In my last post, I talked about how excited I was after reading Katy Bowman’s book Move Your DNA. She likens the understanding about the role of movement in health to an example of nutrition: we can understand that though an orange is healthy and contains important nutrients like Vitamin C, if you only ever ate oranges, you would become deficient in other important nutrient- things like protein, healthy fats and fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, & K to name a few.
The same is true for the relationship of exercise and movement. Exercise is like the orange. Yes, its good for you, but if the only time you move is when you exercise, you are most likely missing out on all sorts of other movement ‘nutrients.’
I know, I know, it can get overwhelming. You’re already trying very hard to adjust your diet, to get your exercise in and then here I go telling you need all this daily movement to be healthy too!
Fear not, there are simple solutions! For one, please realize that you don’t have to carve out a separate time in your already busy schedule to get your ‘movement nutrients.’ That’s the best thing- they are optimal when you build them into your daily routine.
“Make movement a part of your every living.”
Walking more is a simple way. Are there errands you could run on foot instead of in the car? Can you walk to the post office instead of driving there? What about work? Can you park in the furthest spot from the door to your office and then walk from there? Can you send a print job to a printer on another floor so you have an excuse to take a flight of stairs and go for a little walk? I bet with a little creativity, you can come up with more ways to include movement in your regular daily schedule.
Another thing I have been doing more of lately is going barefoot!!! Did you know that there are over 33 joints in your foot alone??? And each of those joints has multiple ways in which it can move- provided its allowed to do so. And unfortunately, shoes block most of that motion- even the most supportive, orthopedic shoes. In fact, those are some of the worst offenders! They ‘outsource’ the work of supporting your foot to the shoes instead of letting the muscles of your foot do that job. When that happens, the muscles become weakened and then your foot increasingly relies on the shoe in order to support it. This can lead to pain anywhere between the foot and low back (and in some cases, even higher!)
By going barefoot more often, you get these joints working again while strengthen the muscles of your foot. It’s an easy way to get more movement in your day and all you had to do was take your shoes off! If you are new to going barefoot, its best to start out by doing this in your yard on the ground. The floors in our homes can be unnaturally hard with very little ‘give.’ These unnaturally hard surfaces can make foot pain worse, or cause pain when there was none before. The soft earth is a great, forgiving surface to get started on. There’s an added bonus too. Just like your shoes vastly limit the number of movement that the joints of your foot can do, walking all the time on flat, level surfaces does the same. When you walk on an uneven surface like the ground, your foot has to move in lots of novel ways. The provides tons more movement nutrient-density to the joints and muscles of your foot.
What if you live somewhere where you can’t easily go barefoot on the earth? (I highly doubt this- almost everyone has a near by park, but if this is really the case…) Or what if you love going barefoot so much that you don’t want to ever again put on ‘foot coffins’ and yet, you have to in order to go grocery shopping, or to the bank, or into most any reputable establishment or place of business (you can always come to my office barefoot though!)?
This summer my favorite ‘unshoe’ is hands-down the line from Earth Runners. These are my one ‘unshoe’ to do it- walk, trail run, work, wear anywhere my feet are taking me really. They are based on the design of the foot coverings the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico wear and run long distances over rugged terrain in. Even more than that, they have a copper insert that can conduct to the Earth’s energy through the laces to your foot. (Full disclosure- I have not done the research on the health positive and negatives of this conductive phenomenon known as ‘earthing’, though I have seen where the change in conductance was measured with a voltmeter. Currently it appears to me to be one of those things that is benign at worst, so you can only benefit from this. I primarily chose the Earth Runners because I have studied the benefits of improved biomechanics from going barefoot. The ‘earthing’ is just an added bonus!) I wore them on a recent local hike and I enjoyed them quite a lot. They provided enough protection from rocks and hard surfaces, yet didn’t mute the feeling of the ground underneath of my feet. And I think they look at least as cute as most strappy sandals you can get now a days.
If you’d like to start your own transition to more natural, minimal footwear, remember to go slow. You’ve been wearing shoes for decades of your life and your feet have adapted to that. It will take them more than overnight to adapt to the increased loads of a minimalist shoes. Start off walking before you try to run and of course, walk short distances in them at first and then work your way up to longer ones- slowly! Get out and walk on softer surfaces in nature as much as you can. It’s not only good for your body, but the spirit as well. (and you’ll get some Vitamin D from the sunshine!)
For more information, or to get your own Earth Runners, see their website at www.earthrunners.com.