What if we can make ourselves, our communities, and our planet healthier all at the same time by moving our bodies more? Movement Matters is a collection of essays in which biomechanist Katy Bowman continues her groundbreaking investigation of the mechanics of our sedentary culture and the profound potential of human movement. Here she widens her You are how you move message and invites us to consider our personal relationship with sedentarism, privilege, and nature. Bowman Unapologetically direct, often hilarious, and always compassionate, Movement Matters demonstrates that human movement is powerful and important, and that living a movement-filled life is perhaps the most joyful and efficient way to transform your body, community, and world.
Katy Bowman has earned an international reputation for educating the general population on alignment and load-science, and as a result has helped thousands to reduce pain, increase bone density, improve metabolic health, and solve their pelvic floor mysteries. She is known for her radical, counter-culture health directives that happen to be based in the hard science that she has made her life’s work. A biomechanist by training and a problem-solver at heart, Katy’s ability to blend a scientific approach with straight talk about sensible solutions and an unwavering sense of humor have earned her legions of followers. Her blog, KatySays.com, reaches hundreds of thousands of people every month, and thousands have taken her live classes. She regularly writes for and is featured as a health expert in publications such as Prevention, IDEA, and Self, and is a funny and entertaining guest on radio and television talk shows and news segments. Katy is the founder and director of the Restorative Exercise Institute, which teaches the biomechanical model of preventative medicine to health professionals and laypeople worldwide, both online and in live seminars. She is also the creator of the popular Aligned and Well DVD series, a step-by-step visual guide to learning the basics of skeletal and body alignment. Katy’s groundbreaking work in pelvic floor restoration has made her particularly popular with midwives, OBGYNs, and others concerned with pelvic mobility, strength, and health. Her books Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet (2011), and Alignment Matters (2013), have been critically acclaimed and translated worldwide. In between her book writing efforts, Katy travels the globe to teach the Restorative Exercise Institute’s courses in person, getting the world moving one calf stretch at a time.
update I picked this for a book club. We just finished the discussion. Readers mentioned and appreciated Bowman's craft: she presents information in 'sticky', memorable ways without jargon, thus opening up her book to a large audience. I'm the only one in the book club who is familiar with Bowman's greater body (:) of wonderful work. It was interesting for me to see how this book sat with people who haven't otherwise looked into her work.
One reader said he was "evangelized", and that he thinks it's going to change his life. He said this doesn't happen with very many books.
Another reader said that it gave her some new ways of thinking of things, which (she said) doesn't happen with very many books.
A third said that she felt "preached to" and could hardly take it at the end. She spoke of the book's parts and ideas more reductively.
I'm glad I gave it a second reading and I bet I'll be back again.
I find it very interesting how people respond to books. I try and change my life with each book I read -- so I can't say that "few" books change my life. But some certainly are more effective, or more powerful, tools for me than others -- based on my tool skills, my needs, the forces in the book itself.... I'm pleased that some other people I care a lot about have found value in Movement Matters.
original review (actually a preview) Movement Matters is the latest and in expectation (mine!) the greatest book by Katy Bowman. I have put it on pre-order. I think this is the first time that I have bought a book ahead of its publish date. I’m not sure how meaningful it is to characterize a book I haven’t read, but I’ve heard it’s about movement ecology. I think I was into movement ecology before I’d heard of it. Sometime after R died, I began to even more relentlessly examine “how do I want to live?”, even "how can I live?" and my answers fell into all kinds of fields and -ologies. I learned about Katy Bowman this (2016) February.
In January 2016 – before I found Katy Bowman’s work that would help me further change my life, at the cellular level – I was already doing a lot of life-alignment, “Katy-ish”, movement-ecological things.
For example, my family (our household == two adults, a baby, and a dog) and I did already • intentionally live without owning a car (and not in Manhattan! In a town in the PNW.) • walk to get our groceries**, and carry them home (so many neighbors: “you should buy a wagon...”) • walk to get our CSA box • walk downtown to an artesian well to get our drinking water • **constrain our shopping options to narrow the burden we put on the world, shopping exclusively directly with farmers, at farmers markets, or at our food co-op, which stands apart certainly from most grocery stores but also from other co-ops by its staunch dedication to fair trade • continue transitioning our yard, attitudes, and bodies to prepare for home food production • live with a single cell phone … (yes, one for the whole family, and apparently the most astonishing part is that our phone has no Internet on it!) • live with a single, shared family computer • share sleep • sleep without alarm clocks, sleeping with the sun and the seasons (went to bed at 7:00pm last night!) • have our two family mattresses on the floor (or on 2-inch risers)
I don’t want to make an exhaustive list – I need to go move soon! ;) – and I’m going to stop at the mattress one . That particular similarity hit me hard. When I heard about someone who also had her mattress on the floor, I felt so … honestly, I felt affirmed. I’ve often and repeatedly been told that my choices are just too extreme. Sometimes it gets really draining to inadvertently threaten people around you by trying to live your life as you have worked out is right.
