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The Movement Spectrum –
Welcome to the Working Well Podcast. I’m Tim Borys CEO of FRESH! Wellness Group. This show explores the diverse aspects of workplace health and personal performance. On the Working Well Podcast we dive into the foundations of what makes wellness work in workplaces around the world. We connect with corporate leaders, executives, and industry experts who are helping make life more awesome at work and home.
Join us to learn workplace wellness, best practices, personal performance tips, and access resources to jumpstart your personal and corporate programs.
Traditionally, workplace wellness has revolved around fitness and exercise programs. Now, thankfully, there’s been a large evolution in the programming over the past few years. Of course, the pandemic over the last 18 months has really focused the spotlight on mental health, but there’ve been many other changes in the previous years. For example, architects are evolving their building designs to facilitate better lighting, air circulation, and healthier building materials. Property developers are redesigning layout and traffic flow of properties to add more green space collaboration areas, meditation rooms, fitness center childcare and so many more great aspects.
Companies, they’re starting to provide training in diversity, inclusion, leadership skills, access to education and resources such as financial wellness or crew development. Each of these areas are essential in improving health, happiness, engagement, and performance of people and the organizations they work for. These are all great developments, but what I feel, the number one thing that’s missing from workplace wellness and organizational performance is the strategy and buy-in to tie it all together, to look at all the different aspects of wellness and employee performance, put a strategy in place and customize it to each individual organization to produce the best results in that environment. That’s what’s missing in workplace. I’m excited and honored to be one of the many people globally, helping drive this change forward and helping senior executives and boards at companies reframe how wellness and employee performance fit into the profitability and business model of their organization.
We’ve touched on each of these areas in other episodes of the Working Well Podcast, and we’ll continue to provide more information on these rapidly evolving components of overall wellbeing. Today, however we’re going to talk about how working out fits into the mix for individuals, workplaces, and leaders. And there’s no doubt that fitness and working out are still part of the modern wellness model. In fact, this is a key reason why so many people and wellness programs fail to generate the desired results. Seriously. I believe that people are viewing the physical aspect of wellness from too narrow, a perspective.
In over 30 years of health, fitness, and performance coaching, I’ve seen how this narrow view holds people back from experiencing the massive benefits of physical movement. Through my coaching experience, I’ve developed a model, I call the movement spectrum, and we’re going to go through that today. It’s designed to help people understand and gain clarity on how movement shows up in our life.
The benefits of moving certain ways and how people can harness the movement spectrum to maximize the vast scope of mental, physical, and social benefits. When we move our body and exercise, we feel better. We perform better. We look better and we’re able to do more things in life. For me, this is a foundation of living an amazing life, and I want to share it and help more people experience that. The movement spectrum model is extremely powerful. And yet it’s very simple. I’ve put a diagram on the page of the podcast page of this episode.
There are five stages in the movement spectrum. Starting in importance from left to right there, movement, activity, exercise, fitness and performance. Now this may sound straightforward, but understanding how the movement spectrum works and what people typically do is where things start to get interesting. Remember when I said, I believe that people have a narrow view of fitness and it’s holding them back, the movement spectrum explains why this is. When people want to get in shape, what, what do they usually do? Usually it involves going to the gym, doing some cardio, some weights or a fitness class. This mindset has existed for so long and people rarely question it anymore, but I believe it’s completely faulty. However, when we look at it through the movement spectrum lens, we see how flawed it is and why it holds people back and why workplace wellness programs are held back too.
So let’s go step by step through the movements spectrum so you can see how each stage fits into the big picture and how the each build on each other. Let’s start with movement. This is the most fundamental and basic element of physicality movement is literally life. A synonym for this stage is mobility. Being able to move our body smoothly and effectively improves almost everything we do. Now I define movement as being able to take all of the joints in our body, through their full range of motion. That’s simple. Ideally we do this multiple times every day. I’m going to repeat that. We take all the joints in our body through their full range of motion multiple times per day. Again, this sounds exceedingly simple, but it’s something very few people actually do.
One of the first homework assignments I provide to coaching clients is to do a, what I call a mobility minute. As soon as they get out of bed in the morning, they take one minute and move every joint through its full range of motion, literally 60 seconds or less. The mental and physical benefits of theirs are enormous. Particularly for one minute of your time, it wakes you up. It makes you feel better. It gets you focused, and it gives you an overview of your body. I think of it as a pre-flight checklist for your body. It keeps all the parts moving and helps you quickly identify if certain areas need more attention. If we aren’t moving well, and our mobility is limited, every other stage of the movement, spectrum will be more challenging and potentially put us at risk of injury.
