Movement literacy. How’s yours?

Challenging the intellectual potential of our children is deeply embedded in our core values in this neck of the woods. We raise our kids with a high priority on procuring the best education possible. But, in the United States as a whole, 

14% of adults (32 million) can’t read, 21% read below a 5th grade level and 19% of high school graduates can’t read.

I just finished reading an article entitled The Invisible Cause. It correlated higher-order skills in reading, writing and communication with higher economic and social success, especially as the American economy becomes more technologically advanced.  No surprises there.

As a movement professional, I find a parallel between those statistics of illiteracy in our nation and our overall lack of movement sense and skills. The point in the article was that lack of literacy and education are the invisible cause of many economic troubles. In my world, the lack of movement literacy and education are the invisible cause of disease and decline. I can’t give you quantitative statistics to prove the point, but I certainly observe it all day long.

One thing I’ve noticed, to continue the earlier analogy, is that“movement literacy” in the spine is extremely poor for most of us. At any age, ideally, we should be able to move our spines in many different and complex patterns, at many different speeds, with ease and fluidity . . . just like a cat.

Our spine organizes our body in space. That’s pretty important. As well, a strong, mobile spine contributes to all sorts of positive health benefits from increased cardio vascular capacity and lymphatic flow to better gastro-intestinal health, stronger bones and improved balance. 

Our lack of spinal mobility should be particularly troubling for us all, but particularly for an aging population where we’ve been sold a bill of goods that the human body is a fragile thing to be restored and preserved with medications and surgeries. It’s not. It’s rugged, resilient and remarkable if it’s been used properly over the years and decades.

But poor movement skills and/or lack of movement over the life span begets immobility. Poor movement causes injury and makes us move even more poorly. Lack of movement, is well, just that . . . lack of movement. Perhaps the root cause is societal pressures, momentary inertia or who knows what else.  

As we move less, the spine becomes less and less able to move. Then it starts to hurt when we move it and makes us think that we’re fragile or just getting old. That pain and worry encourages us to stiffen up and move less, which creates higher levels of pain with movement. Then we become afraid to move, equate movement with pain, wonder what the heck happened and stop speaking the language of movement.

So, how do we change our movement literacy IQ? I’d like us to realize that moving ourselves in as many ways and positions as possible continually during the day will keep us healthy. Sure, go to the gym to learn how to move (not on machines though, they teach how not to move). Then, make your activities during the day part of your movement practice also.

How about making washing the dishes a practice in artful movement? How about doing a 10-minute movement routine in bed (with or without a partner) before you get up? Walk in the woods instead of the treadmill to practice negotiating uneven surfaces. Hang out in a resting squat position for minutes at a time. Get on the floor and explore rolling around. I’m not crazy. These are all in the human movement vocabulary and account for our movement literacy.

Maybe it would make sense to measure our health in terms of higher-order movement skills, that is, our movement literacy. The better we can move, the healthier we will be.

As I keep saying, move well and move often. Let’s make it part of the culture.

The Most Eloquent of All

Here’s another You Tube video showing what good movement looks like. Ido Portal is a classic, able to move every joint in every way at every speed. I don’t think he can leap tall buildings in a single bound but everyone has their limits. Take a look, loosen up your joints and learn from a master.

Click the image above to watch the video.

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