Move Like You Were Meant to: Getting Back to Primal

Dan Goss
Published: August 11, 2015

How much of your life is spent sedentary?

Too much of it, probably. On average, British people spend 9 hours of each day sitting down. When we include time spent sleeping, (5-10 hours a night on average), the result is only a few hours every day spent actually moving.

This is not a good animal to emulate.

This is not a good animal to emulate.

When we do move, we're walking to the car, around the shop, or around our house - or we're at the gym. Walking, at a sedate pace on extremely flat ground, or repeating the same movements over and over to burn fat and tone us up. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that we were built for different movement than this.

Our ancestors had to run over rough ground, climb, crawl, swim, swing and dig to put food on the table. They evolved to clamber, jump and sprint, but now we sit all day, breaking the routine only to run on a smooth treadmill or lift weights on a set axis for an hour.

We almost take the weakness created by a lack of movement for granted - bad backs, kinked necks, sore knees and lack of energy are just normal to us now. These health issues wouldn't be anywhere near so common a problem if we were using our bodies as they were meant to be used!

Undoing the damage of sitting

Before we can start really changing the way we move, we have to undo the damage of sitting. If you've got a job that involves sitting all day, this is for you.

Sitting at a desk all day creates serious tightness in the hips, glutes and shoulders, and can cause damage to the spine and neck. Help prevent this by adopting a straight posture in your chair, wihtout hunching or leaning in to your computer. Stretch often, and take a few minutes every hour or so to just walk around the office, stretching out your legs, hips and back.

Simple self-massage of your worst affected areas can alleviate a lot of stress too - and only takes a few seconds. Something as easy as reaching over your shoulder and massaging a tense spot between your shoulder blades for a few seconds is enough to undo a lot of the damage done by tension there.

Trying to build a routine of movement is a big help here. If you get used to walking every day on your lunch break, building yourself up to all-round resilience will be much easier.

This looks worse from your chair than it actually is. Honest.

This looks worse from your chair than it actually is. Honest.

Finding a way to integrate 'primal ' movements

This is the fun part. These primal movements are hugely diverse and will work your whole body, strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments together as they improve balance, coordination, strength and coordination. They include:

  • Squatting
  • Running (preferably over uneven ground)
  • Climbing
  • Swinging/Hanging
  • Crawling
  • Jumping
  • Vaulting
  • Swimming
  • Throwing
  • Anything, actually

That's the beauty of it. A primal mover changes the routine and can use any number of exercises to simulate the conditions our ancestors faced, the conditions our bodies were built for. Simply dodging the footpath in favour of the uneven grass route is using more natural movements, giving our feet and ankles the articulation they were built for - movement off-road.

Hiking is perfect for this, but for a real workout we need to find something that incorporates all of these movements. An exercise routine that works them all in at the gym using pull-ups, squats, rowing machines and the like is one way to tackle it.

Another is to join a climbing club, go to a taster session at a parkour or freerunning gym, or sign up for an obstacle course like Tough Mudder or any number of the extreme obstacle course challenges sweeping Britain. If you decide on Tough Mudder, get some friends together to do it and train together, as the people with the best success both in training and in the race do it together! The training alone will switch on your inner caveman and get you moving the way you were meant to move in no time!

If obstacle courses and gyms aren't your scene, then you just need to be creative. Get a pull-up bar online, stick it in your doorway. Walk off the path. Be a little wild.

You'll feel better for it.

Pictured: Someone who is probably in GREAT shape.

Pictured: Someone who is probably in GREAT shape.