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When I first started studying Restorative Exercise (an alignment-based movement program), I had no idea I would end up getting rid of all my furniture and pillows, throwing away my designer shoes and ditching a desk for a standing work station.
I would’ve thought those were pretty extreme moves—and to most people they are. But as I learned more and more about natural movement and how much our health depends on it, I began making the changes—a chair here, a desk there.
The more I learned about the damage to my body, the more I started going rogue. The shoes and squatting were not so challenging—my feet felt awful in rigid shoes, my neck felt better the minute I ditched the pillows and my body loved the benefits of standing over sitting.
The research being published was overwhelming and I couldn’t ignore it. Facts like these were keeping me up at night:
“A 2010 study of more than 120,000 people in Australia found that the more time people spent sitting, the more likely they were to die of any cause over the study period.”
Another study, published in January, found that people who spent more than four hours sitting in front of a TV or computer each day were 125 percent more likely to have heart problems over a four-year period. And in both of those studies, the amount people exercised made no difference (Rachel Rettner, Live Science).
This quote by Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, encompasses the reason I embraced this lifestyle change:
“The robotic lifestyle of just incorporating 30 minutes of physical activity into your day…and spending the other 23.5 hours idle, does not produce the healthy profile we’re looking for.”
This made so much sense to me. If I had any chance of keeping my family healthy, I had to keep movement at the forefront and furniture far away. Jogging 30 minutes a day to stay healthy was a huge myth that I wasn’t about to buy into. In other words, what is so detrimental to our health is all the not moving we are doing, and a minor bout of daily exercise can’t undo all that damage.
But throwing away all the beds? I wasn’t ready for that and neither was my husband or three daughters. The girls all shared a room and the one thing they didn’t need to share was their bed—their sacred safe spot. I couldn’t be the evil Natural Movement Witch and throw them away. Until the day I did.
When the opportunity came up to relocate, I thought “well, let’s cut the moving costs and just get rid of everything.” The girls were not happy, to say the least, when we unpacked in the new apartment and there was no sight of their beloved beds. But after making three super cozy sleeping nooks on the ground, covered in 100,000 stuffed animals, they kind of got over it. And I haven’t heard another peep about it. Don’t you love how present kids are?
So here I am—movement specialist, schlepper of three kids, buyer of groceries, cooker of dinners, no-furniture-haver and proud. And maybe Natural Movement Witch too.
Now for those of you wanting to dive into a more minimalist lifestyle, here is my biggest recommendation: go slow and give yourself (and your family) time to adjust. Just like anything new (crash diets, extreme exercise), if you go too hard too fast, you may end up burning out a really cool option for yourself.
Here are the Top Five benefits of going furniture free—and one simple caveat:
1. You are instantly moving more. Sounds pretty simple, but it’s actually a radical idea. Moving more is what your body is supposed to do—what a novel idea! You’ll be exercising all day long while just living your life, as opposed to 20 minutes a day in a gym, which does more harm than good.
2. Your body feels better. Shocking I know, as most people automatically look for a place to sit when they walk into a room. Having to use the floor gives your body the gravity resisting that it desires. You’ll be surprised to see all the different positions and variations you come up with—never mind your kids.
3. Your house is super clean. No furniture equals nothing to clean but the floor. Now I don’t know about you, but in my book, anything that removes the need for cleaning deserves some consideration. A solid sweep twice a day and we are sparkly and dust free (dust loves furniture, right?).
4. Your posture is immediately better. You’re using your abs more and while you may not get a ripped six-pack from sitting on the floor, it’s pretty hard to stay slumped over. With nothing giving you the “back support” that sofas and chairs do, your body has to work to hold itself up, which is exactly what is was designed to do!
5. Your body is no longer in an uncomfortable angle. If you work at a desk or sit for more than 30 minutes at a time, there is no question that your hips and knees are at a constant 90-degree angle. Why is this bad? You aren’t giving your body the range of motion it needs to be healthy and your muscles are staying in that shortened position for hundreds of hours per month. Not having furniture forces you to get creative with your body’s position and minimizes the wear and tear from all that hip and knee flexion.
Now for my warning: it’s not easy going furniture free. I’m not going to stand on my soapbox and tell you that it’s like walking on pillows. We’ve been sleeping eight hours a night on a hard floor and the first week was pretty uncomfortable, week two was better and week three was back to normal. It’s tough, but it’s worth it. Returning your body to its natural state, allowing yourself the possibility of aging gracefully and avoiding injuries by building strength is 100 percent worth it. As for the kids, they occasionally ask why we aren’t like everybody else, which at this point in my parenting journey I consider a bit of a badge of honor.
My mission (and yours if you choose to accept it) is to get myself and my family moving as much as possible and not relying on props in every room. You don’t have to be an anatomy or biomechanical geek (like me) to get started.
Here are a few quick ways that you can begin bringing the idea of restorative exercise and a minimalist lifestyle into your daily life:
1. Walk whenever possible. If you live in a car-centric city, park far away from your destination. Walking is the best full body exercise because it uses gravity.
2. Change positions throughout the day, every 20 minutes if possible. Stand, crouch, hinge or sit on your heels. Variety is key.
3. Keep your weight in your heels when you are standing instead of your toes or forefoot. Most people these days are standing with their butts way forward—tucked under—and this not only damages your spine but leaves your butt useless!
4. Get on the floor. If you have kids, you already know this is how they stay so loose. Lay, roll, play—all of this movement does your body good.
Drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you’ve tried in your minimalist lifestyle, what worked or what didn’t. I love connecting with fellow barefooters, yoginis and minimalist lifestyle enthusiasts—and regular folks too!
Author: Lauren Ohayon
Volunteer Editor: Nicole Cameron/Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Mackenzie Greer/Flickr