We've all found ourselves looking at the clock only to realise we've been sitting, working on the computer for far too long and are beginning to stiffen up and zone out. It's a similar feeling to sitting passively in the car on a long journey. On arrival at our destination, it always feels so good to finally move around and feel the blood pumping around our bodies again.
Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are just some of the health risks involved with inactivity. However, in a world where we are constantly being encouraged to move less as everything becomes more automated, we need strategies we can put in place to ensure we don't get caught in this dangerous cycle of inactivity. If we divide movement into two categories, planned, such as Pilates and incidental such as taking the dog for a walk, it will help us see areas where we can discreetly factor in some more movement into our daily lives. We will also look at how Pilates can enhance these incidental movements.
What is Planned Movement?
This is an organised activity that you commit to on a regular basis such as Pilates, Yoga, going to the gym, jogging and team sports for example. One of the mistakes that people commonly make is that this is the only activity they do for the week. I've had clients over the years, who have experienced very slow progress in Pilates because this would be their typical week: wake -up, prepare for work, drive to the office and sit for the large majority of the day with very few breaks. In the worst-case scenario, lunch is eaten at their desk. They then drive home after a long stressful sedentary day, heat up something quick for dinner or order takeaway, watch television until bedtime and then repeat again the next day. Weekends are spent dining out or at the movies or concerts and again there is minimal movement. In general, they experience a range of health issues from neck pain and migraines to lower back pain and hip pain. They know they need to do something so they start Pilates and do a one-hour session each week. Now, it's wonderful that they know they need to move and Pilates is perfect for this but it becomes the only time they actually move in the whole week. When you consider there are approximately 112 waking hours in a week based on 8 hours of sleep per night and if you only spend 1 of those hours actively moving, that means there are 111 inactive hours per week. That's a lot of sedentary hours! I know this sounds very extreme but you would be surprised by the number of clients I have worked with over the years who were living like this. They usually do make progress at Pilates, but it is much, much slower than those who are active outside of Pilates. Then, if they miss a session or two, they end up with only 2 or 3 hours of movement per month which is a very dangerous level and this leaves them vulnerable to a range of health issues. The majority of my clients who were in this situation were taking steps to consciously add more movement into their lives and Pilates was the ideal way to kickstart this. So let's look at how can we all find ways to introduce more movement into our lives by making some small adjustments.
What is Incidental Movement?
This refers to any type of movement or activity that you do during your daily routine that is outside of planned movement. These incidental movements add up during the day and contribute towards maintaining your daily activity level. Even if you are doing a few hours a week of planned activity it is still essential that you keep moving and don't spend the rest of your time sitting at your computer or curled up on the couch. It's all about creating a good balance between planned movement and incidental movement for maintaining our overall health and fitness.
We all do certain activities like walking the dog, mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage and putting groceries away on the pantry shelves for example. There are ways that we can incorporate more incidental movement into our daily schedule so let's look at how we can increase this and benefit our health and fitness even further.
Strategies For Increasing Incidental Movement
If you want to maximise the benefits of incidental movement do a quick inventory of your daily habits. Most people can find a few areas where they may be too sedentary and need to move more and with a little creativity, come up with some ways to incorporate more movement. In addition to Pilates, my Mum who is almost 80 years young credits having stairs in the house as another reason she has maintained her fitness so well, as she is continually going up and down numerous times per day. Stairs in your home or in a park or on your daily walk are hugely beneficial as they are so versatile. Depending on your fitness level, you can run up and down the stairs or go up two at a time and really work your glutes. You can use the bottom stair to do step-ups and you also have the railings for support if needed. Climbing stairs is a good weight-bearing activity and helps to increase bone density. So if you have the chance to use stairs instead of an elevator, choose the stairs. While we are on the subject of a daily walk, there are ways of making this more effective too. In addition to walking on the road or foot[path include different surfaces such as grass, sand and rocks if possible as this challenges your proprioception. Try to walk up and downhill rather than staying on level ground. Walk backwards in a park, where you can't run into anyone and incorporate something on the equipment depending on what's available such as step-ups or balance training for example. Vary the speed you are walking from slow to fast and back again. Try to do as many different movements as you can come up with so you keep surprising your body. If you are having trouble finding time for a walk, park your car 10 mins away from your workplace or an appointment and you will have an extra 20 mins of walking you otherwise wouldn't have had. Meet a friend or family member for a walk instead of sitting in a cafe or conduct a business meeting on a walk. The possibilities are really only limited by your own imagination.
Pilates & Incidental Movement
While Pilates can be considered a planned movement it is so more than this! it transforms the quality of our lives by preparing us to perform our incidental movements with greater awareness and efficiency of movement which prevents injury. The skills that you develop at Pilates shouldn't be confined solely to your Pilates session and then forgotten until the next session but should form the basis of how you move each day. Just one example is squats and in particular, the deep squat which can be used when bending down to do a variety of tasks such as feeding a pet, talking to a small child and picking up objects from the floor. When you know how to squat efficiently, this makes a great incidental movement that you can put into practice when completing so many daily activities. The members of JS Mind Body Pilates, my online Pilates studio are finding being able to do short Pilates sessions of around 20 mins regularly is producing great results. Many are doing this daily and they are achieving their goals rapidly while the benefits are filtering through to daily life. Instead of limiting Pilates to one long weekly session, by breaking it up you are reminding your body of the connections and re-enforcing positive movement patterns.
So, as you can see Pilates and incidental movement have a lot more in common than you would think and by merging these two types of movement together, we can have the best of both worlds!