When I work with parents and grandparents in my coaching practice, the overwhelming motivation for their movement is the desire to play with their children while they’re young and keep up with them as they get older.
Every parent wants to be able to squat down to solve a puzzle with a child, chase them down in a game of tag, and hoist them up in a tree to show them what they’re capable of. If you can’t move well, you’re missing out on a huge array of experiences. See, movement is how we interact with the world around us. It’s how we engage with life and connect to the people and places who matter most.
If that weren’t reason enough to move, your children are learning from you, unconsciously mirroring your actions (and inactions). We’re social creatures after all. We inherit behavior, beliefs, and attitudes from our parents and closest tribe. We learn to identify those patterns as normal. A child raised in a sedentary household is likely going to grow up into sedentary adulthood. They simply don’t connect with any other way. On the other hand, a child raised in a dynamic, movement-oriented household will be far more likely to maintain those behaviors for the long haul.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a model of physical literacy. Numerous reports theorize that life expectancy is going to begin dwindling in subsequent generations, beginning with this one. Kids are growing up in a wholly dis-embodied culture, and the sad truth is that it’s entirely preventable. It starts with a choice from parents.
If you’re ready to make a choice to better your kids’ futures (as well as your own), I want to introduce a simple framework that cuts through some of the confusion. We can use an evolutionary model health to highlight simple areas of improvement. There are three questions that guide the way:
1. WHAT DID THE HUMAN ANIMAL EVOLVE TO DO?
While we don’t know the specifics what the human animal evolved to do, we can generalize a few trends based solely on context:
- Food didn’t exist; plants and animals did. There was likely quite a bit of moving through natural environments to acquire plants and animals. And of course, the decidedly unsexy acts of processing said plants and animals into something we might call food.
- There was no work, no Netflix, no video games. We likely spent a lot of time sitting around in leisure.
- We weren’t always undisputed food chain champs. As with most other animal species, we’d have to play defense now and then, moving quickly, outmaneuvering or outsmarting the predators.
- We didn’t spend much time alone. When survival is at stake, you tribe up real quick. And modern neuroscience has shown us that our brains are geared for social interactions.
If we put this into a rough sketch, humans as we know them came into being frequently moving together in diverse ways through complex environments.
2. WHAT DO WE CURRENTLY DO WITH IT?
By and large, we do large bouts of nothing, with the occasional burst of something called fitness. And we do it alone in stale, boxy environments called “gyms”.
3. WHAT DO WE DO ON A DAILY BASIS TO ADDRESS THE DEFICIENCY?
Here’s where that uncomfortable issue of choice comes into play. What will you choose to do every single day to make up for such a broad gap? Even the most active of us only move about 4% of the day. What are we doing the rest of the time?
As a parent, you have a lot of options here. You can spend more time with your children outside, hiking in the woods or simply walking to the store for errands. You can learn foraging skills and teach your kids about ecology through hands-on experiences. You can set up meals and TV time on the floor instead of the couch. You can play movement games with children: catch, tag, roughhousing.
This doesn’t require a massive overhaul of your life or family structure. It simply takes a bit of mindfulness about how your actions will ripple out both to your health and your children’s.
I’m Chandler Stevens, and I work with people who are passionate about the body through creative coaching in mobility and mindset. We make magic at the intersection of movement, conversation, and awareness.