Movement matters

Over the last few years, one word has become super “hip” within the field of health and fitness: movement. It is a word that has always been around, but that has now become the symbol of a new paradigm.

Let us look at what the dictionary has to say about movement:

Dictionary Definition of “movement” *

Hmm, pretty basic, right?

So, why the fuzz about movement? Why should we move more? And why does this not simply mean to do more exercise? Is movement just a new fad? Is the trend towards movement good? And what does it all mean for the simple man or woman who is interested in a healthy life, or simply in caring for their body? These are questions we want to begin to explore hereafter.

Maybe it helps to start by reflecting on the evolutionary nature of our human bodies. For most of history, humans simply had to move much more and in a much more varied way than many of us do today. Think about it, many of the standard commodities of the modern world didn’t exist even a hundred years ago. Cars and trains, running water, heating and elevators, just to name a few. For most of human history, people did not use chairs to rest while today, many of us sit in chairs (and on couches) more than ten hours every day. As hunters and gatherers, we had to move in a variety of ways and at different intensities on a daily basis, walking (a lot), running, balancing, lifting and carrying objects, jumping, throwing and catching things, climbing and even crawling. Our bodies today are still a result of these demands. And even after farming had been invented, most people would move many hours a day working, squatting, carrying and lifting. Modernity, however, has brought other kinds of demands and has reduced our movement variety by a large degree. If we do not engage in athletic endeavors, many jobs and the common household tasks do not require much more movement than to sit on and get up from chairs and couches, walk a couple of hundred meters and use our hands and upper bodies for light tasks like typing on a computer, carrying documents and bags as well as the occasional forward bend to pick something up or sweep our floors. This mismatch between the evolutionary nature of our bodies and life in modern day society has been very interestingly described in the popular book “The Story of the Human Body”, written by Harvard professor Daniel E. Lieberman.

Human (work) evolution: image by**
Human (work) evolution: image by**

The fact that our bodies are still craving natural movement patterns even though we do not need them anymore to survive in the modern world, also stands behind MovNat, a physical education and fitness system that aims at developing physical competence through learning a variety of natural and applicable movement skills through mindful and technical practice. This kind of practice does not only increase our level of overall activity, but also teaches us movement skills that are practical and applicable in the real world. This way we are not only giving our bodies what they crave (many forms of natural movement), but also learn how to do our everyday tasks more efficiently while at the same time increasing our strength, endurance and mobility.

Having opened up the discussion with a somewhat evolutionary perspective on movement, I would now like to introduce Ido Portal, who is an inspiring athlete and one of the most prominent movement proponents, too. He has been advocating a “movement lifestyle” for a number of years now and has largely been responsible for the shift towards movement in the health and fitness field. Ido proposes to go beyond the sometimes narrow limits of separated movement disciplines and explore all the possibilities the human body has to offer with regard to movement. This can include patterns commonly used in disciplines as different and diverse as dance, gymnastics, parkour, strength training, sports, climbing, yoga and martial arts (Ido has a large background in the beautiful Brazilian martial art of Capoeira).

Ido Portal has termed words like “depmoved” which stands for “deprived of movement” and which according to him is true for most of our culture. For people to begin moving towards a movement lifestyle (pun intended!) he is known to recommend incorporating two basic human movement patterns into one’s daily life: hanging and squatting.

To add another important perspective, I’d also like to introduce Katy Bowman, a biomechanist from the United States that has published various books on the topic of correct alignment, foot health and movement. Her most famous book is called “Move your DNA” in which she describes how our “depmoved” modern lifestyle is inevitably leading to the widespread health problems we’re seeing around. She explains how the lack of regular natural movement patterns affects us negatively even on a cellular level, as almost all of the (trillions of) cells in our bodies have built-in mechanisms to sense our movement – or, our lack thereof. She describes exercise as just a small part within the huge field of human movement. To have a varied and healthy “movement diet”, it is therefore not enough to counter the 8+ hours of sitting every day with just one hour of exercise (which often only consists of one or two movement patterns).

As Katy Bowman explains in the video, it is an integral part of health and well-being to have a varied and healthy movement diet, which means learning about movement quality and engage in a variety of natural movement patterns on a regular basis.

In short: care for the body = lots of nutritious movement.
Or as Ido Portal puts it: use it or lose it – move or die.