Anyway. This stuff my family was already doing in January 2016? We didn’t do these things just for fun, or because they were easy for us, or because they were in our nature. Some, if not all, of them really go against our unintentional tendencies. We did and do them to increase consonance in our lives; we did them because we examined thoroughly our burden on the world, saw room to improve, and made change.
I am really excited for Movement Matters, first because I think it will help me make more change, but also because I have hopes that it will connect me with people – somewhere – who want to do this, too. I don’t want to sound like a whiny-pants when I say, I hope this book reduces society’s burden on me. I have chosen to be countercultural and I know it comes with a cost and I accept that cost. But it looks like Movement Matters may actually lower that cost for me.
Regardless, I'm ready to level up! Movement Matters, I'm ready.
The mattress: When I moved it to the floor, I wasn’t really mindful of, much less focusing on, my squatting, or getting up and down, or any of the important, small-scale, body-geometry stuff. Rather, I moved it after thinking about how I want my baby to be able to be more self-effective in his environment, and so I started to move out of the environment the needless stuff that is getting in his way of doing things for himself, like being able to get in or out of his own bed.
I am a big Katy Bowman fan, but I found this book less satisfying than her others. Maybe that’s just because I read it in such fits and starts, over a period of more than a year. But I don’t think it’s only that. (Also, I think the reason I read it so slowly is because I didn’t find it spoke to me as much.)
I have always been very aware, reading her books, that I want more cross-cultural context/perspective than they offer. How do the movements, diet, medicinal practices, communal structures, and beliefs of non-Western (but non-hunting-gathering) cultures figure into the paradigm of humans as a species in captivity? As a Chinese American, I can’t necessarily say that her work isn’t written for me or doesn’t apply to me, but I’m always so, so frustrated thinking how much richer and more resonant this work could be if it spoke more in depth about the diversity of cultures and cultural practices around the world (or even within the US). Not that the essential points would be so different, but I just want to see acknowledgment, say, that some of us *don’t* wear shoes indoors ever, or don’t traditionally use a lot of furniture, or have beliefs about health that don’t line up with Western medical ones (or, heck, can’t forage safely in urban areas without getting questioned or worse). I’m sure Bowman recognizes all of this but I don’t see much of it in her books, and I wish I could.
Bowman is brilliant. Her approach to movement and biomechanics is so simple, yet revolutionary in our culture. Each essay is about 4-5 pages, so this is a very easy book to pick up for some food for thought. I especially loved the end note bibliographies on various studies and research that she references in the essays. I've already looked up several and shared. I will be returning to this book many more times, and have some more of her books waiting on my shelf.
If you are human, then Movement Matters is for you.
I LOVED this book.
Along with the Katy Says podcast, this book is transformative. I never thought about how my own movement (or lack of it) affects my body, the community around me, communities far from me, and the health of the planet. Katy Bowman makes the connection between all of these aspects of our lives through writing that is clear and enjoyable to read.
Western society has developed into a sedentary culture. Even if we exercise an hour or two per day, what are we doing the rest of the day? Most of us are in some sedentary form, sitting at desks in front of computers, the vast majority of each day. The technologies and social norms that we thought would make life "easier" and more comfortable have led to sedentarism, which comes at a cost. Many huge costs.
For one, our sedentary bodies are weaker and less healthy, so ultimately we are less comfortable in them. Second, the movement that we outsource (by using various gadgets or packaged foods or other convenience items) is usually outsourced to cheap/slave labor in distant (out-of-sight, out-of-mind) parts of the world. Third, this outsourcing costs precious environmental resources (e.g. fossil fuel) and generates pollution (e.g. plastic). Katy does a fantastic job of explaining all of this in her book.
