10 Functional Fitness Moves (Instead of Dumb Exercise)
In the fitness industry, very little attention is paid to the simple, yet so rich, human body movement vocabulary that we all possess deep inside our genes, from when we were more active as children, and long before that as apes living in trees. By taking you back to the roots of human movement behavior, with some useful tips and videos, this article hopes to reawaken an interest in your own daily functional body movement habits. You will soon discover how easy and fun it is to move in a way that re-aligns your skeleton and helps you become strong, supple, and agile again. Even better, once you become aware of how you move (or fail to move) and practice the 10 basic functional fitness moves incorporated in your daily life, you will no longer have to spend time, money, effort, and pain "exercising" at the gym in the traditional sense.
The problem is that the fitness industry is too fragmented. Every fitness professional or institution wants a piece of the fitness pie with their own specialization. Yet none of the vast number of methods, disciplines, and techniques work if they are practiced exclusively. The result is that western societies today have lost the ability to move well enough to meet basic physical requirements. We are in the middle of an obesity and immobility pandemic. What can be done? Let us find out what the lost movement patterns are and regain their daily practice.
10 Basic Functional Fitness Moves Necessary for Survival
Balance, flexibility, strength, agility, and being comfortable in your body comes from a relatively narrow spectrum of plain, ordinary, basic "forgotten", functional fitness moves that are becoming extinct in many adults today. What is a functional move? As an extreme example, take the African village woman who carries 20 liters of water on her head for 5 km. To us, this is extremely skillful. They may one day add that as an Olympic sports feature. For the African village woman however, carrying 20 liters of water on her head is normal functional movement behavior. She does it every day.
For now, let us poor crippled Westerners stick to just 10 basic functional moves we all need to be able to perform to maintain a healthy movement vocabulary throughout our lives.
- lying the floor and posture in standing
- sitting on the floor comfortably
- jumping and running
In a very few remaining less "civilized" cultures, the above moves are natural to adults. Take the How Well Do You Move? quiz at the end of this article to find out how your personal movement style scores compared to others. Please be honest; the quiz is anonymous, no one will know your results except yourself. But before that, what is the main cause of the immobility pandemic?
We Lost Ground
The main cause of the immobility pandemic is that we have lost touch with the most important thing in life. We have lost touch with mother Earth, contact with the ground and the floor.
Only our feet ever touch the ground, but even then, our poor feet are harnessed by damaging shoes.The consequences of the immobility pandemic are reflected by the present obesity, cancer, mental failure (depression), and Alzheimer pandemics. But even closer to home, if you consider yourself "healthy," but you are a poor mover, then you are in trouble. For example, the action of catching oneself when stumbling or falling requires super rapid reflexes and the ability to move off balance through several levels in space (kneeling, crawling) before you hit the ground. A good mover can easily catch a fall unhurt. A bad mover may pull several tendons, dislocate the spine, or even break a bone from the same fall. Don't panic, the first lesson in movement is very simple: Lie down on your back on the floor.
1. Lying on the Floor
Lie down flat on the floor (not on a bed) and see how comfortable you are. Use props as shown in the above picture until you can comfortably lie on the floor without them. Surprisingly, lying on the floor is the best exercise you will ever do to get you started on your journey to becoming a good mover. Just close your eyes, breathe, and enjoy. As all good exercise should be, this position uses gravity as your best friend; it is passive, restful, pleasant, and most beneficial. Once you can lie down on the floor comfortably without props, you are ready to learn how to stand up with a correct posture.
Posture in Standing
Building up a good posture begins at the feet. Then the ankles, knees, pelvis and thorax can be aligned, but most importantly, the head should be carried directly above the spine and not in front of the body. Like a ball falling off a stick, the only way to stop those neck and upper back muscles from aching from doing over-time is to keep the head back and high with the chin down.
Now you know how to lie down and how to stand, let us explore the movement vocabulary between these two levels. How do we get up from the floor?
Over-curvature of the Spine
Did you know that you don't actually have to "shrink" with age? Older people appear to become shorter because, over many years of focusing down towards busy hands, gravity has diminished the sponginess between the vertebrae and, rather like an accordion, "folded" the spine somewhat.
You Don't Shrink with Age
Is this YOUR Movement Vocabulary?
