by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA
When you embrace a style of activity with free flowing movements, you just might experience benefits that go beyond the physical.
People have been engaging in free flowing movements for centuries, but as a former athlete and a trainer who is often helping people to achieve a very specific goal, the idea of movement without structure is a new concept for me. In our purpose driven lives we are often caught up in following a specific plan with structure and goals, but on a recent trip to China I got to enjoy being outside and simply moving in a way that felt good.
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I was running through a park in Xi’an, China, and people of all ages were congregating in small groups, doing what looked to me like a combination of stress relief therapy, family bonding time and friendship building. It was amazing to see a variety of fun activities taking place so early in the morning.
I’m used to seeing people doing traditional exercises, such as running and cycling, but the activities were different and I enjoyed trying a number of them out for myself. The outdoor activity trend throughout china takes place in local squares and parks. It’s a movement that is supported by the government to encourage people to avoid living a sedentary lifestyle.
The physical gains that you get from doing simple activity, in terms of building cardiovascular fitness level and muscular strength, is minimal. However the mental benefits of movement can sometimes far outweigh the physical. Being active is a great way to the relieve stress and anxiety that comes hand in hand with living a busy life.
If you are someone who has a negative association with exercise, simply getting active may be a perfect starting point for you. The joint and bone health benefits of getting active makes the effort of getting started worthwhile. I believe that some movement is always better than doing nothing at all.
Here are some ways that you can become more active at home or outside.
Dancing: All you need is some music. Let your body move to the beat in a way that feels good to you. Some of the groups had traditional flowing style movements while others were just making it up as they danced. The aim is to move and be present in the moment, enjoying the music and surroundings.
Tai Chi: Tai chi is an art that needs instruction and practice, but once you know the basics you can do it at any time. I was surprised at just how much patience and muscle control it takes to move your body so slowly. It is very low impact and perfect for seniors.
Simple stretches: Find an area and start to stretch. You don’t have to do a specific stretch routine, just stretch the areas of your body that feel tight in a way that feels natural to you.
Waist hoop: This playground classic is great for loosening up tight muscles and it’s very fun.
Footbag and simple ball games: Working on your co-ordination with simple games is a great way to get your body moving.
Hiking and walking: Enjoying your surroundings while walking is a great way to get active in a gentle way. Walking is an activity that you can make easy by taking a stroll or increase the intensity by adding in a variety of terrains.
Following a structured exercise routine in order to achieve specific gains is wonderful, but every now and then taking a break from the competitive and progressive style of exercise is a great way to jump start a passion for a new activity or stop yourself from getting burnt out. Children on the playground have got the art of free flowing activity mastered, but as we get older we tend to be a little more self conscious about what activities we do especially in public, so I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Sr. Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.
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