Six years ago we lost a great friend, James. I often find myself thinking about him especially around this time of year.
James’ life and subsequent death had a profound affect on me. He taught me to not take my body for granted; that every day, every breath, every movement, and even every creak and moment of discomfort was sacred.
James had his movement taken away from him. We can never know how long we’ll have our own gift of movement for, so we should celebrate and marvel in it whenever we get the chance.
Losing James to Motor Neuron Disease (MND) was a huge driver into why I initially became a health coach. And it’s been a constant driver in developing our 5 Circles of Health approach we use with our clients, in particular the circle of movement.
Movement is so much more than simply exercising.
Movement can be an act of joy, an act of wonder, and an act of defiance.
It’s so much more than a way of developing a calorie deficit, getting ‘swole’, or gaining a personal best.
Movement is not confined to sports, to the gym, to the athletic, to the able bodied. From the tiniest flutter to the most outrageous flounce, we are constantly in a state of movement.
Part of our mission is to show people the multitude of movements that one can achieve with whatever tools nature has imbued them with. To show them that their bodies are wondrous instruments not ornaments. That movement, in it’s many guises, is a nutrient vital to the body, mind and spirit.
In the coming months we are going to delve deeper into the various ways we can move our bodies, what makes an optimal movement practice, and the importance of play in our movement.
Each and every one of you has a remarkable, beautiful body. Don’t be afraid to use it.
The following is a post I wrote shortly after James’ death. It was one of the first posts I ever wrote, but it feels just as relevant now as ever.
A few months ago a good friend of of mine died. James had Motor Neuron Disease (MND), a severely life-shortening condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system. This leads to the loss of muscular control, making activities such as gripping, walking, speaking, swallowing and breathing (all things mostly taken for granted) increasingly difficult. Eventually these activities become impossible.
There is currently no cure for MND.
Events like this stop you in your tracks. They make you take a long hard look at what really matters. They make you realise what you have to give thanks for. MND robs people (both sufferers and families of sufferers) of so much.
For years I have taken my ability to move my body for granted. Most of us do. As adults we forget the sheer joy of movement so beautifully expressed by young children. We sometimes look at their boundless exuberance and need for movement as them being ‘fidgety’ at best, or having some form of attention deficit disorder at worse. “Why can’t you just sit still for a while?”
As babies we constantly move. We twist, we turn, we rock. We reach out to touch this new strange world around us. This is how we learn.
Then comes propulsion. We lift ourselves up and we crawl. This very act is the foundation of our movement for the rest of our lives. It builds our muscles, focuses our nervous systems, and it trains our bodies for what is to come.
We crawl, we climb, we walk, we run, we climb higher stuff, we run some more. Kids seem unable to not run.
Then we go to school and told to stay in one spot for prolonged periods of time. We are told to ‘stop running’, ‘get down from there!’ and ‘sit still!’ Sometimes, we are actually punished for moving.
Whilst I understand the need for education and safety, I dislike the way movement becomes demonised and given an allotted time slot. We are essentially trained for life at a desk.
This stays with us throughout most of lives. Movement is a luxury, frivolous, something to feel guilty about trying to fit into our busy schedule.
When we do move our bodies it is often to play a sport. Our focus becomes the outcome of the activity not on the movements themselves. The element of ‘play’ has often disappeared.
If ever there was a time to reclaim our sense of wonder at the miracle that is our own movement, it is now.
In a survey looking at activity in office environments, it was shown that ‘[al]most half of women (45%) and almost two fifths of men (37%) working in UK offices spend less than 30 minutes a day walking around at work’
Add into this the fact that many people commute by car or public transport, which usually involves more sitting.
When we finally haul ourselves home, we are tired and for many of us we just want to eat and fall on the sofa to relax. For many this means a total of 10 hours or more of inactivity in our waking day.
This inactivity is literally killing us.
In a recent study it was shown ‘that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity compared with the number of deaths attributable to obesity’.
One of the largest studies to date on the effects of sitting found that compared with those who sat the least, people who sat the longest had a:
- 112% increase in risk of diabetes
- 147% increase in cardiovascular events
- 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
- 49% increase in death from any cause
Finding a solution to this will be different for every individual. Whether it is using a ‘stand-up’ workstation, taking regular movement breaks, walking to work, or ditching the lift for the stairs, what is plainly evident is that we need to move more.
Movement is medicine.
Whatever your ability, whatever your range of motion, use it. Make time for that hand in hand walk with a loved one. Dance like there’s no one watching. Run for the sheer joy of knowing you can. Climb that hill to get into perspective what is really important.
For those who would like to find out more about MND or who wish to donate towards helping sufferers and carers please visit http://www.mndassociation.org/
or MND Australia (James’ homeland)
Keep on moving.