*Note from Sarah: I particullarly love this article!!! Also, Mark mentions the Squatty Potty in this article and I have to do a special shoutout to Squatty Potty as well – we have two of them, one in each of our bathrooms and, well, we couldn’t live without them. They are truly that legit. For more of Mark’s work, be sure to visit his website, follow him on Facebook, and listen to his kick butt podcast!
Here’s some nutrition advice for all you folks out there raising kids: put them on a diet of only broccoli and chicken. You can cook it or not cook it, season it any way you want. But that’s it. Broccoli. Chicken. Forever.
It certainly would make shopping easy.
But that’s crazy, right? Or as the kids say “cray cray.” You would never do that. And why not? Because kids need more than that to grow and be healthy, right?
*Side note here: your kids might actually only say they ever want to eat 1 or 2 things, but you would never “prescribe” that diet for them. Or any diet that contained only two foods — sorry Cabbage Soup diet.
Think of all the nutrients they’d be missing out on! And not to say that broccoli and chicken aren’t healthy if cooked in healthy ways, but our bodies need more.
Our bodies need a bajillion macro and micronutrients from a variety of fuel sources in order to thrive. That’s a given. And “bajillion” is a scientific term — I saw it on the internet.
All the vitamins, fatty acids, essential amino acids, minerals, the list is ridiculous when you break it down, and those are just the ones we KNOW about.
So let’s take this and relate it to movement.
What if you or your kids only moved in a couple of very specific ways the majority of your time awake? Not that farfetched an idea, right?
I think it’s fair to say without doing any sort of double blind, peer reviewed study that many adults today sit most of the time, then engage in some type of very linear, repetitive motion for a small fraction of their waking hours (aka elliptical, treadmill, exercise bike, running, swimming, etc…).
Another huge fraction of the population only sits. As Katy Bowman puts it in her book, Move Your DNA, they are “ninjas” at sitting.
Many school-aged kids spend a large majority of their time sitting in a desk, and if they are involved in any extracurricular activity, that activity is incredibly specialized — like if a kid (like both of my daughters) is a gymnast. Gymnastics is a GREAT thing to do for overall muscle development and coordination much the same way that broccoli is a super food and should be eaten on a regular basis – but not in exclusivity. We need more variation. We are designed to move in ways that aren’t only “broccoli.”
If you think the list of nutrients our bodies need to reach their health potential is exhausting, the list of all the different types of movements and ranges of motion your body can perform can’t be listed…because it’s infinite.
It would almost be like trying to write out all the numbers. Impossible.
Just like a variety in foods give us different nutritional benefits, different movements give us different bio-mechanical benefits. So not getting a healthy dose of movements and ranges of motion is as unhealthy as only eating one or two foods for the rest of your life.
Getting stuck in one position affects your blood pressure, your respiration, your metabolism, your stress level, your brain, your joint health, your muscle retention and growth, and a myriad of other things that you may have never thought of.
Start thinking of sitting all day like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet and only having one food on display. That would be terrible. An endless buffet of…..carrots. Mmmmmm…..
So what can you do? You have a job with a desk! You have to commute to the job! You have your life and that’s that so what can you do!!???
Here are some easy things you and your children can do to ensure that your movement buffet is filled with many different things that will support a long and healthy existence:
- change positions once an hour
sitting at work? Stand up. Been standing for an hour? Stand on a PVC pipe. Tired of that? Squat. Then stand back up and put one foot up on a stool or trashcan. Mix it up.
- stand whenever you want at work or school
have a conversation with your kids’ teachers, most will understand where you’re coming from and will allow your kids to stand if they want to at various “appropriate times” throughout the day
- squat when you poop
not hard even if you’re not very flexible if you have a Squatty Potty (most recently seen on Shark Tank). Most kids still have great mobility and this is no problem for them. I know my girls prefer to squat on the pot.
- bypass the couch at home — get down on the floor
thanks to all the time I spent locked up in desks while in school, I can no longer sit comfortably on the floor cross-legged. Did that deter me? No. I got a little yoga block which raises my pelvis up off the ground enough for me to cross my legs. Not comfortable at first, but it is now. And hopefully pretty soon I’ll be all the way on the floor. We eat dinner on the kitchen floor, too — sorry dogs, outside. And it’s good incentive to keep the floor clean!
- engage in some type of random movement activity
tennis, basketball, racquetball, soccer, playing tag, and jumping on a trampoline are examples of things that require you to move laterally and in ways that keep your body guessing and adapting
- Don’t specialize your kids!
This is a touchy one and down at the bottom of the article for a reason. But let me just say this — having middle school and high school aged kids specializing in a sport and only doing that one sport is CRAZY!!! I’m sorry if you have a daughter on track to be the next gold medalist in softball, but you are only setting them up for a lifetime of movement “nutritional deficiency.” There I said it. Please comment or email me how much of a moron you think I am.
Our kids were not designed to do one activity for the majority of their waking hours. They just weren’t.
- Do things not on “counter level”
Think about it. Everything you do in the house has you either sitting or standing up comfortably (like your counters in the kitchen). There are no waist level sinks or counter tops in nature. Think of ways to get away from counter tops. I’ll cook bacon on a griddle on the back porch…on the ground — sorry dogs, back inside — which forces me to squat down. I make broth on the ground outside. Be creative!
Don’t just eat broccoli and chicken all day, every day. Move around. Use your body in ways it was designed to move!