Along with the advent of the “paleo human” hype a few years ago came a “natural movement” movement.
I was supportive of the idea that our bodies needed straightforward human movement. Great idea. So I added more squats, more balance exercises, more rotations.
My clients did well and emerged with improved habits, less pain, and more results, but I couldn’t shake the idea of why it was so necessary to first break bad habits and patterns in the first place. Why did I need to exist for people to move without pain?
One day, I realized it wasn’t about returning to a paleo state of mind. We don’t even need to go back a full century to figure out why so many among us are experiencing pain, discomfort, and distress in our bodies.
To put it plainly, we sit too much.
Even the most active among us sit more than our predecessors did just a few decades ago.
In the 1920s, just 100 years ago, ladies would gather together in community to knit. To gather in community meant walking down the street, gathering at a community hall, or at least taking a horse or foisting yourself into a carriage.
Today, that community is largely on Facebook. On your phone, on your couch. To catch up with a friend, we can call, text, email, or simply visit their social media page. Or take a few steps and jump into a car. We don’t need to be active to be social, so we aren’t. And we sit.
In the 1920s, a great deal of personal resources were put toward the goal of simply not dying. Not freezing to death in the winter meant chopping wood, stoking the fire. Today, we take 14 steps down the hallway to turn up the thermostat and pay the bill online from our seats. We don’t need to be active to not freeze to death, so we aren’t. And we sit.
Springs were once spent in a garden or planting the fields. Now we drive to the superstore and sit in a stall while Click & Collect delivers the food to the back seat. We don’t need to be active to eat, so we aren’t. And we sit.
Nothing is wrong with the new world order. But no matter how active you are, you aren’t active like that.
Your bones and muscles and tissues and joints are, by comparison, lazy and locked into place. You are likely to live longer, you are likely to be healthier in general, but your body is also likely to have habituated to the habits and patterns of being functionally and comparatively sedentary.
The new measure for not being sedentary became 10,000 steps, which was likely something of a rest day for our ancestors in 1923.
The human body was not meant to be transported around by wheel and airplane, whisked from location to location like Cleopatra.
And so it stops functioning in a healthy way. Bones calcify. Connective tissue dries out. Muscles atrophy.
We aren’t ever going back to those days, and wouldn’t want to even if we could. But my job exists because the human race sits, and it’s as simple as that.
Our world is no longer built for moving the way we used to. We’ve paved all the surfaces. We have installed floorboards and couches and desks.
Some of it can’t be changed. We aren’t un-paving the streets.
But if you want to give yourself the very best chance of a healthy, pain-free body?
Get off your ass.