Movement is Different than Fitness

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By Kimberly Alexander


“You don’t have to be fit to move, you have to move to be fit.”
-Erwan LeCorre, MovNat founder

It really is that simple. Movement is different than fitness, although the concepts are often blurred. As a gym owner, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that people want to “get in shape” before coming to the gym. I can totally empathize with this sentiment. Our culture, while recently shifting, has primarily only shown people in the gym who “look fit” (“look” is an important distinction). There are so many things wrong with this that I want to take the time to break some things down. At the end of reading this I want you to shift the way you think about movement/fitness, be inspired to develop fitness in your daily movement outside the gym, and feel empowered to move your body in ways that feel good and challenging for you using more traditional “workout” structures, like our Training Maps

First, here are a few definitions (as I define them) that will help guide your perception around this topic:

  1. Movement - All the different physical patterns your body makes during the day. The goal of movement is typically accomplishing your daily life tasks. 

  2. Exercise - Repeating movement patterns with volume, intensity, or complexity with the goal of improving specific internal health measures, like cardiovascular function.

  3. Training - Similar to “exercise” but with a different intention: Repeating movement patterns with volume, intensity, or complexity with the goal(s) of improving your performance with that specific or similar exercise and/or improving your capacity to efficiently complete a wide variety of physical tasks outside of your training (fitness). 

  4. Fitness - The body’s ability to accomplish a wide variety of physical tasks efficiently. This is the outcome of movement and training, but not necessarily exercise.

  5. Getting “in shape” - Using exercise to achieve a certain physical aesthetic (body “shape”). This does not necessarily result in fitness. 

  6. Workout - A set of defined movements to be performed at a designated time with the goal of exercising, training, or getting in shape.

Here is what I know to be true: Looking fit and being fit are two different things. 

Looking fit is a physical body shape that may or may not be the result of true physical fitness. This is usually accomplished through exercises targeted at developing muscles to look a certain way without ever using them in the context of life events outside the gym that require fitness. 

Being fit can present in many different body sizes and shapes and is determined by one’s ability to complete a wide variety of physical challenges with relative ease. This is developed through both training and movement (lifestyle). “Looking fit” has little to no value to me. Being fit is of utmost importance.

I love “workouts” for lots of reasons but the truth is you don’t really “need” to “work out” if your days involve enough quantity and variety of movement to keep you strong, agile, and mobile (fit). The operative words in that sentence are quantity and variety. It is actually really challenging to have a modern job and get enough quantity and variety of non-exercise movement into each day (sadly, you can’t save it all up for one big day on the weekend). But it IS possible… It just takes A LOT of intention and reframing of the way you do most things throughout your day: 

Some simple (not necessarily easy… at first) ways to get more movement into your day-to-day routines are:

  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator… even with your luggage at the airport. If you have to take an escalator, at least walk up/down it. 

  • Park as far away from the store as possible.

  • Skip the cart and carry your goods in your arms or a basket. 

  • Walk or bike to your appointments and errands. Walking is best so you have to carry your items home with you. Skip the shoulder strap and actually carry your bags. Switch your carry position often. (The same is true for walks with your baby… Skip the stroller and carry your child. Yes, you will have to change position often. Yes, it will be slower. Yes, your arms will get tired. No, you will probably not walk as far, but you will get so much more out of it, physically.)

  • Sit on the floor to watch TV, read a book, play games, or scroll IG and change positions often. 

  • Clean your house with the purpose of cleaning AND movement. Do you always run the vacuum and wash the mirrors with your right arm? Try your left. Skip the mop and get down on your hands and knees with a rag.

  • Play at the playground with your kids. If you usually use this time to have a moment to yourself and check your IG or email, no judgement, just pick another time to disengage… Maybe when they are coloring or having a snack. Or rotate which activities you participate in and which you bow out because art and food are also good times for you to engage with your kids.

  • Prepare your meals on the floor or at a coffee table. Bring your cutting board to the ground to chop your veggies. Sit in a deep squat to whisk your sauce. Grate your cheese while kneeling. The bonus here is that your kids can more easily get involved rather than standing on a teetery chair at the counter.

  • Store your pots and pans in the overhead cabinets so you have to reach up to get them and your everyday plates, cups, and bowls down low so you have to squat to get them. 

  • Line dry your laundry so you have to reach down to get the item and then up to hang it. Fold your laundry on the floor. Set it a little farther away so you have to reach for each item and change your seated position every few items folded. 

Ideas for “heavier” ways to incorporate movement into your life:

  • Buy the large dog-food bag and store it in a container in the garage that you have to go lift and carry into the house and return to the garage every time you feed Fido (does anyone actually have a dog named Fido?)

  • Plan to do the landscaping project yourself. Shovel the gravel, move the boulders, plant the trees, dig out the stump… Call a friend for help if you need more hands; you will each be doing the other a favor! No projects of your own? Offer to be the friend for someone else! The more you offer the more movement you get. 

  • Rearrange your furniture often. Better yet, go Furniture Free!

  • Do not hire movers. Pack and move all your things yourself… or, again, offer to help someone else!

Here’s the thing, though: You will have to do MOST of those on a regular basis to get the quantity and variety you need to be truly fit. If that sounds exhausting and unrealistic it’s because we are accustomed to taking the path of least resistance. Humans are, by nature, innovators to make things “easier” on ourselves. This is why we have developed all the modern conveniences (shopping carts, cars, vacuums, etc.) so we don’t have to work as physically hard to accomplish our daily tasks. Unfortunately, our natural tendency for efficiency is in direct competition with our natural NEED for physical fitness. 

While I try to do as many of the daily movement ideas as I can, I know it is not enough. I still utilize intentional training to develop and maintain what I consider to be a healthy amount of physical fitness. When I train at home or in the gym my goal is to increase my capacity to do various things in my life that I have to do (housework, yardwork, etc.) or love to do (soccer, backpacking, etc.). We have intentionally included a wide variety of movements into all of our Training Maps to mimic all the ways your body needs to move for optimal fitness. 

Circling back to the beginning, it can be intimidating to start a training plan if you aren’t used to a lot of variety of movements; this is why so many people say they have to get in shape before going to the gym. All I can say is this: The purpose of a “workout” is to move more. It is to get more quantity and variety of movement into your life in order to improve your fitness. Any amount of movement more than you are doing now will take you in that direction. Do not get hung up on doing a workout exactly as it is written on the board in your class, demonstrated in the video you watch, or even as it is outlined in the Training Maps we developed. Your goal should be to get stronger in some way. If you cannot yet perform a certain movement or if something causes you pain, do a less strenuous version of that movement or an entirely different movement that you love! We have included a written and video library of lots of different regressions for all the movements in our Training Maps because we want to get the world moving! 

Keep us updated on your movement and fitness journey. We would love to hear back about which daily movement routines you have incorporated or how your Training Map workouts are going. We would also love to hear how your perspective has changed on exercise and fitness. Please drop us a note in the comments to let us know!