Movement Snacks

I LOVE snacking.  Whether it’s at work, on a run, or relaxing on the lake I’m rarely more than an arm’s reach away from something tasty.  This trickle charge approach to eating not only keeps my tummy and taste buds happy but also translates incredibly well to a daily movement practice.  

A movement snack is just like a food snack, something small to take the edge off and keep you feeling your best.  Think of these morsels as any type of movement other than what you’ve been doing all day.  This can be as simple as going on a walk, doing some light stretching, or going through one of the follow along videos on this website.  By having these short but frequent doses of movement the body can stay fluid and not get locked into the rigid pattern of an all-day pose.

The main reason I preach movement snacks is that they are a great way to remind your body of its available range of motion.  The human body is incredibly adaptable.  As such it will conform to whatever we ask it to do the most.  If it is left in one position all day long, day after day, it adapts to staying in that position.  Certain muscles will be shortened and others will be lengthened to adjust to the new posture.  This is the stiffness most of us feel after a long work day.  For example, the longer I sit with my arms in front of me, hands on a keyboard, the more difficult it becomes to reach behind or above me.  That range of motion is no longer as readily available.  The chest, neck, and front of the shoulders have shortened and the back muscles have relaxed to allow me to stay in this position longer.  Over time, this becomes the new normal for my body until it becomes hard to even scratch my back.  By frequently introducing full range of motion to a joint we’re constantly reminding the body that it can comfortably and safely go to those areas and doesn’t need to stay locked in one position.

How do I start?

Great question.  The answer is to start simply by asking two questions:  In what position do you spend most of your day?  How can you reverse that position?  I like to begin by taking a look at the knees and elbows.  Are you frequently in a position that has your elbows in front of your chest and your knees in front of your hips (sitting at a desk/computer)?  The reverse of this would be to occasionally get the knees behind your hips and elbows behind your chest.  The simplest way to achieve this is by going for a walk.  Naturally, the knees and elbows pass behind you on each stride.  Walking will also give you the added bonus of increased blood flow which will keep your brain firing on all cylinders.  Another great option is to take a large step or lunge forward.  Now rotate your chest to the right and reach behind you with the right hand.  Take a few deep breaths and relax in this position.  Rotate to the left and reach back with the left hand for a few more deep, relieving breaths.  Now swap legs and repeat.  Begin to explore around and see which movements feel best for you and your body.

How frequently should I snack?

The best interval is the one with which you will be consistent.  An easy way to start is to set a timer for somewhere between 60-90 minutes.  When the timer goes off, move around for 5-10 minutes then reset the first timer.  Over the course of a week or two dial in the frequency that feels best for you.  To put in perspective how helpful these snacks are, if you work an average 8 hour day and move for 10 minutes of every hour you’ve accumulated 1 hour and 20 minutes of nutritious movement by the end of the work day!

What if I exercise before or after work?

You’re doing a great job but the same rules still apply.  30 minutes of exercise can’t undo 8 hours of being stationary.  Remember, the body does what we train it to do.  By staying sedentary at work the body is getting a very long training session on not moving and will adapt to that more than the short burst of exercise.  Also, by having some snacks throughout the day the body will be more supple and ready for your workout!

Focused fitness workouts are great.  However, a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy movement patterns require more than just daily workouts.  Frequent movement cycles are needed to remind the body of the ranges of motion it can access.  These steady doses, or snacks, keep the body more mobile and energized during the day and more ready for after work activities.

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