10 Basic Functional Moves in Lieu of Exercise

Updated on July 9, 2017
Sue Adams profile image

Dancer, choreologist (movement notator), author on fitness and health and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.

Living an outdoor lifestyle and being comfortable with the elements gives strength, health and happiness.
Living an outdoor lifestyle and being comfortable with the elements gives strength, health and happiness. | Source

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 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.


Immobility Pandemic

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 Utilitarian 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", utilitarian moves that are becoming extinct in many adults today. What is a utilitarian 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 some basic utilitarian moves we all need to be able to perform to maintain a healthy movement vocabulary throughout our lives.

  1. lying the floor
  2. sitting on the floor comfortably
  3. crawling
  4. squatting
  5. climbing
  6. hanging
  7. swinging
  8. digging
  9. carrying
  10. jumping and running

In a very few remaining less "civilized" cultures, the above moves are natural to adults. Take the challenge poll at the end of this article to find out how your personal movement vocabulary scores compared to others. Please be honest; the poll is anonymous, no one will know how you fare 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.

Lying flat on the floor to correct posture.
Lying flat on the floor to correct posture. | Source

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 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?

Don't lose your head, it's got your brain in there!
Don't lose your head, it's got your brain in there! | Source

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

You don't actually shrink with age. You merely suffer an over-curvature of the neck and spine.
You don't actually shrink with age. You merely suffer an over-curvature of the neck and spine. | Source

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 video and be amazed.

Are You Chair Shaped? Loosening the Hamstrings

3. Crawling

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.

4. Squatting

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!

5. Climbing

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.

Gravity Inversion Table

Teeter Hang Ups EP-950 Inversion Table With Healthy Back DVD
Teeter Hang Ups EP-950 Inversion Table With Healthy Back DVD

By using gravity to the body’s advantage rather than to its detriment, correct alignment, mobility, and strength can be regained. The degree of descent into the upside-down or semi upside-down position ifs controlled by very subtle arm movements.

The ankle closure system is designed to distribute weight comfortably around the ankle without affecting the foot or heel, allowing for a more comfortable, secure, and relaxing inversion experience.


7. Swinging

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.

8. Digging

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.

9. Carrying

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 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 can occur.

Here is the promised Poll Challenge

How many of the following basic essential moves do you include in your daily movement vocabulary?

See results

To Conclude

The loss of basic movement functions in the body is grotesque and progressive. With an excess of beds, sofas, chairs, and tables, the obesity problem can not be solved. Neither can it be solved 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 Moves in Lieu of Exercise" has opened you eyes, your body, and your brain to a new, more sensible approach to feeling better. Don't forget to take the poll, share, leave a comment, or ask a question.


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    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 2 years ago from Andalusia

      Hi Becky,

      You can probably plug in your earphones to your laptop or tablet to hear the video.

      Good luck with your recovery.

    • profile image

      Becky 2 years ago

      This really works great! TY. The only thing is the your video sound for ear phones, there's none. There are a lot of people that are actually Deaf or going deaf like me. I have to take my hearing aid out of my left ear to hear it. I really would love to hear it. PLEASE! PLEASE! Active the sound in ear buds. There are a lot people out there that would be interested in these methods. Especially me...

      I'm in deep Pain all the time. Anything would be better than taking medication. I had a really bad Car accident. I look normal, There's a lot of things I can not do, like I can't Vacuum the Carpet, Sweep the kitchen floor, Wash clothes, Buy groceries, Shop around, and a lot of other things. I can Straighten my bed or change my fury blankets on my bed, wash dishes Stove & counters, Water my plants and clean up, but sometimes that makes me hurt too. I use to Workout everyday, 4 hours a day. Just Richard Simon and the oldies, I would go for walks, take vitamins and Protein shakes. I accidentally pulled a Muscle in my leg been down ever since. My son bless his heart does everything now and he loves it. My car Accident left me with 3 vertebrae's out of place. I need surgery because the Vertebrae's are separating and I need spacers in between them. So when I get out of bed I scream hurt a lot. I also pulled my hip out of the socket too. My bad, I wasn't wearing a sit belt back in 1987. The two prangs in the gear shift standard car,

      drilled a hole in my leg and caused my hip to come out of the socket. I missed work so I could go shopping with my mother, and my mother and I in the same got hit head on in a car accident. My mother broke the bone that protects her heart. There's nothing the doctors could do for her. It heals on it's own, feels like heart burn. I also hit my Knee on the Dashboard so I had a hallo bruise on my knee. My head it the Windshield, and shaved off one inch and a half of my hair on by forehead. I also had a hallo bruise on my neck which was so swollen that my neck looked like it was connected to my chest. I also broke the top of my left foot, the bone that goes to all my toes and broke 3 toes and had a Cast to sleep with and that's horrible too. I must have pressed down with my elbows on impact, because if I get cool air on my elbows slightly I hurt badly all night. The lady didn't have insurance, and nor a Drivers License. She didn't even own of the car, it was her friends. She total both cars, not fixable. My mother and I were really hurt, what a mess. My Mother had insurance and I had insurance from my job at that time.