Even better, she provides many practical and (yes!!!) time-saving ways that we, even those of us living in cities or suburbs with full-time jobs and kids, can add more movement to our lives so that our bodies, communities, and the environment are healthier. I have started incorporating many of these ways, and I feel so much better -- physically, mentally, and emotionally. For example, I walk everywhere I need to go (work, groceries, and other errands), I grind my herbs and spices using a mortar and pestle instead of grinding them in an electric coffee grinder or buying them pre-ground, and I have started thinking about more ways to "stack my life" and build community. This book is full of research, wisdom, and resources to bring greater health, community, and sustainability into all our lives.
I am so grateful for this book and want to give it to everyone I know.
This is a random collection of blog posts and essays about the dangers of being sedentary and the importance of movement (and how different movement is from exercise). It was interesting and gave me some ideas to chew on. The complete randomness of the chapters and thoughts bothered me a bit, but I liked much of what I read.
"Sedentarism is very much linked to consumerism, materialism, colonialism, and the destruction of the planet. If you're not moving, someone else is moving for you, either directly, or indirectly by making STUFF to make not moving easier on you. You were born into a sedentary culture, so 99.9 percent of your sedentary behaviours are flying under your radar. Start paying attention. What do you see?" (p.10)
This book gave me a lot to think about. It's a collection of essays, each about 4-5 pages so it's very easy to pick up and read a bit here and there, and it's easy to take what Bowman says and apply her perspective to your own life. Sedentary culture, how/when/why/in what context we move our bodies and in what context we insert ourselves or remove ourselves from nature, it's all incredibly fascinating and gives bulk and form to a lot of the thoughts I have had nestled in the back of my mind for some time. I'm sure I will revisit this book again at some point, just to dip in and refresh my perspective once more.
Fantastic content on movement ecology that she hadn't published in book form yet. One of the hangups I have with this book is that it is too disjointed. This is partly because it is a collection of essays from her blog that she edited for book form. While they all have a clear and common thread of thinking through the problems of sedentary culture, the essays don't always build on each other in a sequential way -- it reads like a blog pretty much.
The strongest part of the book is the fifth and final section, which she wrote specifically for the book. Hopefully she'll write another collection like this and expand on any number of these topics that she only briefly touched on here.
My key take away: Move more, but also make sure you do not allow movement "vitamins" to replace a well balanced movement "diet". The body will not be close to optimal by eliminating: Strength = protein Endurance = carbs Flexibility = fat Or something like that.
It's hard to articulate what it feels like to listen to someone who approaches a simple question with the scope that these questions deserve, for the first time ever. It is energizing to get lost in the big huge GIGANTIC picture of our movement as a species while simultaneously learning about the minutiae of muscle composition and the degree of human ankle movement (yes, really). Not looking at the picture as big as Bowman does has done a disservice to our species and led to the destruction of the environment we need to survive. It sounds strange to say that this is a book about biomechanics of the human body, but the takeaway and the implications it will have for my own life will be so much farther reaching than that.
The natural world must, and does, include humans. This book transformed my understanding of our place on earth and within the animal (and plant) kingdom in a truly beautiful way. I see our species in a new light, and I see our sedentary culture in an even more shameful light than before. It's sometimes hard to not feel anxiety about the damage we have already done to ourselves (individually and collectively) and the earth by not moving enough, but my overall feeling at the end of this book is one of inspiration, hope, and truthfully, enlightenment.
This book also helped to frame science for what its limitations and capabilities are in a way that I had kind of thought about before, but laid out in a clear "a-ha" moment way - with a deep respect for the scientific method and the necessity of scientific advancement.
Removing one star for some conclusions in some arguments that I needed more information about (more on that below) and for this phrase: "If you can't convince your [friends and family] to move more in nature with you, to need to get new [friends and family]." There is a low hum of truly radical thought throughout the book, which I agree is necessary and welcome and poignant, but the idea that relationships with people who can't or don't want to move in nature are not worth nurturing is troublesome. That phrase was in the first chapter of the book and it stuck with me throughout.
Also, I ASSUME this is not an issue in the printed copy (I listened to this as an audiobook), is that big questions are attempted to be answered with a lot of assumptions. I was waiting to hear specifics on the data that was used to form some opinions, and in the audiobook, that wasn't presented. I expect that the written copy has a lot of footnotes.
My first "grown-up" book to finish in 2020 is worth mentioning.
It's 1) a quick read and 2) one I recommend to all types of readers.
Movement is counter-culture. We are a sedentary society who mostly doesn't realize how wide the effect spreads of our lack of activity.
The author paints mind-blowing and heart-breaking pictures (with words) of how sedentarism is influencing our health, our children, our community and, truly, our world.
