Monday, 30 May 2016

De-Evolution - What can we learn from children?


In this post I want to look at the idea of "De-Evolution."

If you're not sure what I mean, here's the basic idea:

We were designed to move. Our bodies have a number of cleverly designed joints to allow for a whole spectrum of movements through their various shapes and forms (think about how different an elbow joint/hinge joint is to a shoulder/ball and socket design).

However, as children's activities revolve less around a ball in the street and climbing trees and instead  more around a computer screen; and adults work longer hours than ever and spend more and more time in other stagnant, often seated tasks (driving to and from work, working at a desk, sitting in front of the TV because you're so tired from all the sitting and working and sitting and driving) this ability to move fluidly and freely is regressing to a more fixed, less supple version of yourself.

While this is true, many people will argue "children are always so supple; we need to move more as they do in order to stay supple. Look at a baby, look how they can squat and sit in a deep squat position easily. We should all still be able to do that." These same people will use this image (or similar) to back up their argument:

While the general thought pattern has some merit ie: we should try to move more in order to maintain our ability to move freely.
There are a few large oversights from those that expect everyone to move in their 40's as they did in their toddler years.

1) Wear and tear:
Inevitably, as the years go on we will pick up more and more knocks, injuries, breaks and strains. Often the body will create alternative ways to move in order to look after these injuries. Think about when you've hurt your ankle or foot you naturally limp without any thought in order to protect your injury. Over the years these injuries and issues may lead to a number of ineffective movements patterns and bad habits for many of us.

2) A quick myth buster:
A new born baby will have around 300 "bones" in comparison to a full grown adult who has around 200 actual bones. Most of the structure of a baby is in fact cartilage based; over time many of these will harden and fix with others so inevitably movement capabilities and suppleness will change.

However... one ethos does still apply to movement...

"use it or lose it"
More and more we lead a stagnant life. From desk based jobs, to endless hours in a car and the ever increasing number of box sets available; there is often a compelling reason to just sit still.

Further still, more and more the pursuit of "convenience" is at the forefront of our consumer mind. We just want to do "whatever's easiest". This is a horrible ethos to live by and one that inevitably leads us to often jump to the easiest option when possible. Whether it's ordering in food, having our food shopping delivered, taking an escalator over just one level or driving to places which are very walkable, we're all guilty of sometimes doing whatever the easiest option is; which is often the least active.

So how should we fix this and what should we aim to do?

Maintain Movement:
Wherever possible, take the option to move more. Make this a conscious choice in your life and this will inevitably allow your body to stay active and more healthy. Walk, don't drive, choose active family activities, carry things when possible, test yourself and elevate your heart rate.

Re-think movement:
I'm not suggesting you jump around the office like a monkey but... you could always jump around a park like a monkey? Or crawl like a bear, or climb, or roll or jump. Try not to restrict the way you think about movement and look around for inspiration. There's plenty of "primal movement" videos on YouTube or perhaps looks closely at animal movements and children at play.

Observing a child:
I'm very fortunate to have a beautiful 2 year old son named Cassius. Cassius (or "Big Cass") is a ball of energy and, thankfully has taken after me in the height/structure department. He's alarmingly strong and seems to have a strange competitive nature which causes him to want to move any heavy objects, large objects or objects that he's seen me move (including kettlebells that weigh more than him, 3-seat-sofas and even me, his 17 stone+ Dad who he thinks he should be able to push aside when he desperately "needs" a toy or snack).

What I've also observed from "Big Cass" is his inherent knowledge of movement, balance and ability to ergonomically overcome obstacles.

For instance, he can (upsettingly) already squat better than I can and sit in a relaxed deep squat for ages while he plays.
He figured out how to climb on to a sofa using his large head for an anchor while climbing with his legs. How to climb up stairs when he smaller despite their relative height to him. Using his bodyweight to lean forward and run faster or lean backwards and counterweight him down hill.

You might not have children of your own so I can't advise that you spend time watching kids and how they move; you and I could both get into trouble for that! Instead, for inspiration have a look at primal movement videos on YouTube or investigate a company called MovNat.

What CAN we learn from the children?
What we learn is that we naturally know the correct way to move and overcome obstacles with our body. What we don't do is use the body as it should be used and more often than not, pick the easiest/laziest way to move rather than the correct way.
When you pick up things from the floor do you always bend at the knees, keep your heels down and keep an upright torso like Big Cass? Didn't think so!

To summarise...
We ALL need to move more and we ALL need to make conscious decisions to do so. Pick the active option and make your body do more. Don't stay stuck at a desk all day, walk at lunchtime, in fact, walk whenever possible. Test your bodies capability (without being ridiculous) and find out what you can and can't (safely) do.
Move more and move freely. Stay away from the restrictions of machines and use your own body as it's designed to move. Whatever your age, whatever your capabilities and whatever your stage of fitness, it's likely that your body can probably do more than you currently do with it.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@MichaelD_PT) and YouTube

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