      So you see I'm not a Skinny Minnie either, but I did workout every day started out slowly. I was way up there working-out in bed, Sit-up & Leg lifts. I can't pull or twist very good because I easily come out of place.

      I have tripped over my Stair Climber and landed on the floor screaming for my son when he's home to help pull me off the floor. I have two left feet, all my life even when I was thin. Tripping upstairs, Falling down stairs lol. I'm thankful for what I have been through and where I am.

      But...I would love to do this Exercises and bring my health and Body up to par. Feeling good about myself and gradually working-out and walking 10 miles again soon WOW! Great!! My neck is feeling good doing these exercise your showing. "To the future and Beyond"

      I grew up eating Sweets in my family and we are workers too. I love over-time. I learned how to bake before learning how to cook. I have more than 7 years of cooking classes. I make the Tortilla Dough and my son rolls them out and cooks them. I still cook for my son I love to do that, but there are days I just have to much pain and he the cooks.

      I also love dancing in the kitchen. My son grew up listening to oldies and he loves them too.

      People are getting fat Because...

      People eat a lot now there's Fast food! All you can eat! and fast food Pizza merged with Taco Bell. You might want Pizza only and than you find out they sell Tacos there too. Well let me have some of that.

      It's like that everywhere. You go buy groceries, going to the check-out

      there are more goodies well that looks good I'll buy it. It's not even on your list. It's everywhere. Buy online I say, but how about them apples!

      "Were on the fast track"

      Southern California'

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 7 years ago from Andalusia

      Thank you Janine, every little bit helps.

    • profile image

      Janine 7 years ago

      Nice to find information on fitness which makes some good sense as opposed to advertising torturing fitnes equipment and products that do no good to anyone. Well done Sue.

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 8 years ago from Andalusia

      Thanks Barry, glad you get something out of my work. I hear what you're saying Magnoliazz about some parents who are not a good example to their children. I know we are not here to judge but to educate, yet think about parenting: you need a license to drive a car, to keep a dog and yet anyone can bring children into the world with no training what-so-ever in parenting skills. The law can only intervene when it's too late. Lucky are those kids who have grand parents to help in the task of bringing them up and pass on tried and tested values for life's increasingly demanding challenges.

    • magnoliazz profile image

      magnoliazz 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I think you are on the right track. People get turned off with the thought of exercising, and it really does not make any sense to do something over and over again mindlessly.

      My approach to a normal weight is to get out there and start growing some of your own food. Living in Wisconsin on a Christmas tree farm, I have a big garden, I also gather food from the woods and surrounding countryside in season. Walking through the woods, hunting for food is man's oldest exercise and effective in keeping the weight down. There is something about being outside in the wind and sun that regulates the appetite.

      I also tell people with a weight problem to take a look at their housekeeping skills. Many overweight people that I know also live in a filthy house! Just watch the show Hoarders, those people are usually lazy and overweight.

      My German grandmother, who would have made an excellent Nazi, instilled a work ethic on her grandchildren at a young age. She always had "chores" for us to do before we could sit and watch TV. To this day, I cannot sit down and relax unless my house is in order. How some people can sit there and watch TV with an ounce of dust all over it is beyond me.

      Growing up, I thought my German grandmother was "mean", but now I know she taught us valuable lessons in life, like if you keep your house clean, you will also keep your weight down from that activity alone! How many times have I seen an overweight friend pay big money for an exercise program, while their house looks like a bomb hit it! They would be money ahead if they would simply stay home and clean their house and at the same time they would be making a giant step toward being slim for life, plus they would be teaching their kids the same things. How many times have you seen an obese child sit there in front of the TV because that is all mom and dad does?

      Being fit and healthy can come naturally and easily, we just have to reclaim what is really important in our lives and cut back on some of the stuff that is not so important, like endless hours in front of the TV and computer.

      I like your hubs, because they take a different approach to health and fitness, and that's exactly what we need if we are going to get this younger generation into a more healthy state.

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      The hubs you have on movement and the body are very good and really interesting to me. Keep up the great work. Look forward to reading more of them !

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 8 years ago from Andalusia

      Thanks James. The Body Furniture is to be found at


      I haven't had a chance to mention it on hubpages yet.

      take care,


    • profile image

      James Casey 8 years ago

      Hi Sue, that's great info. My friend used to have one of your chairs and it was great for me and the kids.

      Are they still available??



    • profile image

      Julo 8 years ago

      I agree with you about the obsession with food. In the sixties people were obsessed with sex, now it's food. I enjoy reading your hubs and trying out some new moves for a change. Good work and thank you.

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando 8 years ago from Andalusia

      Thank you Frances. I really hope my hubs take off as I'm so passionate about my subject matter (how to move like a dancer among the crowds) because it makes you confident and healthy. I have so much more I would like to share with every one. There aren't enough hours in the day to get it all published as quickly as I wish but bear with me, I'm working as hard as I can.

    • profile image

      Frances 8 years ago

      Great idea! Will check back soon for more, love the pics.