What’s the difference between movement and exercise?


So, I always ask people to clarify their terms- when I teach other people’s kids, my own kids, or with teachers I’m working with. It is a habit I have built up, and it helps smooth out my life. If someone clarifies what they are talking about, it not only helps me understand, it often helps them understand.

One of my favorite moments teaching is when students want help, I ask a couple of clarifying questions about what they are working on, and then they are able to answer their own question. The look on their face is priceless.

So, if I keep going on in this blog about moving, and stretching and kicking and punching and yoga-ing, (and I will keep going on about it) what do I mean? Why don’t I like talking about exercise? Don’t we need to exercise? Isn’t being fit important?

Well, I have been influenced in the past year by Katy Bowman, a biomechanist  who started out in her education and career on the exercise side of things.  In physiology departments, the study is mostly about sports and exercise and performance on a playing field, not necessarily how our bodies have evolved to move over millions of years. And I mean millions- I am not just talking about paleo stuff, with the whole “eat avocadoes for breakfast” thing, but ever since we evolved spines and guts. What critter in the world sits in chairs, other than us?

Cats don’t count…

What critter in the world drives its young to buildings where they are made to sit in desks for 5-6 hours per day, with a break for lunch and a few minutes of tether ball outside, but not on snowy days, because then they track in snow, and that makes a mess for the custodians?

What other critter reads about muscle activation? Or mail-orders boxes of instant breakfast drink? Or drives somewhere to work out, then drives home? Or spends an hour at the Taekwondo dojang kicking and punching, then preaches the idea of peace? Or spends an hour in yoga class stretching and bending to relieve tension, then hops in the car at rush hour to cram that tension back in? Or any number of crazy things we humans do?

Katy Bowman writes about that artificial borderline between exercise and movement, where exercise is the thing we (should) do for half an hour 3 times per week, in order to make up for the rest of the time on the couch.

It has been a paradigm shift for sure, over the last year, where I was proud of myself if I rode my bike or went for a long walk, then flopped back on the couch. Now I have been much more conscious of building movement into my life, charting it, clarifying for myself what moving means, and clarifying for myself what I need to be healthy and happy. That paragraph about crazy critters? Those are all things I do- and by clarifying what I do, and I why I do it, I can answer my own questions about being fit.

And maybe some of your questions, too. What are your crazy critter moves? What is your definition of fitness? What does it mean to exercise? What has been a paradigm shift for you about how your body works?

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