What Does Movement Have to Do with Postural Alignment?

A young white man is relaxing by lying down on a grey couch. His face is totally covered by the magazine he's reading.

See article: Scientists have created a drug that mimics some of the health benefits of exercise

A drug that mimics (some of) the effects of exercise! It’s the dream!

Right?

We like to try to get specific and “hack” everything–hitting that one muscle in our abs to make the perfect six-pack, getting rid of that one niggling pain in our low back, finding the one supplement to end all supplements–but our bodies (and life in general) operate too holistically for drugs like this to be truly effective.

Even if there ever was a drug that fully and totally mimicked the benefits of exercise, without actually moving, there would still be one major problem:

We as humans are designed to move, and move a lot, and move dynamically.

So many of our modern pain problems can be traced back to how little we move. (Ever heard the term “zoo humans“?) Even those among us who are supposedly “healthy” and “active” are actually very sedentary, and their movements are restricted to whatever they felt like doing at the gym for 30-60 minutes a day.

When they get home, though? Zap a meal in the microwave. Relax on the couch for several hours, craning over cell phones or bingeing on Netflix. Sleep for a few hours. Wake up, commute in a car for ?? minutes. Sit for a job for hours. Go to the gym. Zap a meal. Couch time. Sleep.

How much of that “active” person’s day is actually spent moving?

My point is this: We are a massively sedentary society, even those of us who get praised for moving our bodies in some way for at least 1 hour of every 24 hour day. By the way, that’s only roughly 4% of a total day, spent moving.

Our bodies are smart. If they are asked to assume a shape, over and over again, they will begin to mold themselves to that shape, and strengthen muscles to help us hold the shape we’re requesting.

That’s why some of us still look like we’re sitting, even when we’re standing. Our bodies have gotten excellent at helping us hold the “sit” posture, because from the body’s perspective, that’s apparently what we need to do a lot.

Is it any wonder, then, why some of us get injured or feel pain when we try to move, even with non-exercise movements?

“All I did was look up to pull down a box from the closet, and boom! Neck pain.”

“All I did was reach down to pick up a receipt that had blown away, and now I have low back pain.”

“All I did was try to pick up a grocery bag, and now I have shoulder pain.”

“Well, I was stupid and signed up for a Crossfit class, and somehow injured my knee. Guess I’m just getting older, and this is just what happens.”

As a Postural Alignment Specialist, I hear stories like this a lot. What these people don’t realize is that the reason they experienced pain from these activities–ALL of them being totally normal, reasonable activities to ask their bodies to do, regardless of age–is because they took one body posture, let’s call it the “Sitting Posture,” and threw it into a posture they barely ever use, and the body couldn’t adapt to the new alignment and demand on muscles quickly enough, and pain and injury followed.

Think about it: How often do you look up? Bend over, or squat down? Pick up heavy objects from the ground? Did you throw your “Sitting Posture” body into a situation where it really needed “Exercise Bootcamp-Ready Posture” body first?

“Get straight, then strengthen.”

You must first get your body back into its neutral, God-given natural position: Head over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, knees over ankles. Shoulders, hips, knees and ankles not twisted or elevated; body in neutral.

^THIS is the body we can ask to do everything, from reaching above ourselves to pull a heavy box out of the closet, to doing box jumps during an arduous workout.

Incorporating non-exercise movements, like bending, reaching, crawling, jumping, twisting, kneeling, and more, into our daily lives is hugely important to maintaining bodies that function well and pain free. But the lure of convenience and the threat of lost time mean that we often reach for the easiest (read: less movement required) solutions, and our bodies slowly decay over days and weeks and months and years of always grabbing the convenient, less-movement-required options.

A convenient, no-movement-required drug like this might improve fat loss and reduce cardiovascular risks, but what if we got to a point where drugs improved all the other internal conditions and diseases we’d like to avoid?

Hopefully, after reading this blog post, you can see exactly why having a society that has hacked exercise without actual movement would be totally disastrous for our bodies’ structure and our overall pain levels!

We as a society need rehabilitative therapy, like the kind of method I use for my clients at Primal Alignment, to counteract our lifelong sedentary habits. Once achieved, we can begin to strengthen those properly firing muscles, which will in turn pull our bones (read: our structural posture) back into neutral, and hold it there.

With a body in neutral, pain problems can be greatly, if not totally, eradicated. But it all starts with therapy, and moving again.

For inspiration on how to build more movement into your daily life, without it being just an extra chore to add to your day, check out my Instagram (@primalalignment), or search #stackyourlife. Stacking your life, as popularized by biomechanist Katy Bowman, is the idea of not multitasking, but simply seeking things you want to accomplish and you value, and trying to “stack” as many of those things into an activity you were going to do anyway.

It’s changed the way I see things, and I get a lot more done in a day, while still feeling like I’m hitting most of my personal, life, work, and health goals :).

Happy moving!

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