Over the years, people have often asked me: What is the best exercise?
They usually mean: I don’t have much time, what is the one thing I can do that will cover all bases? How can I get the most bang for my buck?
We regularly see this kind of topic in fitness magazines which often suggest variations on the plank and the squat, both of which are great options. They can be varied and modified so there’s plenty of scope to make progress with your fitness.
However, when you think of all the amazing ways that the human body can move – we can crawl, climb, swim, roll, walk, run, jump… – it is impossible to pick one exercise that can tap into all of these elements to provide you with a one stop shop.
However, if you’re looking for one thing to do that will improve your overall fitness without taking up too much of your time, my advice would be this: spend more time on the floor.
As children, we’re on the floor a lot, exploring our environment but also our own movement capabilities; it’s what helps us to develop coordination and balance and to keep our bodies agile. As adults, we spend relatively little time at floor level, instead finding ourselves either sitting at a desk, on a train or on the sofa! This restricts our movement, leading to stiffness, aches and pains. The ground can become an alien place, particularly as we get older, and even a scary place if we happen to trip and fall. If you haven’t practised rolling on the ground since you were a child, your body will likely have forgotten how to do this and a fall might be awkward and painful.
Pilates and yoga classes are extremely beneficial for maintaining your relationship to the floor and allowing your body to move in lots of different ways. They are an ideal complement for other types of training too.
Think of other opportunities to spend more time on the floor. Try sitting cross legged on a cushion whilst you watch television. A client shared with me that her hips feel more open now that she does this on a regular basis. Maybe give yourself a time frame – say, five minutes – just to crawl around and see where your body wants to take you. Another client of mine has been pleasantly surprised by the reduction in his back pain now that he incorporates a ‘crawling circuit around his flat as part of his daily routine.
Others have told me how moving around on the floor just makes them smile because it brings out the child in them!
Have a go and make the floor your friend!
By Anna Toombs