This month we at Kensho are fulfilling a wish of mine - to have a walking book club! When I've talked to people about it I've been met with some confusion; after all, how can you talk about a book unless you're sitting down? And that, friends, is exactly why I chose Movement Matters by Katy Bowman as the first of what I hope will be many walking book clubs. Our societal expectation is that is you're going to socialize, work, or in this case talk about a book, you need to do it face to face and sitting down. But when it comes right down to it, we can be interacting with each other and the greater world best if we're moving, and there's a lot of benefits that you may not have even noticed.
Movement Matters is a book of essays that revolve around the concept of movement ecology, and if you don't know what that is I understand. I didn't either until I read it! But it is the extremely enlightening concept that movement is more than exercise, and it benefits more than just your physical body. Movement, your movement, can positively impact your finances, family, community, environment, and humanity at large. That's pretty big and heavy, right? And yet when I read this book for the first time my mind was BLOWN. The seemingly small things that completely escape our notice are having an impact on everyone and everything around us, and noticing is the first step to changing our movement behavior for the better.
For instance, our wealthy modern society doesn't bat an eyelash at all the multitudes of products that exist for the sole purpose of convenience. What I hadn't realized until I read this book, however, is that convenience almost always means sedentary or less movement on our part. And it also means that we outsourced that work we didn't feel like doing to someone else, who very possibly is not benefiting much from the exchange. And it means packaging that gets thrown in the landfill. And it means you did not get the personal health benefits of doing that seemingly mundane and inconsequential movement. "We have grown up totally unaware of the movements being done on our behalf to facilitate life in our unmoving bodies."
Katy does a tremendous job covering a variety of topics, but the one I was most drawn to was the idea of food movements. Wait, what? "In the natural world, food and movement are organically related;" she writes, "how you eat is based on your ability to get and prepare your food." In our modern world, food and water appear before us like magic, processed and packaged and ready for our consumption with the least amount of effort or inconvenience possible. But there was a time (a LOOOONG time, and not so very long ago) when hunger meant you had to get moving. Walking, running, bending, squatting, carrying, pounding, rubbing, lifting, digging, climbing, mashing, and more was required to gather food together and then make it edible. And while those movements may not be all that sexy or exciting, they are movements as necessary to our health as the nutrients we consume from the food we prepared with them. As I think the saying goes, 'growing your own food feeds you twice.' Or maybe it was about cutting firewood. Either way the sentiment works.
She mentions in one such essay about the vigorous nature of beating egg whites for meringue by hand, and how grandmas back in the day could totally take any of us on in an arm wrestling contest. (Okay, she didn't say exactly that, but the imagery is cool). And so one day I found myself in the kitchen preparing a recipe requiring fluffy beaten egg whites. So I was reminded of this essay and said "Challenge Accepted." I grabbed a whisk and got to work. And it went on, and on, and ON! I had to change hands several times, and it took WAY longer than I anticipated. But in reality it wasn't really taking that long, it was that it was making me TIRED. SOOOOOO TIRED. I am here to admit that grandmas of olden days could totally kick my booty. I was appropriately humbled. But it also made me realize how much 'exercise' lives in everyday tasks. And if we outsource those tasks to technology or someone else, we miss out and have to simulate (poorly) the action in an exercise context. Wouldn't it be faster, cheaper, and more beneficial to everyone (including the planet) if we just did these things for ourselves?
But what to do? How do we begin the task of taking back our beneficial movements? I think Katy says it very well in the essay "Movement As A Commodity", "You can walk to your local market instead of driving. You can shop for seasonal food and for local ingredients that took less fossil fuel to get to market, foods that were labored for by people whose working conditions you are fully aware of. You can raise your own proteins (eggs, small or large animals, legumes) and grow a garden. You can choose less processed foods and physically work the ingredients yourself. You can build your meals around simple foods that need to be chewed. At whatever level you approach spending your movement on food, the physical burden of feeding you will be more greatly assume by you, thus your food will nourish you more fully and tax others and the earth less. I believe this is called a win-win."
Too true! And I'd love to hear your ideas about how to reclaim the small movements of food that can benefit not only ourselves but the community and the environment. Please add your thoughts!