“Get Off Your Ass”
Firstly, I want to apologise in advance: Like most Australians, I tend to swear… a lot. I’ve tried to tone it down – but as you might have guessed from the subtitle of this article: this is not one for the easily offended.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about sitting, moving, and how the gym rats are doing it wrong.
We All Sit Way Too Much, And Move Way Too Little
You might want to stand up for this…
On average, we sit for 7.7 hours a day, with some people sitting up to 15 hours a day according to Global Studies. In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just sticking your fingers in your ears and pretending you can’t hear the science) … that’s really bad for you. It’s bad enough that it’s got its own name: sitting disease.
“For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.” ~ Martha Grogan, Cardiologist, Mayo Clinic
So, we know lack of moving is bad. The real kick in the nuts is that combatting sitting disease with added gym-time may not even work! According to the University of Queensland Australia, meeting physical activity guidelines does not prevent the negative effects of sitting.
I have an opinion on this (and almost everything, if you listen to my wife), and it’s not that everything is hopeless and we’re all going to die from spending too much time on our butts. My thought is this: Maybe gym workouts are the wrong type of movement.
But you don’t have to take my word for it.
What Does NASA Have to Say?
In an effort to offset the havoc zero gravity plays on the health of astronauts, the Space Association research team has discovered many incredible benefits to bouncing on a trampoline, some of which cannot be matched by running or other traditional exercise methods.
For those of us who aren’t spending time in space, NASA agrees that sitting is killing us and dulling our senses. Traditional strenuous gym workouts are ineffective at offsetting the ill effects of sitting, according to Dr Joan Vernikos, research scientist and former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division.
“Medical studies on astronauts show that gravity-challenging, all-day movement is more essential to good health than traditional exercise” | Dr Joan Vernikos
In her work, she refers to ‘the gravity vector’, stating that interacting with gravity is essential to our health.
What does that mean from a practical standpoint?
The less we move, the less we interact with gravity.
The advent of modern technology has meant that we have significantly reduced the frequency of posture-altering, gravity-relevant movements, that generations before us practiced as standard – For example, we no longer wash our clothes in the river, or cook our foods from scratch; butchering animals and grinding flour.
From the very moment we are born, gravity guides the development of every single cell in our body. As gravity is a constant force, our nervous systems have developed and are supported by what we may call ’constant senses’ – systems like muscle spindles and the vestibular system.
Knowing that, let’s think for a second about how most people ‘train’.
If you’re a member of a gym, almost anywhere in the world, you’ll be familiar with fixed machines, free weights, and cardio machines. You might even know what they are for and how to use them.
Or maybe you prefer to exercise outdoors doing things like running, cycling, or (if you live outside of the UK and are lucky enough to have decent weather) swimming.
Whatever your particular exercise of choice, if you’re one of the millions of people who workout at a traditional gym or do outdoor cardio, most of the time you’re only moving through one plane of motion.
Human Anatomy 101 – Planes of Motion
There are 3 anatomical planes of movement: Sagittal, Frontal/Coronal, and Transverse.
- Sagittal: The Sagittal plane passes through the body front to back, so dividing it into left and right. Examples of movements in this plane are the up and down movements of flexion and extension
- Frontal or Coronal: The frontal plane divides the body into front and back. Examples of movements in this plane are sideways movements, called abduction and adduction.
- Transverse: This plane divides the body into top and bottom. Movements in this plane are rotational in nature, such as internal and external rotation, pronation and supination.
If you want to get the most bang for your movement buck, I would highly recommend moving through all three planes… as often as possible.
For a more indepth explanation of the different planes, check out this blog post by the National Academy of Sports Medicine – https://blog.nasm.org/exercise-programming/sagittal-frontal-traverse-planes-explained-with-exercises
Why? Your Vestibular System.
If you had to only pick one “under-stimulated” system in the body to start stimulating right now, it would be the Vestibular System.
