Fitness is Play
In our modern world, all fitness regimens are accessory and optional. It is up to each and every individual to decide if they want to exercise or not, and how. Even walking has already become an option. But like it or not, moving naturally still is, and always will be a biological necessity. – Erwan Le Corre
What do kids do to play?
They move. They climb, scramble, swing, slide, crawl, roll, and jump.
Movement is FUN, plain and simple.
Why are sports enjoyable? Because they involve movement. For whatever reason, humans (all animals actually) seem to enjoy movement.
Enjoyment has never been a very good justification to do something in our productivity-minded society, but we realized that movement was essential to health on some level, so we took Play and turned it into Exercise and Athletics.
Want Fitness? Go and Play
Kids scrambling over playgrounds may not look like they are ripped or in great shape. Most kids are gangly and a bit awkward.
But fix in your mind the image of a group of kids playing on a jungle gym. Now fast forward 15 or 20 years. You’ve got big, heavy adults swinging, climbing, jumping and crawling. If they are still moving with the same speed, precision, and agility, you have to admit they are in pretty good shape. After all, swinging across monkey bars, while child’s play for most kids, stops a lot of adults cold in their tracks.
The reason for this is simple: most humans don’t keep up with their growing bodies. Kids are small, so mastering themselves is not too hard. For a kid to swing and pull him or herself into a tree requires only enough coordination and strength to move a small, light body. For an adult, weighing three to four times as much, doing that is much more difficult. Kids are in tune with their bodies. Adults rarely are.
This isn’t simply the result of growing up. Adults who are in tune with their bodies outperform kids easily. The problem is that, as we grow up, we discard the notion that we need to keep in tune. Society lets us get by without.
If you can move like a kid, at your current size, you’ll be incredibly strong, fast, powerful, and agile. Shockingly so, actually.
So if you want to be in great shape, you need to play like a kid.
For an adult to do many of the things kids do at the same level of performance, that adult would be in great shape.
Kids don’t train to play. They just play. Kids doing what kids do naturally, in their natural environments, are healthy.
So, in the spirit of Erwan Le Corre, I ask, “what is the best fitness regimen for a child, or any human for that matter?”
Just Getting By
A tiger doesn’t ‘workout’. A tiger simply moves through its environment the best way it knows how. A tiger has adapted over thousands of years to its specific environment, and its instinctual movements reflect that adaptation; its body is designed to prowl, pounce, and climb. A tiger that can’t do those things finds itself at war with its body and its mind. Have you ever seen a tiger pacing in a zoo?
Without breaking down its movements, a tiger is in shape by simply thriving, and it thrives based on how well it moves.
Tigers are wild animals that live in wild places, but what about humans? Most of us don’t live in our natural environments anymore. We live in constructed and constrained city-scapes or suburbias that have been stripped of their more challenging obstacles. Movement through these environments now requires a minimum of ability.
- Thanks to cars, we don’t have to walk as far
- Stairs get us from low to high without climbing
- Escalators and elevators eliminate what little is needed to climb stairs
- Flat, paved walkways and floors eliminate the need for balance and stability
Suffice it to say that the requirements of moving around in our modern society are so minimal that they cannot possibly promote much in the way of health. And how can they be enjoyable when they are so far from the creative, wild way in which children play?
Our modern environments are sort of like zoos actually. A tiger in a zoo can’t hold a candle to its wild cousin. It also gets really bored. Even the richest zoo enclosures can’t fully mimic the tiger’s natural environment.
Similarly, our cities and suburbs are totally devoid of opportunities to move in ways that truly appeal to our capabilities. People get bored, and end up doing repetitive motions because they’ve lost touch with themselves (treadmills, anyone?).
So what can we do about it?
Run for the hills. Break the rules. Climb the walls. Jump off of things. Test your limits. Swing from the ceiling. Roll around in the dirt.
Health is fun. It must be, because if it weren’t fun, it would be tedious or boring, and why would our body-minds punish us for doing something good? If it’s not fun, something is wrong.
Interestingly, the greatest opportunities for natural, creative movement in urban environments are moving against the recommended pathways. Vaulting rails, climbing buildings, and generally treating cityscapes like playgrounds offer us ways to move more freely.
I came up with this article on my own, but when looking for quotes I found out that Le Corre had written one almost exactly like it already. Since I read a lot of MovNat philosophy, I’ll give credit to Le Corre.