Movement: It’s What We Were Born to Do

Before we dive into human movement, I have a very important question. Have you ever watched the movie Wall-E? If not, check out the clip below before you continue reading:

I thought of this portion of the movie recently while in Denver International Airport, watching hundreds of people stand in place on the escalator instead of taking the stairs right next to it, or standing in place on the slowly moving walkways instead of simply walking on their own. Heck, I’d even feel better if I saw people walking up the escalator or walking on the moving walkways. But standing completely still while a piece of machinery moves you around? Nope. No way Jose.

When did we become so deeply entrenched in our need for convenience at all times and avoiding any discomfort that we gave up one of the most innate aspects of humanity? Not moving your body is not normal, plain and simple. This is why I always strive to separate fat loss from exercise — exercise and training and movement have to be completely separate. There’s a misconception that people who exercise do so to lose weight or achieve a certain look. Sure, some people do. But people also exercise and move and train because it’s what our bodies were designed to do, and if we don’t do it, we’ll surely encounter big problems down the road. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Our bodies, and in particular our hearts, want to be worked. When they are not, when our pulse rarely if ever rises, pathology may set in.

I’ve written before about why the obesity epidemic hits so close to home, so if you’ve read that, this might be a bit more of the same. But it’s so critically important that I’ll never stop screaming from the mountaintops until serious change sets in.I recently listened to a School of Greatness podcast episode featuring Ido Portal where they discuss movement, and even though I’d consider myself a fairly active person, I know there is WAY more that I can be doing. For instance, Portal is of the belief that humans should be able to sit for long periods of time in a full squat — up to 30 minutes. After all, the squat is one of the most innate human movements, and a natural sitting position. While 30 minutes seems unattainable to me at this moment, I drew inspiration from that episode to work on my ability to hold the squat position. So for 30 days, I’m challenging myself to squat for 10 cumulative minutes per day. That’s only a fraction of what Portal recommends, but I’m opting for something a little more doable right now. 30 minutes seems daunting, but 10 minutes is totally manageable in comparison. 2 minutes brushing my teeth in the morning, 2 minutes brushing them at night, 2 minutes waiting for water to boil for tea…you get the picture.

David Raichlen, an anthropologist and exercise scientist at the University of Arizona who led a study on the Hadza people of Tanzania, says that: “human bodies likely evolved to need and respond to the kind of physiological demands” that the Hadza (hunter-gatherers) still undergo on most days. In a New York Times Health response to the study, Gretchen Reynolds questions, “Are we fighting thousands of years of evolutionary history and the best interests of our bodies when we sit all day?”

Western society is set up so that nothing is ever too hard for people. It’s all-too-easy to coast by in your day to day life, so in order to regain, or maintain, our health, we must fight tenaciously against societal pressures that spoon feed us convenience and comfort.Movement is never the de facto — rather, you have to go out of your way to move. One simple way to do this: take the stairs whenever you can. I used to work on the 10th floor of an office building in New York City and begged the doormen to let me use the stairs instead of the elevator, because 10 floors is a perfectly reasonable amount of flights to walk up daily, but they said it was for emergencies only. It took everything in me not to say that the need for basic human movement IS an emergency.

Just in the last century alone, we have lost so many thousands of years of physical strengths and basic movement abilities. Everyone who is able bodied (I’m generalizing here in the heat of the moment) should be able to squat, pick things up and carry them, and walk without getting out of breath. It’s not a matter of wanting to or not. At this point, we don’t have the luxury of deciding whether or not we want to be active. If we’re not, then we’re failing as a society.

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