Are movement and diet all that we need to live well?

by / Thursday, 31 March 2016 / Published in Feldenkrais Practitioners, Latest posts, Movement Health, Somatic Futures

It’s pretty clear that the general population isn’t in a very healthy state. Of course there are exceptions and some are very healthy, while others are barely alive. In the past several years, there have been a number of interesting discoveries of correlations between how we move, how we think, and how healthier we are.

We’re learning that it’s not just that lack of movement that dulls us but also how we move. Kids need to get outside and play again. Adults need to get a variety of movement to stay healthy and age well. As a Feldenkrais practitioner, I’ve experienced and witnessed the power of mindful, explorative and varied movements with myself and in others. It is encouraging and exciting that our society is beginning to recognize the power of moving beyond weight machines and mindlessly jogging mile after mile.

Movement methods that propagate more complexity and variants are emerging from the depths of the sweat stained, “no pain equals no gain” fitness industry. There are some creative thinkers offering innovative and interesting new ideas or reviving old ones for our benefit. One of the trends to emerge is the idea of primal or paleo movement.

The logic behind this thinking (and I’m overly simplifying here) is that our wonderful body-brains evolved to their highest state in the hunter-gatherer or Paleolithic era. Additionally, I’ve read reports that claim our ancestors were much stronger and faster than we are now, barring a few exceptions like Usain Bolt and other great athletes. By studying groups of people still living this life, we can see how we are supposed to move and thus reverse the ills brought about by our sedentary and civilized life style. The other aspect is the diet. When we were hunting and gathering, we didn’t have grains, sugar and processed foods so if we eat like our ancestors did, we will be nourishing ourselves in an ideal way.

The conclusion is: If we adopt a more primal lifestyle or add said elements to our lives, we will be healthier.

In this post, I’m neither arguing “for or against” this way of thinking, it’s simply some background information that I need to write before getting to the main point.

There have been a plethora of articles on the research showing how exercise can not only benefit the body, but also the brain. So for living better into our later years, it seems that some form of movement or exercise is necessary. I agree wholeheartedly but have been wondering about other factors that could influence our wellbeing.

While the idea of moving and eating more like we have evolved is intriguing, I wonder if there’s another aspect? What might that be? Art. Yes, Art. I’m no expert on our ancestors but I gather that there we often forms of ritual that may have included song and dance. Perhaps our ancestors’ apparent superior health was also supported by singing, dancing and painting on cave walls.

Then I ran across this article that piqued my interest: “Using the Arts to Promote Healthy Aging”

Throughout the country, the arts are pumping new life into the bodies and minds of the elderly.

The article describes how the arts, and more importantly participating in them, can increase health, cognitive abilities and wellbeing in the aging population. For those of us who love to move AND create in an artistic way, this is perhaps nothing new, but good news nonetheless.

The main point I hope to convey is that it’s never just so simple to say, you just have to eat better and move more. There’s much more to a good life than that. And while the primal or paleo advocates argue that our modern culture is the seat of our demise, the opportunities provided by our culture (for those of us lucky enough to have them available) in the form of art classes, storytelling, music making and dance could also be one of our saviors.

So after your next foray into the woods to pick some wild berries, tell your loved ones the story about how you just barely managed to escape the charging wild boar by climbing a tree. Then you’d have all the boxes checked: slow cardio, fresh air, nutritious food, sprinting, climbing and storytelling. What could be healthier than that?

Enjoy the spring if it’s springing in your neck of the woods. If not, hunker down next to the fire and tell some more stories.

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