PS: If you’re wondering where to start, follow the links in the article above that explain how to incorporate hanging and squatting into your daily life, or have a look at the YouTube channels of MovNat and Katy Bowman to get some movement inspirations!





Sitting: rest and RISK! (Is sitting killing us?)

Sitting makes up for a major part of our daily lives. The modern lifestyle requires us to sit for large periods of time. While it can be a wonderful rest to sit for a while after a long walk or a period of hard work, sitting is now more and more becoming a risk to the health of our bodies.

In this blog post we will look at the dangers of sitting too much, what problems it causes, how we can avoid or at least diminish those problems and so how to create a healthy balance between the “rest” and the “risk” elements of sitting.

The main problem with sitting all day long is that it prevents us from doing other (healthier) activities. When we are sitting, we are not walking, running, crawling, swimming, climbing, lifting or even standing. Not few of us sit for 15 hours a day, so not much time is left for those other activities. We really have turned into sedentary people. And as they say, the problem is, sedentary people can’t run away from diseases (this slogan was actually used by the Portuguese Ministry of Health in a campaign to promote a healthier lifestyle).

Also, we are not saying that sitting is inherently bad since it can be a nice resting position for a while after other activities and can also help us concentrate while we need to accomplish important tasks that require fine motor skills.

On a muscular level, prolonged sitting leads to several issues that with time have the potential to create major imbalances in the body.
One of them is that during sitting, the gluteal muscles (glutes, butt muscles) “switch off”, that means they become inactive or inhibited due to being in a lengthened position for a long time. Another related issue is that the hip flexor muscles tend to become short and tightened. Apart from those, there are potentially a lot of further muscular imbalances and postural problems related to long periods of sitting (often spent in horrible body positions), which include a rounded upper back (problems with thoracic spine extension, tight upper back and neck muscles) that in turn can lead to a host of other problems.

But apart from the muscular imbalances it can create, sitting brings even greater risks to our health. A recent study from Australia has shown that individuals who sat in front of the TV for four or more hours a day had an 80% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than for those who reported watching fewer than two hours daily. Other studies have shown that the increased risk to develop life-threatening conditions like obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease coming from prolonged sitting was unrelated to whether people did exercise or not. That means that, even though exercise is extremely important as part of a healthy lifestyle, in itself it cannot undo the health damages of prolonged sitting.

The infographic at the end of this post will further explain why sitting might be killing us.

Now, let’s look at how we can avoid or at least limit the problems and dangers that go along with sitting for extended periods of time.

I would like to introduce the concept of microbreaks which are precisely one effective tool to counteract the perils of sitting. Microbreaks are very small breaks that one takes every 10 to 20 minutes from one’s working position if it is a static position like in sitting at a desk. While of course it would desirable to have longer breaks, if taken every 10 to 20 minutes, breaks of just 30 to 60 seconds can already be sufficient to counterbalance the effects of sitting for an extended period previously.

To learn more details about microbreaks, please see the extensive article of Paul Ingraham of SaveYourself, the small microbreak brochure including two exercise descriptions by LA chiropractor Craig S. Liebenson and the article by Coach Keats Snydeman from Arizona, USA. The latter has also posted a clear and informative video on the topic which you can see down below, followed by another video by chiropractor Dr. Steve Hoffman from “Core Wellness Institute”.

Having all this information in mind, let’s all be more active!
If you happen to have a desk job, set up a reminder on your computer to make you get up and have a microbreak every 20 minutes. Find ways of spending more time walking and standing, rather than sitting the whole day. Get up, stand up! It might save your life!

And to conclude this post, I’ll share an interesting infographic (created by and some further links and with you below.

Sitting is Killing you -

1 – New York Times blog article on the dangers of sitting:

2 – Great extensive article on shoes, sitting and lower body dysfunctions by Steven Law from EatMoveImprove.

3 – Stanford University guidelines for microbreaks

4 – Great article on the risks of sitting with practical tips by University of New Mexico researcher Len Kravitz, Ph.D.

Fix posture – feel better!

As mentioned in an earlier post, our modern day sedentary lifestyle is taxing to our bodies in many ways. Prolonged sitting, inactivity and less and less physical challenges make for low body awareness, atrophied muscles and many cardiovascular conditions. A particularly noticeable outcome of this is a general prevalence of poor posture.

In short: poor posture is an epidemic.

