The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Don't Confuse Exercise With Real Fitness

Reader Dr. Zoe Eppley e-mailed, "I have been trying to apply your "bending right" approach to my daily activities. I find my tight leg and hip muscles seriously limit my ability to squat. Could you please recommend some stretches that will help?"

I receive this inquiry often. People are realizing that they are too tight to move in healthy ways for normal everyday life. I hear it from instructors of aerobics, yoga, Plates, personal trainers, and many others. This is an important epiphany. If you are too tight to move in healthy ways, then it is likely that you spend every day of your life moving in tight ways that create pain and perpetuate tightness.

The good news is you do not need to "do" stretches and exercises. Keep bending right and you will get exactly the stretch and strengthening you need. My most important message that I stress in all my work about exercise is not to "do exercises" but get crucial, functional, effective exercise by moving in healthy ways during normal everyday life.

People spend fortunes on treatments for pain, gadgets, potions, pills, prescriptions, adjustments, and ongoing medical scans and tests. Tightness and body pain is often made to be a mystery because it persists even after surgery and exercise programs. The reason is that they don't stop the cause. My successful techniques for fixing pain, even the most resistant back, neck, knee, and other musculoskeletal pain, emphasizes that you don't "do exercises" but simply stop the source of the injury by stopping unhealthy injurious movement patterns, and using healthy ones. Many people do ten repetitions of an exercise and hold each stretch for 30 seconds, then go back to unhealthy moving, sitting, bending, walking, exercising, and everything else that caused their pain and tightness in the first place.

If you are too tight to use your legs to bend down and get back up without using your hands or getting help, you need the hard realization that you lack normal function. It may be common in Western society to not be able to lift your own body, but it is dangerously unhealthy weakness.

Dr. Zoe e-mailed me a second time and mentioned watching an Indi-pop movie. She noticed the healthy posture and flexibility of the actors and how easily they squatted. She wisely reflected that she had probably lost much flexibility by not using normal bending and from "spending my life in chairs."

Keep bending right with your heels down, knees back, and your body upright. You will stretch your Achilles tendon and hip, and strengthen your thighs and knees hundreds of times a day - every time you bend.

One fun way to greatly help your bending is not a specific stretch or exercise but another normal daily activity: apply the same healthy positioning to ascending any set of stairs. I will post more about stairs, as it is interesting and enlightening. Until then, any time you go up stairs, notice if you tilt forward and let your heels lift. Instead:
  • keep your heel down as you step up,
  • keep your knee back over your ankle as you step up, instead of sliding your knee forward,
  • keep your body upright.
Use healthy positioning for both bending and stairs and you will quickly gain functional and healthy strength and flexibility.

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.