Humans are natural movers. We're built to interact with and traverse our environment. To take what we need from what's around us. We can shape our environment in a such a way that it works better for us.
What is Natural Movement?
Natural movement encompasses everything we would have had to do on a daily basis to survive. Things like gathering food, hunting, and escaping danger gave our bodies substantial stimulation. Crawling, walking, running, climbing, and lifting would have all been essential skills.
These movements would have been a little different every time we did them. There wouldn't be a "prescribed" technique. The context that these movements would have been performed under would have changed almost every time they were performed because the environment was variable.
But the most important thing to note about natural movement is that any human being can do these movements. You don't have to be a unique athlete. These are things that are innately us. And the better you perform these movements, the better you will use your body!
Why is Natural Movement Important?
The human body craves this movement. Humans are incredibly thrifty critters. We only keep what we need and that means that if we don't use some aspect of our bodies, then we will eventually lose the ability to do it at all. If you spend all day every day sitting in a chair, you will eventually be unable to stand up at the worst, or be very bad at it at best.
Novel movement is essential for a healthy mind. Picture a mindless task. What is it? A mindless task is something you've done so often that you literally don't have to think about it to perform it. Performing new movements, or old movements in new ways, builds a healthier mind. You actually create new neural connections with natural movement.
Many of the problems we associate with aging are actually just a long-time build up of misuse and disuse of the body. The cliche "help I've fallen and I can't get up" isn't a natural consequence of getting older. It's a natural consequence not regularly getting up off the floor.
Why Do You Need to Learn Natural Movement?
But if all of this movement stuff is the way we're built, then why do you need to learn it? Because of our environment. As I said before, just going about our daily tasks would have taken care of all of this before because of varied environment.
Let's use a simple example, walking. Think about where you walked today and what you walked on. For most of us, almost all of our walking will be on paved sidewalks or streets. They're level, smooth, and solid. Some of us will stray off the sidewalks to the grass, and some of us will hike trails in the woods.
But the reality is, there is very little variety in any of these walking locations. You'll rarely if ever, have to duck under a branch, crawl through a thicket, or climb over a rock outcropping. Anyone who has hiked over a trail that has large loose rocks can appreciate how much an unlevel walking surface can affect our ability to walk.
Because of our civilized environment, we lost many of our movement skills as we grew up. That is because we wear clothes and footwear that alter the way we move. High heeled shoes dramatically alter the way the human body works. We also spend long hours in fixed positions, like sitting at a desk or driving a car. These all alter the way our bodies move over time until they become ingrained habits.
Is Natural Movement Exclusive of Other Workouts?
Natural movement is exercise. It is actually the basis for every other kind of workout you can do. Things like sports are much more specific than natural movement and leave gaps in your movement needs. Everyone can benefit by adding more natural movement into their days.
By practicing good, efficient movement patterns, you will lower your risk of injury. And by varying the ways you move you will build a more robust body. If you only do barbell squats in the gym with the same exact technique, what happens when your body is in a slightly different position, or on different footing, then what you do in the gym? Your body is ill-equipped to handle these varied situations.
By building a good foundation of efficient movement patterns, you'll find that you will learn new movement skills much more quickly. That's because you will already have a variety of familiar patterns to build from. New skills will just be an adaptation of these basic skills. And because you will have built a robust body, you will have the physicality you need to learn these new skills!
Don't Let Natural Movement Scare You
Natural movement is for everyone. No matter where your fitness level, there is a starting place. Don't let what you see on TV or the internet scare you away from learning to move better. Jumping off buildings or doing one-arm pull-ups isn't necessary to be healthier.
Start where you are and build from there. The best movers in the world are the best movers because they do the basics better than anyone else. Crawling, walking, running, lifting, climbing, these are all part of what it means to be human and we can all do them. Begin your journey and walk your path.