By Julien Le Nestour, Level 2 MCT
The Coronavirus situation is rapidly evolving across the world and it seems clear a shortage of medical equipment and hospital beds are a critical factor in the crisis’s severity. More than ever, we have a responsibility to be as fit and healthy as we can. Those of us lucky enough to have no serious issues, so we don’t clog our healthcare systems, and of course, those of us more vulnerable would look at all avenues to help prevent an infection.
Mental health is also a concern for everyone. Anxiety and fear already take their toll throughout the population, but home confinement as enacted in some countries take mental health concerns to another level. How do you stay sane in that context?
I’m convinced Natural Movement can drastically help on both counts.
Cope in the immediate term
It is well established (through rigorous research) that physical activity boost your immune system, without drawbacks: there isn’t a period of lower immunity following intense exercise for example. So one of the easiest ways to prevent infection is to exercise.
While all types of physical activity will boost your viral defences, Natural Movement is one of the most efficient training methods if your main objective is general health. The set of movement techniques formalised through the MovNat method is the exact set of movements our bodies evolved to perform. It’s also the set of movements they need to perform to remain healthy. Based on sound evolutionary biology principles, MovNat gives us one of the highest returns we can get from any fitness method in terms of health.
That’s true for our physical health. It’s also true for our mental health.
As any MovNatters can tell you, there is a calming, meditative aspect to MovNat practice. Balance training, for example, is widely present and requires you to clear your mind and focus on the challenge. Five minutes spent training balance provides many of the same benefits you get from meditation because you have to focus so deeply on your breath and body control. You can do this indoors, or anywhere, for that matter.
MovNat also helps you clear your mind when you have to push back your fears. Training at height and practicing challenging vaults will narrow your focus very quickly to the task at hand. You can achieve this mental benefit while keeping risk and danger to very minimal levels. You may need access to the outdoors, though, urban or natural.
Speaking of the latter, training in nature also provides undeniable and research-based benefits for our mental health. For those of us not confined at home, it’s more important than ever to try and get some time in nature. Viewing it as the perfect training environment is a great way to spend more time in it.
And this brings us to perhaps the most important benefit of MovNat in this troubled period: accessibility, to all abilities and in all contexts. Many of us cannot access gyms anymore and some of us can’t even train outdoors. MovNat provides an easy and efficient way to continue or start training in all contexts. You don’t need specific fitness equipment. You can train very efficiently at home even if you can’t perform the whole range of movements you would ideally like.
If you’re an adult trying to stay sane, that’s worth a lot. If you’re an adult trying to keep kids sane while under home confinement, speaking as a father of three young children, it’s worth an awful lot more!
While adults can stay active at home through other movement modalities like yoga, bodyweight strength training, etc. it’s harder to motivate kids to jump in, follow along and burn some energy. Natural movements like jumping, balancing, crawling, etc. are universally appealing to kids of all ages though, precisely because they are instinctual in all humans. MovNat is the perfect fitness practice to adopt when you have kids, now more than ever.
I firmly believe Natural Movement is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to keep our immune system and mental health as strong as possible, under the restrictions we now live under.
Thrive in the long-term
But what’s more interesting is the possibility that adjusting to this new life in the immediate term can lead to lasting—and beneficial—changes over the long-term.
We’re now living in a situation most similar to what has been observed in the past world wars: drastically different lifestyles to adapt to drastically different contexts. While most of the changes went away when life got back to normal, some persisted. For example, women working in factories to replace men during WWII.
Today, there is widespread talk that this will result in a large number of people continuing to work from home when the crisis has passed. What if it also leads us to forge new (and healthier) habits for the long-term?
If you force yourself to exercise at home or outside now, motivated by the immediate crisis, you will build a habit that will be relatively easy to maintain after the crisis has passed. The same is true for your kids: build the habit now and chances are it will just continue after the crisis is over. Maybe this crisis is what you needed to find the motivation to exercise, pushed by the fear of the virus? Take advantage of it then! Start to exercise now to build up your immune system, and you’ll reap long-term health benefits afterwards.
Our current special circumstances also provide a way to make such healthier changes easier: exercising outside, for example, still carries a form of stigma in many countries. With the gyms closed it becomes socially acceptable to exercise outside. And with social distancing measures falling in place in ever more countries, you could maybe experiment with going out barefoot in the park without having to face curious and intrigued stares!
Last, if we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation that we have to Iive under such restrictions for more than a couple of weeks, MovNat can help us increase our mental toughness. The practice of Natural Movement is uniquely suited to develop our resilience, persistence and goal oriented capabilities, which collectively define our mental toughness.
While this is best achieved by practicing MovNat in an outdoor environment (natural or urban) where you can confront your fears, this benefit would be present even with a practice confined at home, and might prove to be the most valuable in the next few weeks.
You build Mental Toughness by achieving small victories and these compound quickly. Starting now can yield benefits in a matter of weeks, fast enough to make a difference in your capabilities to help.
Strong to be useful, useful to be happy
In his excellent book, Tribe, Sebastian Junger analyzes why we humans sometimes feel contentment and happiness while we go through some of the most challenging times of our lives.
Drawing from many examples demonstrating this behaviour under extreme duress (most, but not all of them being wartime situations), he clearly establishes that when we suffer a collective challenge that puts us on equal footing, the vast majority of us help each other out and draw a deep happiness and contentment from this. We’re all in it together and we draw deep satisfaction from that.
And while everyone is relieved when war ends, he found an almost universal nostalgia about war times, when everyone was united and helping each other out.
MovNat has always been about becoming strong to be useful in real-life situations. Being useful to those in need of support might well be the key to happiness in the current situation but also beyond. So let’s ensure we’re indeed able to help.
About the Author
Julien Le Nestour is a behavioral scientist and MCT Level 2. He’s the founder of the Foresighted Company which combines the benefits of Natural Movement and the power of habits-building behavioural science. You can also find him on Instagram @foresighted.co
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