We all know that our health benefits from moving and being active. Typically movement guidelines for health and fitness address frequency, duration, intensity, and mode. Click here to see the US Government Physical Activity Guidelines. This information is quite informative and offers the opportunity to customize your activities to your needs and interests.
Based on my experience and observations as a Physical Therapist, Yoga Therapist, and a human being living in a human body, I would like to recommend that everyone incorporate the following ten movement nutrients into their daily movement diet. (Please note that if you have a health concern, you should speak with your healthcare provider first.)
1. Movement of the spine in 3 planes
Bend forward, backward, sideways, and do the twist! You can do this standing, sitting, lying down there are no excuses not to. A well-rounded yoga (asana) practice will incorporate all of these movements, but you don’t have to wait until you are on the yoga mat, sneak them in throughout your day! When putting your shoes on, mindfully forward fold, and reach your arms overhead and enjoy a side bend to each side. When reaching up to hang something in the closet, or put something on a high shelf, incorporate a mini backbend or arch. Finally enjoy a twist or rotation of the spine while standing, sitting, or lying down.
2. A blend of dynamic and static movements and stretches
When choosing movement activities, incorporate both dynamic/pulsing movements and held postures. Examples of dynamic or pulsing movements might be sun salutations, cat/cows, dancing, swimming, bouncing on a trampoline. Held poses or stretches can be found in yin yoga, towards the end of a vinyasa yoga class, and as part of a traditional stretching/flexibility program. (One little-known fact is that held stretches should wait until after athletic type activities. Research studies have shown that stretching before athletic activities increase the risk of injury!)
3. Floor it!
Get down on the floor daily. Why? How much time do you have? Just a few benefits include – extra movement through ankles, knees, hips, and wrists to get up and down helps maintain range of motion, getting up and down challenges your core, and it increases confidence! As we age fear of falling can become an issue, and in turn, this fear increases our risk of falling. If you are accustomed to spending time on the floor and getting back up, then you will feel much more confident on your feet!
4. Get down on all 4s
While you are on the floor go ahead and get on hands and knees. This posture works your core and offers weight bearing through the wrists which will help the bone health of the arms and make you feel younger!
5. Do the belly flop
Well, don’t actually flop, but do lie prone on your belly every day. This pose gives the fronts of your hips a chance to stretch out, offers a mild backbend, and is a great chance to notice and feel your breath! If it is comfortable and safe, add a little extra back bend propping yourself up on forearms or elbows (like sphinx posture.)
6. Expose your piggies
Spend some time barefoot every day! Being barefoot gives the intrinsic muscles of your feet time to strengthen and stretch, and your toes to spread out. Your feet will thank you!
7. Hang out
This may not need to be incorporated into your movement diet every day, but a few times a week would be great. Strengthen and stretch your arms, and elongate your spine by grabbing onto something overhead and hanging! Of course make sure that it, and your arms, can hold your body weight, but this works your upper body muscles in an entirely different way, and the forces of gravity can elongate your spine rather than compress it.
8. Get outside
Both yoga and Ayurveda emphasize that we are part of nature and that nature is part of us. When we get outside and commune with nature, we re-establish and strengthen this bond, and experience greater balance in all aspects of our life. Science also supports the benefits of getting outdoors. Check out this article about ten scientifically backed benefits of spending time outdoors.
9. Spice it up
Variety is the spice of life. If you have 1 or 2 activities that you are avid about, great go ahead and enjoy them. But then add a little extra spice by incorporating some other activities that add new flavors to your movement diet. If you love vigorous, sweaty activities add in a gentler more relaxing activity 1-2x/week. (If you love power, heated, or vinyasa yoga, add in a restorative or yin class here and there.) If you typically enjoy slower paced less vigorous activities, push yourself and add in an activity that gets your sweat on 1-2x/week. (Yep, that means that you yinsters and restorative yoga lovers should add in a complementary practice of vinyasa or something similar.)
10. BONUS – Plank it!
This pose may not be for everyone, but, if your wrists can take it, daily practicing regular plank, side plank, and reverse plank is a well-rounded workout for your core as well as your shoulder stabilizers. Some of these planks can also be performed on forearms, and there are plenty other modifications for plank pose if needed. Just ask us!
So back to the government Physical Activity Guidelines (PAGs). They state that being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health. Health-enhancing activity is any activity that, when added to baseline activity, produces health benefits. Examples of health-enhancing physical activities are “brisk walking, jumping rope, dancing, lifting weights, climbing on playground equipment…, and doing yoga.”
Take a moment to assess your movement diet and make sure that you are getting the necessary movement nutrients in your daily activities to optimize your health and life enjoyment!