An underutilised body is the root cause of so many of our physical- and mental-health problems, but really, all we have to do is move
My mother lay completely paralysed for several years, a beautiful woman with a sharp mind, trapped in an immobile body. The crushing ferocity of MS (multiple sclerosis) did not spare even her vocal chords. Her will to fight and survive was indomitable, but the disease defeated her, and she died young.
Witnessing her life unfurl was a raw lesson in the true meaning and power of movement. I went about life, sometimes struggling with serious injuries and sometimes fighting an unfortunately rich genetic baggage of health conditions that threatened to take away movement. I fought hard to seek solutions to grasp and reclaim it. Then I look around and see people who have no real reason to, but have voluntarily given up on movement. They have, in most cases, nothing that afflicts them to justify their choice. It’s what I see as a wasted gift.
There is something beautiful about movement. Nature designed for things to move: the swaying of trees in the wind, the gushing of water, the flight of birds across the sky, the bounce of gazelles across the forest. There is beauty, power and poetry in movement. It signifies life, but more importantly, the quality of life.
Breath is movement too! Organs work hard performing their functions and blood flows through our arteries and veins, providing oxygen and nutrients for cells to function. Yet, we humans seem to lose sight of and respect for movement. It’s only when it is threatened or is taken away from us do we spare it a thought, often one of repentance.
To move painlessly, gracefully, with control and purpose is a blessing. Why have we thoughtlessly, so easily relinquished it to such an extent that lack of movement has become the biggest bane of modern-day civilisation?
When we don’t move enough or well enough, we begin to lose functionality of joints and muscles. This gives rise to weakness, aches, pains and further exacerbates any symptoms of ill health, body dysfunctions and inculcates compensatory patterns that make movement even more painful when performed. It triggers a cascade of negative effects that run down overall health and strip away from the potential of happiness and well-being. With age, it becomes progressively more restrictive and starts limiting our ability to live life to its fullest. Outings become doctor visits. Movement is not just imperative at the physical level. It imparts the ability to focus on the most important aspects of our lives and not be distracted or limited by a body that doesn’t function well.
Movement need not always be something big to yield substantial benefits. It should, however, be meaningful and performed well. Being mindful of how (and how much) we move is the basis of keeping a well-oiled body and mind. Small and sustained can be big enough too. Hit the road, hit the stairs, hit the water, hit the trails… Do more and more of your chores yourself. Anything around you can become a tool to use your body better — chairs, tables, benches, the floor. Don’t associate movement with just a structured exercise plan. (There’s nothing quite like one to augment your life, though.) Taking charge of movement is taking charge of your body, which means taking charge of your life.
The writer is an American Council on Exercise (ACE)-certified personal trainer and a Master Rehab Trainer in Gurugram