Let’s talk about activity. This is simply your activities of daily living. These are the things that we do each day throughout our life, brushing our teeth, getting changed, showering, walking around the house and putting away groceries. They’re just common examples. Of course, we’re all active in some way each day, just not generally enough activity to improve our health and that’s the issue. The goal in the activity phase of the movement spectrum is to find ways to work in more activities. For example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator parking further from the store, taking walking meetings, doing a bit more manual labor around the house. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but it works.
This is where the 10,000 steps concept came from. Now 10,000 steps is just a nice round number. It’s not like you magically see the benefits as soon as you cross the threshold at 9,999, you’re not seeing any benefits and 10,000 magical explosion happens and you get all these results. That number is simply something shoot for it. And it might not even be right for you. For me I know typically I’m around 8,500 steps per day. I do lots of other activity that doesn’t necessarily count as steps, but the fact is if you’re at a thousand steps per day, you’re probably not getting it enough. I know since COVID, I’ve been working from home, my daily step count went from about 8,500 down to about 1500.
And that was a bit of shocking to me at the beginning. And it made me realize that I needed to more purposefully focused on just general activity. So now I get up in the morning and I go out and walk around the block. I purposefully take breaks throughout between meetings and just walk up and down the stairs. A few times, I go out in the front street and walk around the cul-de-sac a little bit. The little things like that can make a huge difference in your overall wellbeing. And it’s just general activity. Now there’s a great study that was done about 20 years ago that compared the lifestyle in 1950, compared to 2000 and among the obvious differences in life in 1950 versus 2000 was the fact that in 1950 people burned about 500 extra calories per day from the ADL’s of those activities of daily.
Now people in 1950, weren’t attending CrossFit Zoomba going to the gym or taking a spin class. They were simply more active in day-to-day life. This is a crucial lesson to learn. What really blows people’s mind is that that 500 calories a day equates to 3,500 calories a week or one pound of fat loss per week.
This is often the healthy weight loss goal people have for wanting to lose weight. Typically say one to two pounds per week. So simply being more active each day is enough to satisfy weight loss goals and achieve a healthy body composition. Yet people constantly think they need to destroy themselves in the gym to lose weight activity helps us build on our mobility foundation and prepares us for more intense activity. Without it our risk of injury increases dramatically.
Okay, let’s talk about the next stage. Exercise. Exercise is simply activity done above a baseline of intensity. Now it doesn’t really matter what you do. The goal is to elevate your heart rate for an extended period of time. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, think of it as working hard enough to start sweating. This is where the recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity also called MVPA. That’s where it came from. Now you can do this in 15, 10 minute increments, five 30 minute increments. It doesn’t really matter. Just elevate your heart rate above baseline. If you’re walking from the train to your office or doing a walking commute to your home office, then walking faster, may be all you need to.
Just walk fast enough to get yourself breathing harder and it can count as exercise. Pretty simple. Even better news is that your baseline is unique to you. Someone just starting out, they may be exercising, just walking up one flight of stairs or around the block. An elite athlete is going to need significantly more effort to get above their baseline. Now notice how I haven’t mentioned the gym or traditional modes of fitness yet. They aren’t necessary to increase your health, your happiness, or your vitality in life. In fact, 80% or more of the health benefits that you get are going to come from movement activity and exercise those first three phases of the movement spectrum. That means you never have to step foot in a gym in your life unless you want.
From the corporate side, it means that 80% of your employees health improvements are going to come from moving properly and consistently being more active throughout the day and getting opportunities to elevate their heart rate. The main issue is that most people skip these first three stages and jump right into fitness and performance. I call this the weekend warrior or the zero to hero syndrome. And I often joke with my physiotherapy friends that this is why they’re in business. This is what supports their physio business. All the people getting injured from trying to jump into fitness and performance without the foundation.
Think of it from a corporate standpoint, people are sedentary. They drive a desk for a living, also known as sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day. Very few of these people do daily mobility. They aren’t very active, they rarely exercise, but then they decide they want to get fit. And they do that by hitting the gym hard, they start lifting weights or trying some random workout they found online. They aren’t aware of whether it’s right for them or if they’re doing it correctly, but Hey, they’re sweating and the person on Instagram looks fit. Right. So it must be good. Or they decide to decide to jump into some high intensity class. They aren’t doing the things correctly, but Hey, they’re in there working hard and sweating, so they must be getting benefits right.
