trail running on a ridge

Why Novel Movement Is Important For Your Health

Keeping a healthy mind is more than just doing a crossword puzzle every day. There is a mind-body connection that cannot be ignored. You have to engage them both if you want to be healthy. That’s where novel movement comes into play.

What Is Novel Movement?

For tens of thousands of years, the profession of humanity was getting food. It’s only been very recently that you could pay someone else to do it for you. Getting food meant having to interact with our environment on a daily basis.

If you’ve ever spent time in the wilderness off-trail, you can agree that no two spots are identical. Take off your shoes and go for a walk across what looks like a flat piece of lawn. Unless it’s something like a soccer field you’ll find that it isn’t as flat and uniform as you think.

All of these minor variations in our terrain add an immense amount of complexity to the movements we performed constantly.  This environmental variation created constant novel movement. Movements that were variations of basic human movements.

How Does Novel Movement Help Our Brains?

Because our body is controlled by our brains our movement capability is directly related to our brain capacity. The more novel movement we practice the more our brain has to figure out and the more neurology our brain builds in response.

If you continue practicing a movement within the same context, you greatly limit your brain’s stimulus and therefore its adaptation. In our modern exercise theory, there is a prescribed form for exercises and that is the way you should do them every time.

The problem with this gym based movement practice, i.e. modern exercise, is that it doesn’t translate well to the real world. Your neurology doesn’t have the necessary coordination to apply the movements well outside of the sterile gym environment.

How Natural Movement Creates Novel Movement

Let’s look at the deadlift (the hip hinge in MOVNAT). If you do it as prescribed, you put your feet under the bar in the same place every time, you lift the bar until you’re standing upright, and then you set it back down. Repeat for the prescribed number of reps and sets.

How can we make the hip hinge a more novel movement? Let’s add some complexity. The simplest way possible is to change what you’re lifting. Instead of a barbell, lift a sandbag, a rock, a tree, a friend, or any other infinite number of things you can lift.

You can also add movements to run in combination to add complexity.

Picture this: lift a sandbag and lap it. Then position that sandbag so you can chest carry it and carry it across an 8′ long 2×4. Once across the 2×4 clean the sandbag to shoulder height and then jerk it until it’s overhead so you can put it on top of a platform.

That’s complexity! This forces your mind and body to work far harder than just doing a deadlift in a gym. It also goes a long way to keeping you healthy. Just lifting on different footing can greatly change how effective you are at a movement.

Add some novel movement to your life. Build your body and build your brain!

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