It's not about squeezing in "one more exercise" to counter all that chair sitting we're doing. It's broader than that. She helps you understand how to change your *mindset* for an ultimately stronger way of living, of thriving.
We have outsourced e v e r y t h i n g nowadays. -- key fobs instead of keys -- Roombas instead of push vacuums -- ground coffee instead of manually grinding -- elevators instead of stairs -- phones instead of walking next door -- driving 5 min to grocery store instead of walking -- strollers instead of kids walking -- sliced fruit instead of whole -- processed food instead of growing/chopping/etc. -- and on and on Not saying any one of these items is *bad* per se. But the accumulation of them has crumbled our health.
This isn't a technical book. Much of it is broader theory (don't be turned off by that word -- it's utterly fascinating and she's a captivating writer). I'd recommend "Move Your DNA" if you love the science (it was a page-turner and I've never been interested in science before, but I digress). "Movement Matters" is finally a book that I can recommend to anyone. I've gifted a number of her books to others for specific situations (finding movement in a work place or in older age, for examples), but "Movement Matters" nails is at the perfect introductory book to opening eyes to this view. (Oh, and she talks about eyesight and the increase in those issues, too.) Anyway, you get it. I liked it. You should read it. :)
P.S. Just because I don't agree with every component of someone's decisions and lifestyles doesn't mean we can't glean incredible information from his or her knowledge. The biggest difference between Katy Bowman and myself lies in theological beliefs, but it doesn't hinder me from learning other (and life-changing) things from her.
I reread this looking for inspiration to get out of my pandemic funk. As a long time follower of Bowman's work (I'm a certified RES) I love her message of movement as activism, of shifting the culture to make it more movement-centric to address everything from health, climate change, and the abuses of capitalism.
All of this holds true still, yet we're living in a period where we are discouraged from leaving our homes and legally barred from most public spaces that allow natural, dynamicmovement (state and local parks, playgrounds, even gyms and dance studios). How can we fulfill the need for vitamin community when gatherings are dangerous? How can we exist ethically in the world when it is considered best practice for wealthier people to pay poor people to move for them (eg: grocery delivery).
I would love to read an update on the message of Movement Matters for healing our society from the pandemic. In the meantime, these essays give lots of food for thought.
I just finished reading this book, and I am going to read it a second time. I will recommended this book to anyone and everyone. It’s a short read, as it is a collection of essays rather then a continuous single narrative. The concepts in this book are nothing short of brilliant, but are also so intuitive, and in hindsight I feel like I should have known them all along.
I really wanted to like this book, be inspired by it, and learn new insights into the most recent science. This book did none of it. I felt that the author (perhaps due to her previous successes) made no serious efforts as a writer, but simply presented her own "stream of consciousness" as if dispensing pearls of wisdom. The book is incredibly poorly written and conceived. I am amazed at all the positive reviews. As for me, I feel duped and deeply regret the purchase.
Of course the central thesis of the book is correct. It's the presentation and format which are insufferable, scattered, and distracting. Suspect the only mainstream books I'll accept recommendations for will have to have been written before the social media age at this point.
I think many people believe science approves or disapproves of a behavior. To get proof I’d to ensure you’ve made the right decision and lately I’ve been wondering if we’ve mistaken science for proof.
When striving for an evidence based life, consider that your most relevant evidence is your body. If your body works and feels great, no worries; what you’re doing is apparently working for you. If you’re experiencing an issue, expand the evidence you’ve considered, keeping in mind you’re not going to find a headline, but a rabbit hole.
Page 10 Sedentarism is very much linked to consumerism, materialism, colonialism, and the destruction of the planet. If you’re not moving, someone else is moving for you, either directly, or indirectly by making STUFF to make not moving easier on you. You were both into a sedentary culture, so 99.9 percent of your sedentary behaviors are flying under your radar. Start paying attention. What do you see?
Page 36 There is someone out there messing up their kids less, eating better, doing more for the planet, doing more for humankind, using less fuel, giving more money, and being kinder to others. Which by the reasoning used in the quoted article, makes YOU the stupid one. People who do not share your views or behaviors are not stupid; they JUST DONT SHARE YOUR VIEWS. They may never share your views in the exact same way that you may never share theirs. Who’s to say which views are correct ? (The correct one for YOURSELF is the one that works for YOU)
Every second of time you spend lamenting that others don’t think like you is time spent not honoring your beliefs! If you believe improvements in your personal health, the environment, and to human rights are that great, and puke by your time be better spent actually working on them?