And if the gym isn’t right for them, some people say, Hey, I’m going to start running. And so they get back at it by doing, Hey, a five or a 10 K, I’m just going to start training for that. And I’ll go out and do a few K the first day. And meanwhile, they haven’t run in months or years for that matter. No wonder people get frustrated, they get injured and they give up.. That’s a lot of effort, pain and suffering for really no gain. Now keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with fitness and performance. They’re logical progressions of the movement spectrum for many people. Notice how I said progression. If someone has been moving consistently, they’re increasing their ADL’s and they’re getting a few sweat sessions in each week. It makes sense to start improving certain aspects of fitness or to add more of a challenge to the exercise things. The problem happens when people skip the first three phases and jump directly into fitness and competition without building a solid foundation of movement and health. It’s the root of so much failure and frustration from an individual and workplace wellness perspective.
So what is fitness then? Put simply fitness is exercise done for a specific purpose and it’s usually measured over time. You know, perhaps you lift weights to increase your strength. Are you tracking your heart rate to improve different aspects of your cardiovascular fitness? Well, maybe you’re running or cycling.
Fitness is more about the intention than exercise is. Fitness doesn’t require a gym. Many people typically associate fitness with going to the gym. This is particularly true for fitness classes and strength training, even cardio people like I got to go to the gym to do cardio. I’m like, no, you don’t. Your body’s the best piece of fitness equipment. You just need to learn how to use it more effectively. Your heart doesn’t care why it beats. You could do jumping jacks in the kitchen or run up and down a flight of stairs or jog around the block. You don’t need to have the most fancy piece of cardio equipment to treadmill or elliptical or anything like that. Sure. They’re nice tools to have if you want, but they’re not essential. And this is where people’s thinking often gets limited and they miss out on opportunities to harness the movement spectrum.
Let’s go back to the difference between exercise and fitness. For example, someone may run or a cycle as exercise, but in the exercise phase, they’re not really concerned with specific outcomes other than just getting a general sweat session.
On the fitness side, someone may say, you know what, I’m really going to start tracking my heart rate and work for X number of minutes in certain zone to improve my anaerobic threshold, or may my VO two max or my aerobic base burning. It becomes much more of a specific focus for fitness. And the great thing is many people choose to work out because of enjoyment or to attain specific fitness goals. But fitness is still completely optional. If you just want to get out and start sweating a few times a week. Great. You’re going to see tremendous benefits. Now, the last phase or last stage of the movement, spectrum is performance.
Performance is fitness or exercise done in a competitive environment, whether it’s against time or against an opponent. For example, runners may choose to do a race. Weightlifters may choose to enter a competition. Again, performance is completely optional. Some people naturally choose this as part of the progression through the movement spectrum, but it’s not necessary for health, happiness, or overall vitality. And this is something that’s important to keep in mind because far too many people get into that weekend warrior or the zero to hero mentality. They’re not doing the movement. They’re not doing daily basic activity. They’re not doing general exercise a few times a week. And they try and go right in to that fitness and performance, and they ended up getting injured.
They get frustrated and eventually give up because being injured and frustrated sucks. And if you have to do that every time is this big chore, no wonder people don’t exercise. Harnessing the movement spectrum will allow us to shift our mindset around what it takes to be healthy, happy, and fit, and see a natural progression that we follow so we’re naturally able to scale our involvement as well as our intensity and focus throughout the entire spectrum.
Hopefully this overview of the movement spectrum has helped put your past exercise and fitness experiences into perspective. Seeing things in this way is usually a game changer for my coaching and consulting clients. As individuals, we can harness the power of the movement spectrum every day to set ourselves up for greater results and performance while minimizing our risk of injury. For leaders and organizations the movement spectrum provides a framework for helping restructure daily habits and activities in the office and at home. And hopefully it starts to change the corporate culture in ways that improve health, happiness, engagement, and wellbeing of employees across the entire company, rather than creating barriers and setting people up for failure and frustration.
If you or your company would like help implementing the movement spectrum or using it as part of a customized workplace wellness and organizational performance program, I encourage you reach out by phone email, DM me doesn’t matter, send a messenger pigeon if you want. My team and I would love to connect with you. We are passionate about helping people and companies be healthier, happier, and higher performing in every area. Be well and keep active. I’ll see you on the next episode.
Thank you for listening to the Working Well Podcast. If you enjoyed the show, don’t forget to rate and review us wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your experiences and how you’ve applied tips from the show to your daily life.
So please keep us posted on your progress. To stay up to date with new episode releases, make sure to subscribe to a mailing list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, thank you everyone for tuning in. And once again, I’m Tim Borys with FRESH! Wellness Group.
We’ll see you on the next episode.