If someone's day-to-day movement vocabulary consists of a limited number of actions ranging from sleeping, getting dressed, sitting, perhaps a little walking to the car, being at work (usually sitting), shopping, cooking food, watching TV or a computer, and sleeping again, then that won't do.
2. Sitting on the Floor Comfortably
Have you ever considered what chairs can do to our health? Watch the next short video and be surprised.
Are You Chair Shaped? Loosening the Hamstrings
Why not get down on all fours for a change and crawl on your hands and knees to reach for an object on the floor? Your spine will get straighter, and you will be using certain muscle groups not used in many years.
Squat on top of the toilet to do your business for easier elimination. Not only that, daily squatting guarantees full use of the knee joints and works on your balance too!
Climbing a steep hill or climbing up the stairs two-by-two strengthens your thighs and improves balance and endurance.
6. Hanging by Arms or Upside-Down
Grab the branch of a tree and hang by your arms. Even one arm will do to stretch out the shoulder joint and get a good stretch for the whole body. Even better, hang upside down on a gravity inversion table to gently stretch out from head to toe.
Invert Gravity to Straighten Up
There are many ways to prevent shrinking by over-curvature. The key is to use gravity to the body's advantage rather than to its detriment. For example, doing a headstand as in Yoga inverts the body and is a good balancing exercise. But think about it: In a headstand, the entire body weight is carried by the head. Poor neck! Who, in their right mind, wants to carry their entire body weight on the top of their head? There are two better options to defy gravity: The first one is a Gravity Inversion Table, the second, a Yoga Inversion Swing.
Hang from that branch, or piece of strong doweling, swing a little, then jump down onto the ground, gently bending the knees upon landing for perfect control of the arms, legs, and feet.
Dig a big hole in the ground, to plant a new tree in the garden perhaps? Make sure you swap hands occasionally to balance out the action. Digging strengthens the arms and spine. It also boosts lung power and uses up many superfluous calories.
The action of carrying weight is so easily incorporated into your daily movement habits. It couldn't be more simple to implement. Only buy as much food at the supermarket as you can carry walking back home. More frequent visits, buying fewer and fresher items, will help you get stronger and more fit.
10. Jumping and Running
Running is jumping alternatively from one foot onto the other while traveling forward. Occasionally run to catch a bus or a ball. Challenge yourself to jump down the last 2 or 3 steps on a stair case. The benefit of jumping is that you become weightless at the top of the jump.
Caution: Running and jumping requires soft landing through well aligned feet, ankles and knees or damage may occur.
Here is the promised quiz: How Well Do You Move?view quiz statistics
The loss of basic movement functions in the body is grotesque and progressive. With an excess of beds, sofas, chairs, and tables, the obesity and immobility pandemics can only get worse. Neither can they be halted by talking about food and exercise only. Alongside the food scandal that is destroying human health, the fitness and pharmaceutical industries take advantage of the food industry victims. It is time we took our health back into our own bodies. I hope that "10 Basic Functional Fitness Moves Instead of Dumb Exercise" has opened you eyes, your body, and your brain to a new, more sensible and natural approach to being fit and healthy.
Don't forget to take the quiz and please feel free to ask questions or share your views in the conversation below.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
How can I learn to squat? I'm fifty-five, and I cannot squat anymore because my knees hurt. Is there any way I could ever learn to squat again?
Your knees probably hurt for two reasons: (1) they may not be adequately aligned and (2) they are stiff because they never reach full mobility. This is a catch 22 situation. Joints get stiff from a lack of use (a lack of movement), and stiffness in the joints stops them moving to full capacity.
Another reason that people cannot squat is that the thigh muscles are too weak.
You can do three things to learn to squat again.
1. Re-align your ankles and knees. How? Follow the instructions in this article:
2. Once knee alignment is corrected, you are ready to begin getting the knees fully mobile and flexible. This means folding the lower leg to full capacity until the foot touches the butt.
3. Finally, learn to strengthen the thighs by doing half squats, and gradually working your way down deeper into full squats holding on to the kitchen top while waiting for the potatoes to cook (or something).
Put this advice into practice, and you'll be able to squat again in a few weeks time, no problem. But don't overdo it, remember my motto: No Pain, Just Gain.