Page 48 Blood vessels operate similarly (to trees); they branch opportunistically and change their diameters and numbers (capillaries) based on their environment— that is, the forces placed upon them, created by your lifestyle and habitat. Your blood vessels are always monitoring their environment and responding, by adapting their shape to best survive in the environment in which you’ve placed them. …. The pressure of a river grow new “capillaries” (as do you) to deal with new volumes flowing through a particular area; when you block an artery, or river, it can create collateral flow to deal with the situation, and rushing river slowly carve away at its own sides.
Page 67 -similarly , using the full range of motion of your eye requires that you look over ALL THE DISTANCES -looking at things far away is the only way to release a tense ciliary ring within an eyeball, thus taking the elongating pressure off the eye.
Page 91 -in todays world, we seek the grand performances while demanding someone else out of sight, do the mundane tasks on our behalf. By seeking only a portion of all the movements available to us, we’re undernourished in movement.
- as we humans have created technologies to make eating less work, we’ve changed our shape to match.
Page 98 -each of these (apple juice, apple cooked, apple sliced etc) is a derivative of an apple, but eating them is not the same as eating the apple they came from. To eat that apple is to be affected by both what is CONTAINED in and what you EXPERIENCE by eating the apple.
Page 152 Science is the process throughout which we can better understand natural phenomena. However, when we forget just how many details there are in a phenomenon, it’s easy to over apply facts gathered from early studies to all movement of all humans everywhere rather than remembering the scenario to which those details apply -once I realized the bias I had been taught, I started thinking of movement in terms of geometry (the frequency and burdens created by all various shapes the body could assume) and leaving the mod (the type of exercise) out of it.
Page 157 -cells don’t work without movement, and you are t fully operational without all of your cells working well; it’s not only that you need to move more often than you do right now, you also need to move MORE OF YOU more often than you do right now
Page 158 -the bulk of the exercises were told to do are human made (certain equipment, footwear , outfits) … our exercises are just like processed food. They’re not necessarily the most nutritious ; they’re just easiest for us to produce within our sedentary lifestyle:
Page 160 - Prioritize natural movements: we need a way to exercise that best prepares our body to perform more of our own necessary tasks. We need a way of moving that, while improving our ability to execute functional tasks— to be able to walk longer distances safely and pain free, to carry our own things and children, to squat, bend, and dig in our yards for a portion of our food- also allows us to take each of our cells to the repair shop to get a tune up. We need a STACKED WAY of moving
Page 161 - a squat puts a different part or the world in front of your face and reveals more of it— stuff you can’t see and interact with unless you get down to the ground - strong parts gift us the ability to move with enough confidence to not constantly watch the ground ahead of us. We can look up and around at the world that surrounds us - Not only big stuff like moving hips and knees and shoulders and spines, the smaller motions of weaving, molding pottery, crushing spices, cracking nuts, picking berries are big in the satiation they offer
Page 162 -grand motions and small gestures, huge physical feats and tiny triumphs can all offer experiences of accomplishment, self efficacy, confidence and glee. The accumulation of natural movements used for producing some necessity is a tapestry of satisfaction being woven in our minds just as much as in our cells
Page 172 -nature is the ultimate instructor of whole body movement -our culture is reinforcing the idea that humans don’t have what it takes to be healthy, but that they can be saved through therapy -when things don’t move well, other people and tools are needed to Do what would otherwise happen naturally. Medicine is what you need when a rare issue arises in your life, not what you need to compensate for your lifestyle. Movement and food (and community) are ESSENTIALS. Essentials are not medicine, they are not spot treatments: they are regularly required inputs
Page 174 -when nutrients are missing or insufficient in a human body, the result is a disease or malfunction; thus, nutrients can only be identified once we understand that the experience we are having is a symptom arising from a lack of necessity * Nutrients are identified through hindsight and this means we must pay close attention and document changes in groups of humans living in particular ways We need -nutrient dense food -shelter -movement (move and be moved) -vitamin SLEEP -gravity -flourishing micro biome -natural light -close contact with other humans
Page 187 -i have yet to encounter an instance where I don’t feel better after choosing to do more physically challenging work. What if there is no “easier” and there is only “less movement?” Now there’s something to think about!
