Movement is one of the processes by which we define life. It is all around us, and within us–from the powerful leap of a cat, to the subtle shifts of a plant towards light, to the tiny, single cell bacteria who propel themselves forward. What happens then when we ignore too often this key process of life–movement? When we cease to move our body in essential, primal ways?
Throughout human history, we have led very physically active lives. For almost all of our existence–a period of about 200,000 years–we were migratory, and hunted and gathered to survive. It has only been in the last 10,000 years that most humans have transitioned from living in farming communities, to industrialized cities, and now in techno-urban landscapes.
With each of these societal shifts, we have become more sedentary. Today, moving is hardly required. Many of us live in a world where almost all movement is outsourced. Yet our physiology and chemical biology do not match our present lifestyle. Our bodies have not changed very much over the course of our existence. We were designed to move a lot, as well as in a variety of ways. To understand how we were best meant to move, one has only to imagine our ancestral days. The life and survival of our ancestors required ample, diverse movement–walking, squatting, grabbing, pulling, running, jumping, climbing, etc.
Compared to the movement “diet” of our ancestors, most of us today are severely malnourished, and perhaps even starving.
What are the consequences of a life so deficient in movement? Pain is the most frequent ill effect. Foot, knee, hip, and back pain are so common that they have become normal in today’s population. The enormous number of people who suffer from non communicable diseases–ailments linked to lifestyle–also indicates the serious outcome of a life with little movement. Rates of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, coronary heart disease, osteoarthritis, depression, (and the list goes on), continue to increase. The medical community emphasizes the importance of exercise when discussing part of the cause and solution to many of these diseases, but perhaps movement in a more broad sense–natural, frequent and variable (akin to that of our ancestors)–is a bigger part of the puzzle than we realize. It is important to remember how quickly we have gone from a life that required movement to one that does not. These illnesses have emerged in the modern era, and the relationship between our health and movement habits is worth deep consideration and further research.
As a species, we are clearly suffering as a result of not moving enough. The solution is obvious–move more. But the reality is that for many of us, our jobs, personal lives, and modern environment make getting enough movement challenging. However, if we resign ourselves to a sedentary existence, certainly our health and quality of life will degrade much more quickly and severely than need be.
And so, we simply must do our best to increase our movement nutrition. Can we move more often, and in diverse ways? Can we reclaim some of the movement we usually outsource? The potential for movement is all around us everyday, even in our modern, technology focused world. Finding it may simply require a change of perspective. We will explore that idea in Part II.