One of the most underutilized ways to improve your health is to incorporate a daily movement practice. I would like to emphasize movement and not exercise because they are different. A person can definitely burn some calories on a recumbent bike but they have also done very little to stimulate their nervous system and joints during that exercise.
A daily movement practice should act as a reset button to your nervous system. Similarly, to when our computers or cell phones are not functioning properly, we need to hit the reset button to improve their function. That is what the exercises discussed in this article will do for your nervous system and entire body.
The exercises that are discussed in this article are things that we were preprogrammed to do, nobody had to teach us these movements, and they are movements that nature instinctively had us wired to perform. By performing these exercises regularly you should notice the following:
- An increase in flexibility
- An increase in strength
- Better resistance to injury
The four exercises discussed are:
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
Breathing is the most important movement that your body will perform because if you can’t, you die. Improper breathing patterns will create a lot of problems such as:
- Very tight neck and headache symptoms
- Poor lumbar stability
- Lack of oxygen
- Poor flexibility
- High anxiety and stress levels
However, by breathing properly you can have the opposite effect. Breathing is a great example of how a movement can affect not only our musculoskeletal system but also our hormone, brain, and gut function. For example, many people may complain of acid reflux, yet one of the main causes of GERD is a dysfunctional diaphragm that is not keeping food contents in the stomach.
The key to breathing properly is to not to breathe through the chest but to activate the diaphragm to increase the volume of air in the lungs. It is best to watch the video for a brief tutorial on breathing.
Crawling exercises are probably my favorite exercises to perform. I can’t think of a better way to stimulate the nervous system while strengthening the core and loosening up the spine at the same time. It makes sense that babies have to crawl before they can walk. Crawling builds the foundational strength and motor patterns that are required for walking. But, crawling also creates the foundational strength for all other athletic activities such as swinging a golf club or swimming.
Crawling can be used a great warm-up or it can be an intense workout on its own. It can also be great at waking up the brain. If you feel like you are getting sluggish sitting in front of the computer, just doing a few simple crawls will wake you up and it is much healthier than a cup of coffee.
The squat is supposed to be the human rest position. However, the advent of chairs and toilets have taken away our ability to squat. A good healthy squat is essential for hip and knee health. There are over 300,000 total hip replacements performed each year, and that doesn’t include the number of people having labral tear or other minor hip surgeries. If people squatted every day the number of hip replacements would be drastically reduced.
A human should be able to get in a full squat, with heels on the ground, comfortably and be able to stay in that position for a few minutes. For progressions on gaining your squat back check out the following video.
When I am treating patients, I have to apply manual therapy to the shoulders more than any other area on the body. I think a major reason for this is because people rarely lift their arms overhead. Also, frozen shoulder may be the most difficult musculoskeletal condition to treat and this condition would probably become obsolete if people hung regularly.
Hanging is a movement that children will often perform better than adults. If you watch a 7 year old do the monkey bars it is often very effortless, especially compared to an adult. Even someone who can perform many pullups, may not be able perform the monkey bars as effortlessly as a child.
Please see the following video on various hanging progressions.
The 5th movement I would add would be walking/running but we will save that for a separate post. The key way to utilize the exercises is to try and incorporate them throughout the day. There is no rule that says we can only workout 45 min per day, 3 days per week. At one point in our existence, it was probably a good workout just to get a drink of water. Therefore, move as much as you can throughout the day. You will find that not only will you get stronger and more flexible, you will have better mental clarity and energy.