Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Movement Literacy

Last Friday I met "The Exercise Doctor"--Dr. Gerald Larson. He used a term that I really liked: movement literacy. We both agreed that many people, old and young, don't know how to move well. Vern Gambetta knows it. We don't learn how to move in PE--we learn how to play games; we don't learn how to move in organized sports--we learn how to do specific sport-related skills. Boys have Tommy John elbow surgery and girls tear their ACLs because they are doing skills their movement systems cannot yet handle.

By the time our physicians refer us to a physical therapist, our poor movement strategies have usually caused us pain or injury, and our insurance company won't pay for the time it would take for the therapist to re-educate our bodies and minds. They just pay to address the symptoms, if that.

My idea, with Iron Maven, is to teach people how to move well, framing the idea as physical health. My first goal is to get to the adult athlete to buy into this, but then hopefully get to the average Jane / Joe. Get them to understand that moving well every day helps the musculoskeletal system stay healthy. Get everyone to understand that moving well when exercising, especially resistance training, is imperative to performance and to physical health.

Trouble is, most people have trouble appreciating this concept. For many, exercise is about looking good. For athletes, there is a lack of respect for the skills that are involved in training in the weight room. And they are skills that should be learned. But then from whom? Many people turn to personal trainers because these are the people who advertise and these are the people who LOOK fit, so obviously they must know their stuff, right? Not always so.

And then there are the physical therapists of the world--locked behind the doors of physician referral and insurance reimbursement. We fail to market ourselves and our skills to the apparently healthy population--something we can do in Missouri. And it is my observation that many therapists do not set a good example for the public by being healthy and fit. Would you pay money out of pocket to learn how to move well and exercise from an overweight, frumpy person with a giant Diet Coke sitting on the desk?

How do we get the average person to appreciate the benefits of movement literacy? Through what avenue? Do we have to pose as a buff personal trainer to attract their attention and then WHAM!--sneak up on them with movement instruction?

I am currently working with a retired MD (in his 80s) who is recovering from a hip fracture. He's astounded at how much he didn't know about movement and moving well. Getting out of a chair and walking safely with a cane are his goals. Now moving is literally about survival, safety and living life to its fullest. My guess is he'd recommend a little movement literacy for us all, sooner than later.

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