Photos by Ella Leving
For the first time in human history, we live in a digital world that doesn’t require us to move enough to maintain basic physical and mental health. All too often, many people in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s find it difficult to sit, stand or twist without help or pain. Many people complain of back aches, neck and shoulder pain, hip and knee pain, as well as depression and anxiety.
A sedentary lifestyle interrupted by an hour-long workout at the gym consisting of predictable repetitions of aerobics and resistance movements is not the kind of movement hygiene we need today. Our physical training has to change because what we are required to do in the world has changed.
As we move towards the future, physiotherapists, kinesiologists, and other movement specialists are beginning to map the intelligence of the body in motion to ask questions about what kind of movement—and how much of it—is needed to maintain basic health.
The Good Movement Diet is based on recent scientific findings about what constitutes healthy movement. For example, we need a variety of multi-directional, unpredictable and bouncy movements to surprise our habitual movement patterns. We need to include exercising barefoot to restore the sensitivity of the proprioceptors in our feet responsible for balance and locomotion. We need to train ourselves to close our mouths and breathe through our noses, breathing gently and slowly and exhaling for longer than we inhale.
At the same time, we need a diet that keeps down inflammation in the body. We need to add gelatin to nourish our connective tissue (four teaspoons per day—a vegan alternative is protein powder like pea or brown rice.)
We need time to move. Set aside the time, turn on your favorite music and learn to tap into the natural intelligence of your body. Set small, manageable fitness goals. Everyone needs a daily movement diet rich in nutrition as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Warm-up for five to 10 minutes using any combination of the following exercises. For a deeper warm-up, or on a day when you just need a rest, extend this warm-up. The exercises of the warm-up can be performed daily.
1. STATIONARY PEDDLE JOGS WITH HAND SQUEEZES AND RELEASES
Similar to running-on-the-spot but without lifting the feet off of the floor. Begin by rolling forwards and upwards through one foot at a time to push through the toes. Reverse the action by lowering first through the toes and gently into the heels. Access the muscles and tendons of the legs, ankles, and feet, by making the running action springy and silent, using the floor as if it were a trampoline.
At the same time, move the arms by flexing and extending the forearms. Add a biological pump by contracting and releasing alternate hands into fists as if squeezing water out of a sponge. This will strengthen and hydrate the tissue at a cellular level as well as improve blood flow to the hands. Feel the muscles of the body contracting and releasing by pushing and pulling in relation to gravity. Perform until the body begins to internally heat up (one to two minutes.)
2. ALTERNATE HAND-TO-KNEE TOUCHES
Improve balance and stimulate both hemispheres of the brain by rotating the torso to touch opposite hand to bent knee. Maintain length in both sides of the waist by bracing the muscles at the sides of the torso. Use abdominal strength to elevate the knee while maintaining an upright spine. Use ground reaction force through the leg and foot to maintain balance and control of the movement.
Align the bent knee with the hip joint and rotate the torso to bring the hand in contact with the opposite knee. The shoulders remain relaxed throughout. Perform for one to two minutes.
3. FULL-BODY SHAKING & ELASTIC BOUNCING
We don’t realize how much stress and tension can accumulate in the tissues. By letting our bones bounce around unpredictability, we can begin to undo this habitual tension from the inside out. This is the part where I tell my students to “shake what your mama gave you!”
Doing this exercise barefoot supports the transformation of the connective tissue in the feet and calves. In a standing position, initiate a soft bouncing vibration through the body by lifting the heels upwards as if to hop. Allow the heels to lower to the floor with a gentle thump to send a mild vibration into the marrow of the bones. With a sense of ease, let the arms dangle and move about from the shoulders and let your head fall loose and free.
Wiggle your hips from side-to-side and experience the spine as upright and strong as well as flexible and slippery. This exercise doesn’t have to be pretty; just keep a-movin’ and a-groovin’. Move around the room, forwards and backwards, side-to-side. Try jumping softly in a twisting motion by turning both ankles inwards and outwards. Practice controlling and catching the weight on the front of the foot. With time, work up to three minutes every day.
To maintain spinal health and flexibility, twist the spine every day. The cervical (neck) vertebrae are the most mobile in twisting and it is important to keep them supple. The 12 thoracic (mid-back) vertebrae have ribs attached so they don’t move as freely as the neck vertebrae. This twisting exercise will restore range of motion to both the cervical and thoracic vertebrae.
Begin standing with your feet slightly wider apart than hip-width with arms hanging loosely from the shoulders. Gently loosen the mid-back by rotating the spine so the arms swing around the body and the hips rotate internally.
Allow a rightwards rotation to release the heel of the left foot from the floor and vice versa.
Experience the head balanced on top of the spine with the eyes looking straight ahead while the body rotates below. Progress to loosening the neck by using the eyes to look right and left to initiate the spiraling action of the body all the way down to the feet. Perform one to two minutes.