Poor posture malalignment

If you happen to be in a place full of people, just have a look around and observe peoples’ posture while they are sitting and working or even when they are standing or walking. How is the position of their neck and head? How about the curves of their spine? Do the shoulders slouch forward? Are the feet directed forward or do they turn in or outward?

Chances are high that you will be able to observe many things that reveal some severe imbalances in peoples’ muscular-skeletal system, resulting from long years of bad habits and poor movement patterns.
Many people suffer from what is sometimes called the “crossed posture syndrome“.

Have a look at this short video that is introducing the crossed posture syndrome.

Now, why is it that so many of us have poor postural habits?

On one hand, it certainly has to do with the modern day tendency to spend large amounts of time sitting (often in horrible positions), slouching forward, while we are working, writing, eating or watching TV – starting from a very young age, which results in the observation of horrendous muscular imbalances and movement deficits in many children already at primary school level.
Another big factor is stress, since the stress response activates a series of physical mechanisms that can contribute largely to poor posture if they are turned on constantly.

Sedentary Lifestyle – 1958

The problem with poor posture is not only that it looks really bad in the mirror and to other people, but also that it can lead to a host of serious health complaints and affect our bodies and minds in a variety of negative ways.

First of all, as mentioned above, some muscles will get hyperactive and tight whereas others will get chronically weak and long.

Undue stress is put on the spine and other joints when the surrounding muscles get out of balance and when pain sets in, the body tries to find ways to ease it, which can lead to even worse posture. Not only will there be increased strain on certain joints, but the imbalances also make for a decreased range of motion (=inferior movement) and an increased occurrence of painful trigger points and tightness in the body.

Look at this informative video of Chicago chiropractor and movement specialist Dr. Evan Osar on posture and sitting:

In short: bad posture is bad news!

Bad posture = bad news for the body

But, there are also a lot of myths about posture, have a look at some of them in this link to an article of the Huffington Post:

And here another document listing 10 popular myths about posture.

Now, there are several things we can do to do our bodies good and start improving our posture. Generally, this can be summarized into at least four points:

  • Postural awareness and training
  • Stretching of the tight muscles
  • Strengthening of the weak muscles
  • Soft-tissue work to release trigger points and restore normal health/functioning (this can be professional massage treatment or self-massage with tools like foam rollers)

At this point, it is worth mentioning that also around the topic of posture and postural correction there are a lot of different opinions and approaches – as with many topics related to health and well-being. However, the information provided here seem sensible and widely recognized.

First of all, we need to become aware of our postural habits throughout the day and also become conscious of where our problems lie.

Here is a great informative blog post by performance coach Keats Snideman from Arizona, USA, on posture and postural assessment (I can also only recommend his “The other 23-hours-series on his blog which includes posts about various related topics like stress, sleep, posture, microbreaks, rest positions, massage and stretching).

After initially becoming aware of our problems and reminding ourselves throughout the day, we need to then relearn how to move in a more functional and healthy way and there are many different methods to do this, some focus more on relearning certain movement patterns and strengthening weak muscles through specific exercises, others more on awareness and proper alignment during exercises and everyday activities (like Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique).

To help balance out our muscular imbalances, most trainers recommend some sort of a corrective exercise program that helps strengthening weak and stretching out tight muscles.

Maybe most importantly, we have to start adopting better posture during all of our activities during the day, which can be assisted by a corrective exercise program that helps weak muscles to become stronger and tight muscles to become suppler. If we happen to sit a lot in our jobs or studies, we need to find a good, ergonomic way to sit on our computers or desks, as well as adopting the habit of taking frequent breaks from sitting, possibly including some short exercises that can reverse the bad effects of our prolonged periods of sitting.

Have a look at this video, explaining how to have better posture when sitting and working at the computer in an illustrative way:

On the same note, I’ll share an infographic by I found that contains 7 steps to better posture while working. Have a look (click on it for bigger size)!

Infographic by

To provide some further good video and reading material to delve deeper into the topic, I will conclude this blog post by providing several links to videos, pictures and websites that focus on this topic.

First of all, I’d like to recommend two youtube channels that provide a lot of videos on correcting posture.

One channel is by Indiana (USA) based chiropractor Steve Hoffman who provides a lot of videos on improving posture and movement as well as other information like nutrition and wellness. One of his videos was already embedded above.

Here one more detailed introductory video on the crossed posture syndrome by Dr. Steve Hoffman.

And, another very good and informative youtube channel almost exclusively dedicated to posture related topic is the “posturevideos” channel by US chiropractor Dr. Paula Moore.

