AMRAP, WOD, EMOM – these days fitness couldn’t be more confusing. One day we’re sold the virtues of HIIT (high-intensity interval training), the next we’re told LISS (low-intensity steady state) is best.
According to the NHS, adults aged 19-64 should be doing at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity, physical activity a week. But if you are struggling to meet this target and feel frustrated and overwhelmed when it comes to exercise, maybe you have lost sight of what’s important.
Every kind of movement can have a positive mental and physical impact. Movement is medicine. It can boost our mood, help us function better, sleep better and cut the risk of chronic diseases. From fidgeting and walking to resistance training and running, you don’t need to be an obsessive exerciser in order to reap the benefits of movement for health.
You just need to move your body to boost your mental health by reducing anxiety, depression and negative mood, while improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Physical benefits include healthy joints, strong bones, improved strength and good cardiovascular health. With this in mind, we asked four experts to share their movement methods – in the hope they will inspire you to move, too.
Movement Is Medicine
Emma Marshall is the founder of the Movement Is Medicine method (movementismedicine.uk), which incorporates somatic meditation, Qi Gong, tapping, breathwork, primal shaking and ecstatic dance. The idea is that you tune in to your body, find where you are storing stress and release it.
Emma’s sessions begin with somatic meditation to ground you, followed by free-flowing movement. ‘I guide participants to work on their own body, focusing on the senses, learning to detect where they are holding stress, tension or emotions and using their own power to release it,’ she says. ‘The aim here is to get out of the thinking mind and into the body. Meditation is any practice that gets you out of the thinking mind.
‘When we are here, we are in a parasympathetic nervous system response, which is also known as “rest and digest”. It’s where the mind and body can function optimally and recovery is quicker.
Next, we stand up, the music changes tempo and we go into primal shaking, Qi Gong and freeform movement to tribal and Latin house, drum and bass etcetera. Dance is a low-intensity form of exercise, so it releases those feel-good hormones, aiding in diminishing stress and boosting self-esteem.
‘People are now looking for what makes them feel good, not what makes them look good. When people are shaking and finding freedom in movement, they can feel a bit silly or self-conscious, so I ask them to close their eyes. ‘It’s not what you look like, it’s about what you feel.’
Cody Mooney is director of performance for Pliability (pliability.com), a human movement brand that uses evidence-based disciplines and fuses yoga, prehab, rehab, recovery, mindfulness, strength, targeted body maintenance and guided breathwork. He says movement doesn’t have to be complicated, it just needs to be consistent.
‘Bringing attention to these areas creates a foundation of healing, education and recovery that translates to more than just training benefits,’ says Cody. ‘I believe as a society we have strayed too far from our roots. Being in nature, eating what we grow, human interaction and so on, all make us feel human. The same has happened with movement and we now rely too heavily on electric bikes, cars, scooters, and elevators. We have figured out ways to make life easy.
‘So, one of my main goals through our platform is to promote consistency, longevity and education around movement. From a training standpoint, I believe that functional fitness is the best form of movement because it’s the broadest and most diverse, with moves through a full range of motions.’
Cody says that even the smallest amount of movement can start healthy habits.
‘Fitness has been hyped and made into a “sport.” People think it has to be an intense, brutal workout. But above all, movement is a way of life. Being stationary is one of the worst things for humans and leads to much more significant consequences. The more we move, the more aware of our bodies we become, which helps promote consistency, longevity and education.’
Stephen Price is the founder of Movementum (movementumuk.com), a new movement health brand located in London’s Mandarin Oriental hotel.
It blends movement with mindfulness, breath work and behaviour change to help people live better through moving more. Stephen calls it a ‘unique ecosystem’ because as well as providing classes and spa treatments, it has its own range of body products to enhance movement and muscular health.
‘We are dedicated to helping people take control of their physical and mental health,’ he says. ‘Our offerings are designed to improve physical literacy, confidence, motivation and strength while also increasing neurological function, preventing injury and supporting rehabilitation. We need to build bodies which will be fit for life. Whether you’re an athlete looking for a competitive edge, or facing a limited range of motion or chronic soreness, our classes focus on creating flexibility through assisted stretching and movement techniques.’
We know that physical activity is declining rapidly and Movementum combats this trend with its multifaceted approach. ‘It is vital we raise awareness and education about movement health, if we want to slow and reverse this trend,’ he adds.
‘Improving our movement health doesn’t just improve our physiological health, but our emotional and psychological health, too. Every single minute of movement has a positive health benefit, from improved physical performance to injury prevention and even increased neurological function.’
Darryl Edwards, a movement coach and exercise physiologist, is the founder of the Primal Play Method (primalplay.com). His TED Talk ‘Why Working Out Isn’t Working Out’ has been viewed over a million times.
‘Our environments have definitely engineered movement out of our lives,’ he says. ‘If you think about children, they will happily climb, jump and roll down anything they can, but as adults we barely need to move – most things can be done from our devices. And yet, movement positively affects every cell in our body.
‘Physically it helps to prevent chronic lifestyle disease such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Statistically, there’s a 50 per cent reduction in all-cause mortality if you avoid physical inactivity. Mentally it reduces chronic stress and releases the feel-good hormones.’
Darryl set up Primal Play after falling out of love with his own exercise programme. ‘I asked myself, when was the last time I really loved movement and realised it was when I was a kid. I knew I need to recapture my inner child and the joy of movement.’
His method incorporates the primal movement patterns we should engage in to maintain good health and vitality. Think crawling, jumping, climbing, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling.
‘Rather than going to the gym and doing three sets of 10, look for ways to implement Primal Play into your day – overtake people when you’re walking down the street and deduct points if someone overtakes you. Before you know it, you’ve walked a significant distance.
‘Experts say that if you sit for six to eight hours a day, which most of us do, you have to do an hour of exercise to counter the harmful impacts. Aim to keep movement fun and enjoyable, and the movement minutes will soon add up.’
Try these exercises at home
Cody Mooney at Pliability shares his top four basic movements to incorporate into everyday life.
‘This resting pose puts you into a position that elongates your body and helps release tension throughout the full body.’
Hip and quad stretch
‘Releasing your hips and quads can have a major benefit on decreasing lower back pain significantly.’
‘Releasing your quads can play a major role in releasing the discomfort in your knees after training. Most aches and pains are not caused by the exact location on the body where you feel them.’
‘Pigeon is one of the best stretches to counterbalance the negative side effects of sitting all day. It helps release the hips and lower back muscles, for better flexibility and to decrease tension.’
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