A difficult thing for me to watch is people flapping their arms or legs around mindlessly in an attempt at exercising. I refer to it as ‘auto-pilot exercising.’ Having come from a modern dance background, I was taught that all movement needed purpose, and I believe that to be true. When movement has intention, the brain is actively involved through stimulating neuromuscular pathways. When all systems are on board with an intention, the connection of mind to body is invigorating. If you reach your arms up, while breathing in, and looking up, and lifting your heart and chest up, you will feel more reward than if you simply stick your two arms up in the air. This is one of the reasons I was drawn to a Pilates practice with Joe Pilates quoted as saying “A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.”

I recently gave a lecture on how to combat the negative effects of sitting. I asked everyone in the room to stand up and reach their arms up. The entire room of people stuck their arms up in the air like I had asked them to do something very bothersome. It shocked me a little that nobody caught the word ‘reach’ in my initial directions. I bet their bodies would have jumped on the invitation to get out of their chairs if they had consulted them. When I explained to the group that I wanted them to reach like they were trying to touch the ceiling, they all stretched their bodies upward. It was wonderful to hear joy naturally expressed from the group by a huge unison sigh as they lowered their arms.

Your body knows when you are lying to it. It knows the view on the treadmill isn’t refreshing and that you maybe wish you were doing something else. It knows you might not be connected or paying attention to your body when you move your arms around in weights class. It knows you might not want to really do those crunches. I would propose that a body with inner ‘conflict’ is one set up for injury. Not being mentally present while moving on ‘auto-pilot’ isn’t good for much.

When discussing this subject with a friend, she said, “Well, it’s better than nothing.” I guess it might be better than absolutely nothing as long as you are not injuring yourself from the mindless movements. But with such little time to exercise, why not maximize the positive results for your body and your brain by paying attention to what you are doing?

I really think a minute of purposeful yawning would be a better choice than the ‘auto-pilot’ flapping. When you yawn, your body stretches in all directions in sync with the yawn. No one to my knowledge has ever hurt himself yawning. Make the yawn last a while and maybe do a ‘three-in-a-row’ yawn just to get a little crazy (LOL). Stretch in directions your body feels like going as you yawn. It feels great and might even stimulate you to want to do something more physical after that might also be ‘fun.’ We shouldn’t exercise in order to move, we should move to exercise. Movement is supposed to be part of life, not something you remind your body how to do at the gym. Pursue movement that you enjoy, walk, run, bike, swim, stretch, reach, push, pull, swing and skip a little! Life can be more enjoyable if your body delights in the journey. 🙂