I mentioned the idea last week that not all exercise is movement and I want to expand on it because it’s something important to consider on your journey towards moving better and feeling better every day.

You see, your body doesn’t really care if you’re at the gym working out or walking to the grocery store – movement is movement.

But we often get stuck in thinking that the only movement that “counts” is what happens when you have spandex on and are dripping with sweat.

Even if you’re dedicated to getting a workout in on a daily basis (which I can never claim!), that one hour of high-intensity exercise does not make up for the 23 hours of inactivity that the rest of your day included.

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I don’t work out in the traditional sense of sweat and spandex, more than 2 times a week, but I am moving on a very regular basis.

Some of the ways I move every day are:

  • I work from a standing desk and constantly change positions.
  • I sit on the floor whenever possible, as not only is it more comfortable for me, but I can also work on hip mobility.
  • I wear shoes that are very flexible (read: NOT supportive) so my feet get the maximum movement and strengthening possible when I walk the dog.

And even if you’re thinking “pshh, well Alex, you teach MOVEMENT regularly, so you’re already moving more!” To be honest, in most of the classes I teach, I may do the movement for a few repetitions as a demonstration, but I then spend the class watching the students and giving adjustments.

You see, your tissues can’t really tell if you have spandex on or not. And while your body is super aware if you’re sweating, what your tissues crave on a cellular level is movement.

If you want to get super technical, there’s a process called mechanotransduction which is when cells convert movement input into chemical signals. This is how cells translate movement into a message the body can respond to.

You’ve seen this principle at play in your own life – you know when you have a spot on your hands that gets high friction when you write and you start to develop a callus? Your skin cells are responding to the movement (friction) by giving a signal to increase the production of skin cells which gives you a callus.

But for every movement related cellular change that happens, there are just as many changes that happen when we don’t move.

Which brings me back to my original point that not all exercise is movement.

If you consider all the ways in which your body moves in a day (which most likely variations on the theme of sitting down into a chair and standing up), dragging your exhausted self to the gym just to get on the elliptical for 30 minutes so you can feel like you “got your sweat on” may not be the most efficient use of your time and joy.

The elliptical is more of the same when it comes to movement and your joints – it is repetitive movement in one plane of motion.

So instead of 30 minutes of punishment while watching HGTV, what if you broke that 30 minutes into ten 3-minute segments throughout your day?

What if you walked around barefoot at home before leaving for work? Or, even better, massaged your foot on a therapy ball before slipping into your work shoes?

Or what if you took your phone calls on a headset so you could walk around while on the call?

Or instead of lunch at your desk, walked to take lunch outside (which would also give your eyes a break from the computer for a double bonus)?

So instead of one BIG thing, what if you moved in ten smaller ways throughout your day?

Those ten smaller things would keep movement on your mind all day and chances are they’d all be a bit different, as doing the same thing over and over would get really boring.

You’d encourage yourself down the path of novelty and movement creativity, and before you knew it, you’d be moving every day without effort.

So while the elliptical or a run and even a walk might count as exercise, strive to make your movement practice as varied as possible.

A wide variety of movements throughout your day is similar to your health as a variety of vegetables – so eat those dark leafy greens and keep on moving!

What are 3 simple things you could start today towards moving more? Let me know in the comments below!

If you want to nerd out more about mechanotransduction and movement, check out Katy Bowman’s book Move your DNA, available here


PS Whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you move better and feel better this year.

  1. Join the AE Wellness Body Nerds and connect with other movement nerds on a quest to make self-care easy.
  2. Join me for my free online class, Why Crunches are Not the Best Way to Build Core Strength and learn how to make core work super effective so you can stand tall, be strong and stop peeing every time you sneeze.
  3. Make your health and well-being a priority by starting with 15-days of mobility, movement, and mindfulness with the Self-Care Startup Guide. Learn more about the Guide here.

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