“What about the reproductive system?” I hear you long-term married people out there shouting… Hear me out. (You could always do both at the same time if you’re really looking to spice things up…)
The vestibular system is one of the most influential neurological systems. It lies within the inner ear and its primary function is to transduce head movement into a signal that the brain can interpret.
This happens all the time. The vestibular system communicates with the cerebellum 1,000,000 times per second while at REST!
Without a properly functioning vestibular system, visual images would swerve wildly whenever you moved your head, and you’d have no sense of balance or where your body was in space. Another very important function of this system is reflexively influencing the extensor muscles, including the postural muscles that keep you upright.
Modern life, and getting Swole in the Gym by picking up and putting down heavy shit, does very little to stimulate this incredibly vital system.
Specialise In The Art Of Being A Generalist
If you’re like most people, you have a finite amount of time during the day that you can spend moving around. Maybe you can convince your employer to let you have a standing desk… Cubicle neighbours might object if you spend all day bouncing on a trampoline.
My advice would be to focus on being a Movement Generalist rather than a Specialist.
If you just reacted by thinking that you need to specialise in a specific discipline, answer these questions honestly for me.
- Do you make all your money by playing a particular sport?
- Are you currently training for more than 25 hours a week at a specific sport that has national or international competitions? (Notice I said currently… high school track doesn’t count unless you’re still in high school doing it.)
If you answered No, you’re not a professional or elite athlete. Sorry. Almost nobody is.
What should you do then, if you’re a normal person or non-pro athlete? Try to make your body as balanced, strong, and mobile as possible. It will make you better at everything athletically and make you more resilient to injury.
The First Step to Being a Generalist is to Master the Basics
If you try to run before you can walk, you’ll just fall on your face. So practise these movements until they’re easy for you.
Once you’re really good at the basics, then it’s time to expand that Movement Vocabulary.
Start to experiment with more advanced or complex movements. These could include basic gymnastics, types of dance, and martial arts, particularly things like Capoeira, Breakdancing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. These all require you to change levels and move through different planes of motion, which we now know is muy bueno.
If you practise this kind of movement, not only will you move better, but you’ll have more fun. You’ll learn to let go of the fear of looking like an idiot and reclaim the joy of simply moving around like kids do.
I’m not saying that you need to replace your weight training, your running, or your Mountain Unicycling… I’m just saying you should supplement this training with movements that get you rolling around and hanging upside down. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
The Key Question: What Are You Training For?
If you’re like most people, it’s to feel good.
That’s partly about aesthetics. Everyone wants to look good. But looking good ultimately boils down to feeling good.
If you think you look great, then you feel pretty damn great. Got a new outfit that makes your butt look amazing? You know what that does to your confidence level when you go out.
Feeling good about yourself is also feeling good when you move. When you step out of the gym after a major sesh of straight up gainz, you inevitably feel like an alpha male or alpha female.
Nobody likes to struggle to get off a low couch, to be uncomfortable sitting, or have a hard time getting off the floor. Nobody likes feeling stiff, sore, unfit, or unable to perform an everyday task like running for a bus or after your kids.
If you grunt, sigh, or swear when you have to get up out of your seat, you might want to have a word with yourself because something needs to change.
By this point in the article, you know what that is. Let’s sum it up.
Two Steps to Improving Your Movement Vocabulary
- Get good at the basics to build a strong foundation. Try squatting, rolling, crawling, jumping, running/sprinting, climbing, and swimming. Don’t half-ass it. Do the basics right and you’ll be set up well for the more complicated stuff.
- Get out of your comfort zone and have some fun moving your body in different ways. Try something new, like adult gymnastics or martial arts. You don’t have to stick with it forever – in fact you’re better off if you’re always changing it up. Your brain loves novelty.
Remember being a kid and how fun it was to just move? Kids genuinely LOVE moving, and if they are anything like my kids, moving non-stop is as essential as breathing.
If you can recapture that joy and freedom of movement, not only will you enjoy yourself more while you’re moving your ass, you’ll make your brain and body healthier too.
written by Luke Sherrell, Co-Founder and CEO of AMN Academy