My family did some traveling this summer. We listened to lots of toddler-curated music, but we also had the opportunity to catch an audiobook we loved — “Movement Matters” by Katy Bowman. I recommend this book.

The book is a collection of essays written by the movement scientist (specifically a “biomechanist”), who believes a culture’s health and well being is closely tied to its citizens’ quality and quantity of movement. She believes our bodies evolved to operate in an intimately entwined relationship with the physical world, and that perhaps the under-utilization of our bodily potential plays a role in many health issues experienced in modern culture, including low bone density in adults and children, general weakness, nearsightedness, mental illness and more.

For example, the bones in our feet are capable of repositioning and shifting across roots, rocks and sudden changes in terrain; the ligaments in our hands evolved to grip tree trunks and branches when foraging; our eyes became accustomed to shifting focus from short distance to long, and back again as our ancestors scanned the horizon; our backs and hips are designed to crouch, sit and even sleep on the ground; our skin can handle non-climate controlled temps; and our elders walked and even ran.

Body movement as a ‘nutrient’

She explains all of this to offer the idea that natural bodily movement is a “nutrient”, like those found in healthy food, that our modern bodies lack. She lays out some examples in her own life by describing her personal home. It has no couches, the beds lie on the floor, their computer workstations are modular, and they practice family foraging, walking meals and nature walks daily. Bowman doesn’t ask that we emulate her behaviors, only that we consider our own movements in everyday life. How do we spend our free time and family time? How much time do we spend seated in a chair? Where does our food come from, and who is “moving” to harvest it and bring it to us? How often do we step outside barefoot or play on the floor?

We adults can learn a lot from the little ones in our lives, whose bodies have not yet forgotten what thousands of years of human history has taught them — that safe, fun, healthy movement is essential to our health and well being. As teachers and parents, we can facilitate healthy movement by doing things like walking together after meals, limiting time spent using digital screens, having outdoor class discussions, doing campus walks during a lecture, or simply sitting down on the floor instead of on a comfy couch. However we do it, the more we move naturally, the richer and more beautiful life can be for us and our children.

Here’s a link to some information about the book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30104911-movement-matters

Paul Hanna is a science teacher at New Morning School, Plymouth, MI. He can be reached at paul@newmorningschool.com.