Most of the time when we think of fitness and human movement we think of people running fast or lifting heavy weights. While those are at the forefront of fitness and health (aside from a stellar paleo/primal diet) there's still a third modality we have yet to explore ... moving slowly for long periods of time. I doubt the thought of a long walk across town or a slow hike through the woods pops into your head when thinking about your health/fitness. So what does moving slowly have to do with our health, how we're designed to move, and your fitness. Once again we'll start at the beginning with our ever present caveman ancestors.
As we know, cavemen lived quite the brutal life. Day to day heavy lifting to build shelter, fight off enemies, and carry home kills would have been common place. They would also need to move very very fast from time to time to chase a kill, escape danger, or fight. However, the majority of their time would have been spent moving rather slowly. When not hunting, they would have been searching for other sources of food such as plants and fruits, this would require long walks daily. What about entertainment? A long walk through the woods or a swim in a near by lake would have been more than ideal! Last but not least, what happens when our caveman friend made a kill, it could have been miles from home and I doubt they had mini vans back then! Not only would they have stalked (more slow walking), chased (sprinting) and killed this animal, he would now need to carry it home (heavy lifting, and slow movement). I'm sure you see now where slow movement would have came into play.
Now that we're covered the back ground on slow movement lets talk about how it affects us today. The average North American only takes 5000 steps per day. That's it! It seems shocking, but why should it when we have cars and buses to take us everywhere? Why walk to the store when I can have food delivered to my house, why shop at the mall when I can order everything online and have it brought to my door step? Most people work jobs that require little to no physical movement other than typing at their computer desk or swiveling in their chair to grab the stapler. So is it any wonder why 5000 steps a day is the average?
For most of us the only physical activity we get is actually going to the gym. No wonder so many people hate their time at the local gym! We're cooped up all day long inside in front of a computer, and the only "play" time we get is in the gym under florescent lights, cold colours, and clanking metal. I say (and you can feel it in your gut) it's time to get out!
Take a tip from our caveman ancestors and get outside whenever you can. Try to walk more often, walk to work, talk a stroll at night with a loved one or pet. On weekends make time to get outside and take a hike, walk around down town and take a look at local shops or land marks. Or try a new outdoor activity, take a canoe ride or try kayaking, both are excellent upper body workouts. Many people find the act of walking to be almost therapeutic, loosening up their hips and knees, giving them time to think and enjoy their surroundings. So in a sense moving slowly is also very good for both the mind and body due to its natural stress reliving powers. Just look at how many people instantly say "I'm going for a walk!" when upset. Walking gives us time to be alone with our thoughts, and physical activity when thinking goes hand in hand with higher brain function!
As you can see, the benefits for moving slow in nature are vast. It's easy to see why we're designed to move slowly, as cavemen it helped us travel, hunt, and conserve our much needed energy. In modern times, it is a great stress reliever, physically therapeutic, and (in my opinion) still the best mode of transportation with in time constraints. So when you're all done your workouts, or on the days in between, get outside and get moving ... slowly.