In my fifteen years of being a part of the exercise and health community the subject of acquiring and improving one’s health is something that most people all agree on. People want to be healthy. For some healthy is a mindset, they want to have a job that challenges them mentally and that stimulates them enough to keep them happy. People want emotional relationships that help them balance their lives, this is an example of feeling healthy in life. For a lot of us it also has to do with financial stability, because if we have the finances to do and buy what we like and please, that helps us attain health. However, when we start talking about the physical application of health, it’s usually dumbbed down to the term ‘exercise’ (if you know me, you might know about my rant with the word exercise). And so doctors prescribe it, gyms sell it, and so the public eats up this idea that in order to be physically healthy we need exercise.
What I like to do in my line of work is talk and teach about healthy movement, healthy joint movement to be more specific. I make it my objective to educate my clients and the public about the importance of health from the perspective of the musculoskeletal system. To be healthy doesn’t mean to just ‘exercise’, it actually means to have joints that can move through their entire designed range of motion that they evolved over thousands of years to be able to do. It means training and building the body in a way that gets the muscles doing their jobs that they are designed for instead of having another muscle do the action for them. Simply put, attaining physical health is about restoring joint use to he body so that the entire structure of the body can function more wholly.
Muscles need to be able to both lengthen and shorten in order to be healthy tissue. They also need to have a responsive tendon and joint reflex. When we train function into joints and get the muscles to start to wake up and do their jobs, we actually help reduce unnecessary stress and friction on the joints. This results in decompression of the joints and spine, and allows neural and vascular pathways to open up. Essentially the idea is to create space where there was none, so now with this new space your circulatory system and your pulmonary system and your cardiovascular system all work in unison together more efficiently (no obstructions/blockage = healthy body).
In addition to joint health, nervous system regulation, and muscular development, I think it’s important that we talk about relevant and useful movement in the world. Gym culture and fitness fads have made us look at the body as this object that needs to fit the environment of exercise, instead of learning to move our bodies in a way that is conducive to being in nature. Think about how you move your body day to day, from the moment your feet hit the ground to the moment you put yourself in bed, all the different ways you moved that day. Are you training in a way that is relevant to those daily physical occurrences? And that’s why training large connective chains and integrating multiple joints at a time and moving the body through three dimensions of movement all at once is important. In your day-to-day life, this is how you move. Nothing you do in a single footstep, let alone any other activity, happens symmetrically, in one plane of motion, or under the confines of an artificial construct made by the gym and fitness conglomerates. Eg: bicep curls, leg presses, lat pull downs, recumbent bicycles, elipticals, yoga postures, etc.
And so I think it’s time we start looking at health as a multidimensional quest. Physical health has a lot more to do with your joints and muscles working in an integrated fashion, and less to do with the ‘exercise’ model we’ve been sold the past 60 years. The body is much more complex than we lend it credit to, and I think once we start understanding it and by undergoing the process of diving into it we can start to shine light on all of its beautiful ways in which we can build and rebuildit.
And so when you train, do all of your training protocols have an intention behind them? Are you bringing awareness to specific muscles and joints for a purpose each day? Or are you just going through the motions and burning the calories and doing the wear and tear on your joints for the sake of checking off a box? It’s time we look at physical health from the perspective of joint and muscle health, and an integrated genetic chain full body movement fashion.
Next time I’ll talk about physiological health and behavioral health as this has a lot to do with attaining a well-rounded healthy mind, body, and heart.