Natural movement: Going back to basics

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Does your fitness routine consist of the same eight to 12 exercises that you do over and over again? Or maybe you get bored with anything resembling a consistent exercise routine. Whatever your situation, adding play and exploration into your fitness plan can help you move more efficiently and stay engaged. The concept is called "natural movement," and you may be amazed at how much fun it can add to your workouts.

Natural movements include basic locomotion, such as walking, running, climbing or crawling, as well as manipulative movements such as lifting, carrying, throwing and catching. Many natural movements incorporate multiple elements of fitness. For example, climbing helps build flexibility, strength and conditioning all at once. This fitness approach is an efficient way to work out.

Perhaps the easiest way to start exploring these concepts is to observe how young children move. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers play and pick up things in a deep squat position. They get up from the floor without using their hands, and they can easily shift their body weight and change positions while they're on the floor to reach a toy or book. That's natural movement.

Try mimicking a young child to see how challenging these movements are for you. If they are difficult, you could benefit from getting more of these types of movement in your daily life.

Practice natural movement and work your joints through their range of motion with these ideas:

  • If you have kids or grandkids, play with them. Copy how they move.
  • See how many different ways you can get up off the floor. Try not using your hands.
  • Practice a crawling motion, being deliberate about your movements. Move your arms and legs in a contralateral motion (your right hand moves with your left leg and your left hand moves with your right leg). Try crawling with your hips low to the ground (think army crawl) or do a bear crawl, with your knees off the floor and using just your hands and feet to support your body weight.
  • Create exercise challenges at home that require you to bend, squat, reach or duck down. Step under and over obstacles (real or imagined).

Another way to add natural movement into your exercise routine is to incorporate play. You don't need a specific piece of equipment, such as a treadmill, elliptical machine or exercise bands. Take a cue from children, who move because it's fun and enjoyable. You can also learn these movements from a natural movement specialist or coach. The more you practice, the better you'll move. Give it a try!

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