Look here at the great introductory video series “7 Biggest Posture Mistakes”:

Furthermore, I found another good infographic on the topic that I’m sharing below. Have a look at it and learn more interesting facts related to the topic of posture.

Infographic by Greatist and Voltier Digital

OK, I hope this served as a helpful introduction to the topic and as a motivation for all of us to become conscious of and start to improve our posture. Please share this information and if you discovered that your posture is less than optimal while reading this post, don’t despair (it’s the case for most of us) and don’t be too hard on yourself (look at the effects of feeling bad about oneself in the comic below :-)), but start to be active NOW and soon enjoy the benefits!


Fit for Life?


With our modern day sedentary lifestyle strongly influencing our health in various ways, one of the most important elements of taking care of our bodies and working against the downsides of the modern luxuries (like being able to do almost all of our daily tasks from our desk) is exercise. Fitness and exercise are often talked about, but what they really mean and how they work often remains unclear. The purpose of this new Care for the Body blogpost is to introduce and give a short overview on the topic of fitness, which will be followed by several more detailed posts on specific aspects of fitness like strength training, cardio-training, flexibility/mobility training, etc.

First of all one needs to understand what the dangers of the sedentary lifestyle are. Our evolution has now reached a point where one of the biggest dangers to our health is coming from sitting too much and moving too little. The conditions that are caused by a lack of sufficient physical activity are sometimes referred to as hypokinetic diseases (hypo: lack of; kinetic: movement). These include all kinds of cardiovascular diseases (related to our heart and blood system), some types of cancer, back problems, diabetes and many other.


Now, if we understand that not being active enough is the cause of or a factor in many diseases, bad mood and even psychological problems, then – if our concern is health and well-being – we should get more active and fit, moving a lot in order to get out of that hypokinetic state most of us are in.

Below a video about the benefits of even a little bit of exercise during the day as opposed to doing nothing but sitting all day long.

Fitness colloquially means to be in a good shape and to be healthy.

Some people associate the word fitness with only running or with only strength training which reduces the meaning to only one of the aspects of fitness.

Fitness means being fit for life and its many physical challenges (even though there are also many other challenges that we are not talking about in this blogpost) and it includes a wide range of aspects.

The most important health-related aspects of fitness arguably are:

  • Muscular strength and endurance
  • Cardio-respiratory endurance
  • Flexibility/Mobility
  • Coordination and Balance

Some lists add body composition (the ratio between lean tissue like muscle and bone and fat tissue in the body).

Apart from those there are other aspects to fitness like speed, power, agility and reaction time, but one could argue that there are a little bit less relevant for general health and fitness.

There are training systems and philosophies like CrossFit that have become very popular over the last years that emphasize a wide range of aspects of fitness. Have a look here for CrossFit’s definition on fitness (on the site you can also download a pdf where all the CF aspects of fitness are listed and explained).

Let’s have a quick look at the above stated aspects of fitness (there will be subsequent blogposts with more information and videos on these, too):


Strength is the ability of a person to exert force on physical objects using muscle and is needed for all our basic human activities. Whether we walk, run, jump, lift something up or do other work, we need adequate physical strength to do so.


Strength can be trained in different ways, though most effectively through a well planned strength training program with weights and bodyweight exercises.

Strength training has innumerable benefits, such as:

  • Increased metabolism (muscle tissue is metabolically active while fat tissue isn’t, so when you improve your body composition through strength training your metabolism improves, too)
  • Increased muscle and bone strength (is necessary for all everyday activities; works against natural decline in muscle and bone mass that begins around age 25 in human beings (see article “Is sarcopenia ruining your life?”); prevents osteoporosis)
  • Increased flexibility and coordination (strength training exercises through a full range of motion have shown to increase flexibility; they also improve both inter- and intramuscular coordination, meaning that muscles become more efficient and work together better)
  • Prevention of injuries through the strenghtening of the muscles that support the other structures in the body (bones, tendons, ligaments, etc.)
  • Better insulin sensitivity (the body is able to control blood sugar levels with less insulin and puts less stress on your pancreas)
  • Lower cholesterol: (training helps lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and triglyceride levels and raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels)

Conclusion: Find a competent trainer and start your own regular strength training program! It will boost your overall fitness! But: Don’t forget to also do some cardio and flexibility training!

More information on strength training will come in subsequent posts.

