Movement Starvation

We live in a culture of movement starvation. It wasn’t always this way. Through most of human history, basic human existence has required a substantial amount of movement. Most work done by craftsmen was intensely physical, as was the basic work of life: fetching water, chopping wood, carrying heavy loads to and from market, planting gardens, hunting, gathering, and more.

Now, gardening and lifting weights are hobbies. The basic movement skills involved in stalking prey or fleeing predators are the province of elite freerunners. We sought this life of ease for good reasons. We don’t have to run for our lives from tigers; we don’t die of thirst if we’re too hurt to carry water; we don’t starve if we can’t weed the garden. We have sought for a more advantageous life, and we have succeeded. But in this broken world, everything that has a front, also has a back. If it can help you, it can hurt you. We have made physical ease our idol, and it is destroying our physicality. We survive without physical activity, and we are turning into Jabba the Hut.

Now that most physical activity is a choice for many of us, movement will have to become a conscious physical discipline. The early Church ascetics were right that we need a strong dose of discipline in order to thrive. But it must not be a destructive asceticism of sleep deprivation, starvation, and other forms of abusing our bodies that were so common among our fathers. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and our “asceticism” should be a discipline of physical joy and gratitude, not a destruction of the gift God has given us.

When we recover our joy of physical movement, the sheer bliss of being our bodies in the world–then we lay hold of a little piece of the Kingdom of God.
Gratitude is best expressed in right use of the gift. So we express gratitude for our bodies by using them well. Look at your body. It was never meant to sit around. So go do something, just because you can.

Take a look at the different categories of natural human movement: walk, run, throw, catch, lift, (play-)fight, carry, jump, swim, climb, crawl, tumble. Think about the last time you did each one of these, and pick out your bottom three, the ones you do least. Do one of them, even a little bit, before the end of the day. Then do another one tomorrow. Find little ways to smuggle extra variety of movement into your day, every day. Challenge yourself a little, every day.

It might not be incredibly joyful at the beginning, but stick with it. The more you do, the more you can do, and the easier and more fun it becomes. Move!

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