birth so a great all round birth preparation.
4) Play at the playground
Admittedly this might be a little easier if you already have children, but worth bearing in mind. Playgrounds give so much opportunity to hang, swing, climb, spin, balance…. it’s a shame not to make use of the equipment if you can. And it does make playground outings much more fun I’m finding.
5) Create more movement at home
Rather than walking around on your flat surfaces at home why not make more of an indoor obstacle course. Put cushions on the floor to walk on to work on your balance and ankle mobility and strength. Use a belt or piece of rope along the floor to make a balance beam. Make stepping stones out of cushions, yoga blocks, even pieces of paper – just to get you thinking of stepping and jumping rather than just walking. You could even put a small stool in your room and use that to walk over to give you a something different to think about and do.
We have collected lots of stones and put them in a shallow tray and use them to stand on and move around with our feet to get the muscles in the feet working. Stretch up and touch the door frames as you walk through each door, or bend down and touch the floor, or alternate. Or get a chin up bar that you can attach in your door way and swing as you go through the door – or have it low so you have to duck under it.
It can be hard to start new habits so just pick one thing at a time, be respectful of our body and don’t overdo things and most of all have fun. Any little extra movement you can include in your day will have benefit.