Movement is Medicine

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to cultivate good health is to move your body frequently and in a variety of ways.

Movement is an essential tendency of Nature, ensuring that energy circulates and systems avoid stagnation. If you compare a river and a pond, it’s easy to see how the continual movement of water creates a more vital and dynamic system than when it is simply sitting still. A river is full of energy and can literally move mountains, while a pond simply sits, accruing scum and slowly evaporating. When we look at the human body, which is made mostly of water (~60%), the same principle applies. Movement is needed to keep our bodies fresh and vibrant and to avoid stagnation.

Unfortunately, our current lifestyles tend to be excessively sedentary, and many of us lose the momentum of movement as we age. Our bodies are very efficient, and readily adapt to the demands placed upon them. For instance, if we try to lift a heavy object repeatedly, our arms will strengthen until they can accomplish the task. Conversely, if we don’t move an arm or leg through it’s full range of motion regularly, the body will assume that we no longer need that range of motion and our tissues will reorganize into a more constrictive, albeit efficient, position. “Move it or lose it,” is a simple adage to explain and remember this adaptive tendency of the body.

So how can we incorporate more movement into our lives and be healthier as a result? The answer is not as easy as it may seem. I find that most folks would like to move more and enjoy the activities of their choice but are often stymied in their attempts by pain. Physical pain is a powerful signal that helps us avoid injury and harm.   When our movement patterns have become so limited that simple activities like walking and lifting produce pain, it is no longer serving us in its a protective way, and yet the pain is still present and must be dealt with if we are to succeed in becoming more active. Thankfully, our community is full of wonderful healers of many disciplines who can help make the pain go away. This is step one towards more movement.

If you think back to when you were a kid and the ease with which your body moved, it becomes clear that the loss of movement does not generally happen overnight, but rather through years of failing to exercise your body to its full potential. Accordingly, the process of reclaiming and expanding your capacity for movement is not quick or easy. It requires strong intention, effort, patience, and most importantly, intelligence. The intelligence of which I speak includes a good deal of humility and the willingness to ask for help, because it is very hard to accurately assess our own movement deficiencies and limitations–which predispose us towards injury and ultimately more stagnation if not recognized and addressed.

After you have seen a chiropractor or acupuncturist or whomever to cure existing injuries and alleviate pain, I highly recommend that you find a qualified trainer or coach to guide you into healthy movement patterns. The first steps of any journey must be in the right direction. If you cannot afford to work with an exercise professional, then you must be even more proactive. Do research, watch Youtube videos, try stuff out, ask friends for help, but be careful. Remember that movement is medicine, and a medicine is often defined by its dose and application. Cheers to your health!