Movement vs Exercise – Part 1

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Recently, people have started asking me questions like “How have you lost your baby weight?  What are you doing to get in shape?  What kind of workout plan are you following?  What are you eating?”  I find myself stumbling around (partially because I’m so flattered), trying to explain what has changed.  Our family has definitely been on a long journey of cleaning up our diet but there has also been one other distinct difference & I’d like to share it with you.

Last year, I had a complete paradigm shift in the way I view “exercise.”  I love working out…I have a degree in Exercise Science, for Pete’s sake!  I spent my college years studying anatomy & how different forms of movement affect our bodies.  But it started to occur to me that most people sit in chairs all day, on couches all night…& attempt to make up for it by killing themselves at the gym for an hour in between.  Does that hour really make up for the lack of movement in our day?  I’m afraid not!

Think about our ancestors…they were hunters and gatherers.  So basically, they moved out of necessity…to eat!  Now, we do the opposite…move because we’ve eaten too much!:)  I’m a stay at home mom, so I realize that I might get more movement into my day than say, someone with a desk job…but how do I view that movement?  I think as a culture, we tend to resent it.  We’ve created a lot of modern conveniences to try & reduce natural movement to as little as possible…think chairs, beds, vehicles, grocery carts, strollers…even toilets!  (Yep, I went there!)  I mean, why do I dread walking up the stairs 20 times a day with my baby but then have no problem going to the gym & getting on the stair climber for 30 minutes…doesn’t make sense, does it?  The truth is, we prefer to limit physically hard labor to an hour, three or so times a week.  Then we can be done, check it off our list & justify the other 23 hours of non-movement.

I’m so challenged by the way Katy Bowman (a Biomechanist & seriously hardcore chick) describes exercise…

“Junk food is something you eat that provides short-term satisfaction at the expense of long-term health.  Junk movement is a way of moving that provides short-term fitness benefits at the expense of long-term health.  For most of us, time limitations have eaten away the space in our lives for the all-day, life-long varying whole-body movement required for biological function. In lieu of a “natural movement” diet, we partake of short, daily bouts trying to manipulate variables so that we might create a similar effect, in 60 minutes, to what we would have gotten over a 24-hour period. Exercise is convenient, for sure, but it can also be a highly processed version of what our body requires from movement. Exercise can fall way short of the nutrients movement provides. In short, exercise is the junk food of moving.”

Ouch…I know that sounds a bit extreme, but it definitely made me stop & think!  WHAT IF I changed my thought process…started viewing all movement as positive & slowly began eliminating conveniences in my everyday life?  I discovered that it can be tough…and sometimes intense.  It requires strength and endurance all. day. long.  I have the opportunity to move anytime I want…no plan necessary!

Alright…let’s break it down.  How does this translate into my everyday life?

  • When I go to the store, I park far away…even if I have all 3 kids because that’s a heck of a lot of movement built right smack dab into the middle of my day!  If I don’t have the kiddos with me, I never use a cart…I try to carry my items or put them in one of those little baskets and switch arms when my bicep starts shaking!;)
  • When I’m unloading the dishwasher, I squat as I remove each item…I know you just got a visual & snickered but seriously, it’s something I have to do every day, why not gain some glute strength while I work?  On that note, I don’t resent housework like I used to.  I even take out the trash sometimes instead of waiting for Aubrey to do it…this is big, people!
  • When I’m playing with my kids, I get down on the floor & mimic their movements…try it, you’ll be surprised how many positions they can put their little bodies in!  When we go to the park, I try (keyword TRY) to do the monkey bars.  I will conquer them one day!
  • Sometimes when we’re watching TV at night, I stretch instead of sitting on the couch…or I sit on the floor & change my position every few minutes.
  • I try to walk…everyday!  I used to think walking was for wimps who couldn’t run (aka: me) or old ladies in white Reeboks…but it’s not!  Walking is something our bodies biologically require & our joints will thank us in 20 years!;)

I could keep going but I think you get the idea.  Does this mean I never workout or exercise?  No…I just view it differently now.  It’s the icing on the cake, not what I do to replace a sedentary lifestyle or a crappy diet.

More on that in part 2…stay tuned!


  1. Leah Susi
    February 19, 2014

    This is a great reminder. I often complain too, but this is good. And I totally do the exercise part, but need to work on the eating part….baby steps! Being pregnant I am feeling the pressure at work even more, so I added two daily appointments at 10am and 2pm to get up and do a 10 minute walk outside or around the building to just stay moving, and want to be mindful of standing during my phone meetings instead of sitting the whole time. It’s the little things and I need to be reminded of that…..and I need to eat better. :) thanks for the reminder, it moved me to action today!

    • Jennifer McGowan
      March 20, 2014

      That’s awesome, Leah! Love your ideas for staying active while at work too!!


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