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When you embrace a style of activity with free flowing movements, you just might experience benefits that go beyond the physical.
People have been engaging in free flowing movements for centuries. As a trainer and former athlete who’s been dedicated to helping people achieve a specific fitness goal, the idea of movement without structure is a new concept for me. I am often caught up in following a defined plan with structure and goals.
On a recent trip to China, I encountered this new concept by just being active outside and simply moving in a way that felt good. While there, I was running through a park in Xi’an, China. People of all ages were congregating in small groups, doing what looked to me like a combination of stress-relief therapy, family bonding time and friendship building. It was amazing to see such a variety of fun activities taking place so early in the morning.
I’m used to seeing people doing traditional exercises, such as running and cycling. But these activities were different, and I enjoyed trying a number of them out for myself. The outdoor activity trend throughout China takes place in local squares and parks. It’s a movement that’s supported by the government to encourage people to avoid living a sedentary lifestyle.
The physical gains that you get from doing simple activities is minimal––in terms of building cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. However, the mental benefits of movement can sometimes far outweigh the physical. Being active is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety that goes hand in hand with living a busy life.
If you’re someone who has a new association with exercise, simply being active may be a perfect starting point for you. The joint and bone health benefits of being active makes the effort of getting started worthwhile. I believe that some movement is always better than doing nothing at all.
All you need is some music. Let your body move to the beat in a way that feels good to you. Some of the groups in China had traditional flowing style movements, while others were just making it up as they danced. The aim is to move and be present in the moment, enjoying the music and surroundings.
Tai chi is an art that needs instruction and practice, but once you know the basics you can do it anytime. I was surprised at just how much patience and muscle control it takes to move your body so slowly. It’s very low impact and perfect for seniors.
Find an area and start to stretch. You don’t have to do a specific stretch routine, just stretch the tight areas of your body in a way that feels natural to you.
Waist hoop: This playground classic is great for loosening up tight muscles, and it’s a lot of fun.
Working on your coordination with simple games is a great way to get your body moving.
Enjoying your surroundings while walking is a great way to get active in a gentle way. Walking is an activity that you can make easy by taking a stroll, or increase the intensity by adding in a variety of terrains.
Following a structured exercise routine in order to achieve specific gains is wonderful. But every now and then taking a break from the competitive and progressive style of exercise can jump start a passion for a new activity––or even stop you from getting burnt out. Children on the playground have got the art of free flowing activity mastered. As we get older we tend to be a little more self-conscious about what activities we do, especially in public. So, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.