Mission statement- list of core values for urself -if your values and execution don’t match— if your life is not as nourishing as it could be— I’d suggest you take a closer look at yourself. You might hold different deeper values that have yet to be consciously fleshes out. Or maybe you’re not considering your personal core values when deciding upon which tasks to execute. Or perhaps you simply haven’t yet discovered the tasks that fit your life well (which is the most exciting wondrous active part of stacking— the search!)
"Sedentarism is very much linked to consumerism, materialism, colonialism, and the destruction of the planet. If you're not moving, someone else is moving for you, either directly, or indirectly by making STUFF to make not moving easier on you. You were born into a sedentary culture, so 99.9 percent of your sedentary behaviors are flying under your radar. Start paying attention. What do you see?" (p10)
"Whether or not we stray off a trail or pick up a stick while in the woods, we leave more than a trace on wilderness all day long. Our traces are all the terribly made clothes in our closet that we buy weekly be use we like new clothes ( and I'm not even going into the sociological impact of supporting sweatshops here because other humans seem to fall outside of nature, so... ), and the plastic water bottles and paper cups we buy and toss multiple times a day. They're the bulk discount meat we buy cheap, or the hamburgers we drive through to order. I made healthy smoothies from coconut milk for years without being aware that it contained seaweed. In fact, a lot of things most people use daily, like cosmetics and shampoo and industrialized beef, utilize seaweed - a vital habitat and nourishment to marine life. Our traces are the fuel necessary to get lanolin, pulled from sheep's wool, to process it into vitamin D for our fortified milk or orange juice - because we spend so much time inside. They're the plastic toys for sale in the national parks, made possible by destroying nature elsewhere, to remind you of that time you went into nature and it was gorgeous, wasn't it?" (p84)
The more I get to know Katy through her writing and podcast, the more I like her. I love that she's calling all of us out (including herself). We all need to be more aware of how our choices impact others and nature, for good or bad. Our society loves convenience and comfort, but at what cost? We all have to choose where to draw our lines, what is sustainable in our own lives. We can't all grow our own food, make our own clothing, walk everywhere... but we can make changes to lessen the negative impact of our daily choices. Are your daily actions truly in line with your core values? What movement can you stop outsourcing?
UPDATE: Just as good the second time around! If you listen to the audiobook, check out the outtakes at the end. =)
"In 2008, the Oxford Junior Dictionary (a dictionary geared to seven-year-olds) updated their text, removing many nature words (ex: acorn, almond, apricot, canary, carnation, and HUNDREDS more). According to an officical statement from Oxford University Press on the matter, "[Our dictionaries] reflect the language that children are encouraged to use in the classroom as required by the national curriculum. This ensures they remain relevant and beneficial for children's education." Some words that were added: analogue, blog...chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, etc... Oxford University Press got some flack for removing the nature words, receiving many petitions and letters requesting these words be let back in, but as it noted, Oxford University Press does not shape language - it reflects it. If children aren't using nature words any longer because their lives no longer include nature, it isn't the fault of a dictionary company. ... The language in the Oxford Junior Dictionary is a symptom of the language we actually use, which is a symptom of how we have chosen to live... We can either treat symptoms - in this case by protesting the loss of words and an institution's failure to preserve seemingly obsolete vocabulary, or by continuing to sit unmoving in our houses- or we can address the problem, and live in a way that keeps natural language, and natural movement, relevant to us. Either way, dictionaries don't give us permission to speak of or move through nature; those choices are ours alone."
It is interesting to watch Katy Bowman's work evolve over time.
In Movement Matters she expands on paradigms she introduced in Move Your DNA (MYDNA). In MYDNA one theme is that your every day movements and lack of movements, affect your body down to your individual cells and the expression of your DNA. The counterpoint in Movement Matters is that your everyday movements or lack of movements, affect the world, the environment, and even people who live thousands of miles away.
Another theme in MYDNA was that your environment affects the way you move, (ie. we have chairs everywhere and this means that instead of having to move your body from the ground to standing you only have to move your body from the chair to standing, and thus many people lose the ability for the greater range of motion (ground to chair). In Movement Matters Katy expands on how your environment and culture affect the way we think about movement, about how our society has been immobilized through cultural norms.
Movement Matters is filled with essays and topics that are both new and familiar to those who follow Katy's work. There are lots of great quotes, and things to think about.
Update 4/3/2023 In celebration of Katy Bowman's upcoming book release of Rethink Your Position, I decided to tuck back into a prior read. I particularly like this book of essays because it feels very timely in terms of discussions around the environment and outsourcing work.
