Simply moving your body is effective in maintaining and even improving your future mobility. Surprisingly, “moving” does not need to involve the gym or long distance running to gain the most valuable benefits.
The one thing you could do every day that would help you stay limber and mobile into your ripe old age isn’t running track, pumping iron or even standing on your head, it is the routine activity of getting down … on the floor … and getting back up again. Now for some of you, just the idea of getting down may cause you to break a sweat. Don’t worry! This practice is built for everyone; it is a practice of functional movement.
“Functional movement” is the greatest indicator of agility, mobility and longevity. There are a growing number of books, videos, classes and trainings popping up helping people rediscover how to move their bodies in functional ways. Functional movements are ways of moving that simulate real-world actions and activities. Think of the muscles you use and the flexibility you need to reach for something from the top shelf, or to put that heavy pot behind all your other pots in the bottom cupboard. Or carrying groceries or climbing a set of stairs. These are things many of us do every day without thinking about how mobile we need to be. Most of us will never realize how mobile we are just to be able to accomplish these daily tasks until we lose the ability to do them.
Our daily tasks involve myriad body parts coordinating and moving together: core strength, muscle flexibility and joint mobility. Twisting, bending, stretching; contractions and expansions, lifting and lowering. All this action comes into play in our so-called “mundane” daily movements.
Getting on and off the floor is a measurement of functional mobility. Simply practicing this action daily can help keep the body moving and grooving. In 2015 US Today produced a segment that discussed how a simple (though not easy) test of getting down on the floor and back up again could indicate a person’s future health and mobility.
Of course, as with all activity, being aware of intensity and challenge level is very important. The adage “Do what you can” holds true even when attempting a daily movement practice. Our ability to get to the ground and back up again can vary greatly from person to person, and so too will our methods. For some the practice might start by getting up and down from a chair, for others it will be the challenge of lowering one’s body down onto the ground without the use of support and then back up again. The degree of challenge is dependent on your current mobility and the amount of practice you have had. Moving slow and steady, within your own capacity will result in more significant mobility improvements than attempting the practice fast and furiously.
As long as you feel safe and don’t experience pain you are doing it right, no matter what it may look like. Whichever way you make your way down and make your way up is great, as long as you are being responsible to your body in every attempt.
Here are examples of 4 stages of movement you can explore as you practice this daily skill.
Up and down from a chair;
Chair supported movement;
“Look mom no hands!”
*thanks to The Bodhi Tree for the use of your studio to shoot these videos