Cardio-respiratory endurance:

Cardio-respiratory endurance refers to the ability of the heart and lungs to absorb, transport, and utilize oxygen over an extended period of physical exertion.
So called “cardio” exercises are low-intensity exercises that depend primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process.


Popular examples are:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Jump Rope (Ropeskipping)

Aerobic exercises have been recommended as part as a health-related fitness program for a long term due to their extense benefits on our cardio-respiratory capacity like making for a decreased resting heart rate, a reduced blood pressure, an increased heart volume, increased resting and maximum stroke volume, an increased maximum oxygen consumption and many more.

Since our heart is also a muscle, it needs regular “work outs” to keep it strong and healthy and improve its functioning. Aerobic exercises are arguably the best way to provide this.

One should keep in mind though that exercises like long distance running can be demanding on the body and require good strength and technique to start with. Many untrained individuals who start running do so with bad technique or without proper physical preparation which can lead to injury and frustration.

Conclusion: Make some form of aerobic activity part of your exercise regime and do it regularly. Even going for brisk walks every day is great, provided it is not the only thing you do (see strength Training, flexibility).


Flexibility is the ability to move our joints through their full range of motion. It is a very important part of health and fitness for everyone (not just for dancers and gymnasts) since insufficient flexibility can restrict us from proper movement and lead to a range of injuries and painful conditions.

Factors that affect flexibility include: genetic inheritance, the joint structure itself, connective tissue elasticity within muscles, tendons or skin surrounding a joint, strength of opposing muscle groups, body type, age, activity level and gender.

Here some of the possible benefits of having good (NOT extreme) flexibility:

  • Improve and maintain your range of motion, which improves balance
  • Increased physical efficiency and performance
  • Increased balance and coordination
  • Decreased risk of low back pain
  • Reduce tension and stress
  • Decreased risk of injury
  • Decreases recovery time
  • Improve circulation and concentration
  • Prevent falls
  • Relieve chronic pain
  • Improve your posture

Popular examples for flexibility enhancing exercises are:

  • Stretching (static, PNF, etc.)
  • Mobility exercises (dynamic stretching)
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Strength training (when properly executed with movements through full range of motion)


A note of caution: Although good flexibility makes for a wide range of benefits, one should not overdo it. Especially in certain types of yoga and pilates classes people are sometimes advised to force themselves into very “unnatural” postures that with the time increase their flexibility up to an exaggerated level that is not functional anymore and goes along with decreased stability and a higher risk for injuries or chronic problems.

Conclusion: Definitely include some flexibility work in your training, if possible every day! Just make sure you also include some strength and cardio work!

Balance and Coordination:

Coordination is the ability to repeatedly execute a sequence of movements smoothly and accurately. This may involve the senses, muscular contractions and joint movements.

Balance is the ability to control the body’s position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt). Put differently, it is defined as the ability of the body to statically and dynamically stabilize against resisting intrinsic and extrinsic forces.


For a balanced and healthy life, one should also have good coordination and balance skills. After all, everything that we participate in requires the ability to coordinate our limbs and balance our body to achieve a successful outcome – from walking to the most complex movements of athletic events.

The foundation for good coordination should be laid in childhood. If this is not done, it will be much more difficult to improve one’s coordinative abilities when already grown up, but it is certainly worth it.

Many different activities can improve coordination and its different aspects, which is why it is important to engage in a wide range of physical activities and to constantly challenge oneself in new ways.

Moreover, there are some activities that specifically improve one’s coordinative abilities, like for example aesthesie, which by the way, has been offered as a workshop here at Brockwood Park School for several years now during the “Autumn Week” or “Winter Workshops” and has been continuously popular. See this blog post from Brockwood’s blog for more information.

Get fit for life

So after all, to be fit for life and its many challenges, one needs to include a wide range of physical activities in one’s daily life. Become aware of what you are lacking in and then engage in a balanced program that includes strength and endurance training, regular cardiovascular/aerobic activities, flexibility work and as many different and challenging activities as you can to improve and maintain your coordination and balance.

For some more tips, do’s and don’ts for your exercise routine, check this interesting infographic made by vibram, the company that produces the FiveFinger-shoes.



Book Tip (for a great overview on the benefits and various aspects of fitness):
Fitness & Health by Sharkey, Gaskill (2006, 6th edition)

The most important thing: listen to your body, don’t get obsessed and make it fun!