2/22/2020 My love affair with Katy Bowman's work continues with Movement Matters! These essays are easy to read, but they are deep and powerful. Every essay is a challenge to change and challenge your deep-held notions about movement, exercise, community, etc.
Bowman writes that our movement choices not only impact us, but our community, people at a distance from our community, and our planet.
I am not an outdoorsy sort of gal, but Bowman's many books have helped me realize that a walk in nature can be simple. I don't need to wait to hike hills whilst on vacation. I don't need special clothing (most likely sewn in sweatshop conditions) or special gear. I can simply wear my minimalist foot-shaped shoes and take a walk in my neighborhood park. And while there, I can play on the swings and the monkey bars!
5 stars for broadening my perspective in a unique way. This was a very unique, thought-provoking book. I have to admit I sometimes felt some of it was a little extreme and unnecessary, but then at the same time I would catch myself and wonder why I thought that way. It has absolutely broadened my perspective on a lot of things, and made me ponder more deeply my own personal values and choices. While sometimes I felt like she was a little extreme, on the whole I appreciated her tone: she recognizes that any kind of change can be hard, and was also good at making some suggestions for "tiny" changes that can help contribute, even just through awareness.
A few more specific thoughts: 1) I really liked the concept of maximilism: reframing the choices towards an abundance mindset rather than an ascetic or self-denial or deprivation mindset. I think particularly with food and movement, this kind of mindset in and of itself (see The Expectation Effect by David Robson, which I also read recently) has the potential to do a lot of good. It also helps recenter the focus on one's true core values which motivated making those choices in the first place. As an individual or as a society as a whole, what am I showing that I am maximizing in my choices? Is "productivity" or "efficiency" really the end goal of life? What do I want more of in my life based on my core values? In optimizing for one value, am I minimizing or maximizing other values that are important to me?
2) This book also highlighted another concept that I've been thinking a lot about lately. I don't know exactly where this concept came from (I haven't found it listed as a quote online by some famous person at least), but I believe it is widely applicable. The more you do [of something], the more you want to do [of that thing]; the less you do [of something], the less you want to do. I think this can go further. Besides just "want," I think you can insert "are able" and instead of "do," you could also insert a lot of other verbs (learn, know, gain, seek, obtain, feel, think, etc.). Our bodies and our minds are physically wired to practice and to repeat things. Not that we like monotony per se, but our bodies and brains are constantly responding to stimuli. The more of a specific stimulus we give, the more the synapses, muscles, joints, bones, etc. that are stimulated and the nearby body parts that are impacted will respond to that stimulus and/or get used to it. I'm sure there are ways in which this model breaks down, but I think it's generally applicable that our very bodies and minds are constantly changing, and that they are interested in changing in ways that make whatever repeated stimulus we receive easier to handle/process/do. Other living things are similar (plants, for example--see this book), and even our microbiomes respond accordingly as well. We are constantly adapting. Am I currently becoming better adapted to the things that I most want to do/be like? I made some major changes in my life when I decided that I was not living the life I wanted to be living in ten years. Perhaps it is time for me to reflect again (and more frequently, and about more topics) about my current trajectories. After all, isn't that the very essence of repentance, seeking constant course corrections?
3) On that note, I really appreciated her reflections on what is "responsible" to recommend: that it is not responsible to recommend continuing in patterns of behavior that go contrary to our biological needs just because it is most "practical" for the current societal expectations and norms. Aside from the excellent points about the implications for human health, I really liked how she said that society doesn't change due to massive choices by governments or organizations, but due to small choices that ordinary individuals make. I think this all has a lot of parallels to spiritual and religious topics as well (and here, as in other places in this review, I'm totally inserting my own thoughts and beliefs, not those of the author. But I kind of figure that no one reads these reviews anyway, so I consider this a place for me to write down my personal thoughts and response to the book). Some of God's laws don't "seem reasonable" or "practical" based on the current world we live it. That doesn't mean that they don't still exist, that they don't exist for a reason, and that disobeying them doesn't result in not receiving the blessings (or doesn't result in receiving the consequences). That was a lot of stacked negatives. The point is that sometimes society is just plain wrong. Usually due to small choices over time of many individuals. And before you (totally hypothetical you, since I really don't see anyone making it this far even if they did start reading this review) say, "But what about the companies making movies or the companies selling xyz?" remember that companies are made up of and controlled by people. And those people chose to do those things or make that type of media because there was a demand for it. And there continues to be a demand for it. Because people are choosing it. Even if they're only choosing it out of habit or convenience or laziness or ignorance, they are still choosing it. We do not have to continue to think/watch/read/buy/do xyz. There are extremely few scenarios in life where we really have absolutely no choice. There are frequently scenarios even in very privileged lives where we might see all the alternatives as distasteful or unfavorable or very undesirable, but rarely are there truly no choices about how we see something or how we act. And claiming otherwise is usually a matter of lazy, stuck, uninformed, or flawed thinking. I will freely acknowledge that there are individuals that can have an outsized influence on lots of societal trends, but in free and democratic societies at least, there is usually still something all of us "small" individuals can do about it, at least for ourselves personally.
