When it comes to movement, people have different tastes. Some people like high impact, high intensity activities. Some people like slow, low intensity movements.  The problem is that most of us (myself included for sure) prefer certain kinds of movement over others, and we don’t tend to go to the others very often. There are a huge variety of ways to move around, and your body will love you for engaging in lots of them!

My favourite rotation

This is my favourite rotation stretch. It is not high intensity in terms of cardio or impact. No bone density work here. Or is there? I am being diligent about not cheating my range by letting my shoulder hyperextend, I am working at actually turning my spine and ribs without pushing my ribs up and forward. Those things mean I am using my core muscles, which pull on my ribs which puts load on the bones which stimulates bone building activities in the appropriate cells. Aha! Not just being slothful.

This is part of a more high intensity series. I am using my arms, shoulders and core to hold up my body weight and I am hinging at my hips to bring my legs back and forth through neutral. It also requires more thought about what my body is doing as I move through a series of positions, because the work changes every second!

This is, for me, part of a higher intensity workout. For someone who regularly does the Tough Mudder, or bench presses 400 pounds or does triathlons, it isn’t going to register as high on the scale. The precision of the choreography might be hard, but that is as much about the brain work as the actual physical load.

Just so you know where I stand on the scale, I am more on the low intensity side of things. In my down time I like to read, take a loooong bath while reading or drink tea. Probably while reading. Or take a nice walk. Not reading.

It is good for me to occasionally challenge my body in a different way. It is NOT sensible to suddenly up and run a marathon or spend an hour on an advanced kettlebell routine. It can be risky to overstep your boundaries all at once. But I can run part of my long walks, I can add the jump board to my reformer workout. I can do some Wii boxing (seriously, it’s killer). For me, adding some speed to my movement menu changes what I do instinctively and adds more movement nutrients to my day.

The same thing applies to people who are at the other end of the spectrum. If you are a cross-fitting, heavy-lifting runner, you are probably on the high intensity side, and stretching and slow movements are not your automatic go to! To give your muscles a fuller range of experience, try to find some slower motions to play with. But in the same way I shouldn’t join you in a full-on activity that my body isn’t prepared for, don’t fling yourself into a hot yoga class and expect to not feel it the next day (and not in a good way)!

Comparing high and low intensity activities is not about better/ worse. It’s about making sure we are capable of all the different skills our bodies should be able to do. We should be able to run, jump, stretch, lift, carry, walk, crawl, be still and roll over to grab another book before having another cup of tea. No, wait, that last one is just me. It’s about making sure that, whatever your movement dessert is, the thing that you love and that makes your heart sing, you CAN do the other things as well.

Sometimes that involves doing things that you don’t enjoy as much, or that challenge your body or your brain in a way that feels frustrating. If you think of it as an investment in your over-all health and the well-being of ALL of your many body parts, that might help. In our time-crunched society, it’s hard to invest some of those hard-earned moments in something that feels like it’s too hard (for those of us who live on the slower end of the spectrum) or too easy/ boring for those with a higher level of stimulation. But the truth is, it’s like eating a diet of all broccoli or all liver. They are both healthy foods that provide important nutrients, but neither can supply you with all your health requirements!

Part of having a human body is that everything you do (or don’t do) affects the body you live in. If you don’t move much at all, that has one kind of cost and if you move in the same ways most of the time, that has a different cost. Reach out and try a different shape! Using the same muscles in novel ways and accessing rarely used muscles are both vital to maximizing your body’s potential health. It’s also good for your brain, fyi.

Should everyone do everything? No. There are always going to be movements or activities that are not appropriate for certain people. If you have a particular health issue (hip replacement, blood pressure, osteoporosis for example), there are limitations on the things that you can do safely. Trying any new sport or exercise is of course something to be careful of, even when you are fit. Respect your boundaries and strive to expand them, not shatter them into a million pieces!

So if you tend to move slowly, try adding short sprints, hill climbs or a faster paced yoga or pilates class. If you move quickly, try a slower yoga, pilates or Restorative Exercise class, meditation or a long walk. Challenge yourself to find the value in the road less travelled and then get a move on!

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