I love Katy Bowman. She has a lot of really excellent advice about movement and health, and this book didn't disappoint. It is an excellent set of essays that expand on Katy's earlier work. I found her thoughts around our outsourcing of movement to be particularly interesting. This is probably best understood after reading some of her earlier stuff.
One of Katy Bowman's catch phrases is "You are how you move", and she's made it her life's mission as a biomechanist and science educator to examine how sedentarism is more than just a habit or set of unhealthy behaviors, but is rather a paradigm embedded in our whole culture. In previous works (which I haven't read yet, but I'm up to #50 in my podcast binge, so I'm getting the gist by now) she tackles this topic from the angle of personal health, explaining how reclaiming natural movement (think squatting, hanging, and walking over natural terrain) is key to transitioning our broken, chair-lovin' bodies to a state of better health.
In Movement Matters, she ups the ante, connecting our consumer habits to an outsourcing of movement. Often, a modern convenience doesn't actually save us much time, just demands us to move less (the saved time has to be spent later to work out our unmoved bodies), often at the expense of someone, somewhere, moving on our behalf, growing and processing food, extracting resources from the earth, and producing goods in factories. Katy (I've listened to enough podcasts that I don't feel weird calling her by her first name) argues that we have removed ourselves from nature, not just literally, as in not spending time in the outdoors, but as in seeing our species as something separate and remote from the rest of the planet. This disconnect enables our blindness to how our everyday habits impact the whole world, which includes ourselves.
And if you're thinking that this book sounds like a huge downer, it is actually hugely empowering. You've probably been encouraged to "vote with your dollar". Extend that to include "vote with your movement". Try to reconnect your own movement to the way your feed yourself, in any little way your can, from walking to the grocery store instead of driving, to growing some tomatoes, to learning to forage for wild food.
Here's a great quote from the essay "Kitchen Movement".
"Movement is a renewable resource, but unlike other commodities, it renews through use; your future movement is made possible by movements you're doing today. And so, as we spend less and less of our movement on our personal food consumption, we are essentially spending tomorrow's movement on the luxury of being still today."
I would give most of the book five stars, but I knocked off a star because some of the earlier essays seemed irrelevant to the topic (padding?) and when she finally got into the meaty topics I wanted to hear more about (like outsourced movement, and voting with our movement), I felt I could have read hundreds of pages more but had to be content with a mere glimpse into these ideas. Hopefully Katy will follow up with another book!
Stasis and convenience are a prison cell where your body rots.
We are a sedentary culture, and our lack of movement affects our thoughts, which, in turn, reinforces our sedentarism.
"Everything I love," I notified my doctor, "is sedentary: reading, writing, music, and so on."
She recommended I read Katy Bowman; I am smitten. This is not an exercise book; it's about movement. Bowman, a natural teacher, takes an integrative, organic, lifestyle approach. For instance, regularly walking to the store to pick up groceries and carry them home is superior to walking on a treadmill for xx miles.
Another quote: Somebody's grandmother used to beat egg whites into a meringue with a fork. You gonna get whipped by somebody's grandmother because your arms get too tired?
The bit about kids throwing whole apples from school lunch away because eating them was "too much work" underscored how weak our culture is becoming. Turns out, if you slice the apples, kids will eat them. Seriously?
I'm not 100% on board, but Katy pushes me to examine me assumptions, something I value. She has many YouTube videos that explain her non-mainstream approach to biomechanics. She has me thinking about gleaning and foraging. I'm pondering her distinction between "stacking" (good) and "multi-tasking" (not good).
About the audio: Katy Bowman is 40-something, but her voice sounds like a teenager. In a pleasant way. It's such a good companion while walking (returning books to the library, of course) that I giving it a second listen.
I plan on reading her 2017 book Dynamic Aging next.