The “Frequent and Small” Movement

August 1, 2012

Physical movement is important for our health. There are hundreds of reasons for why we need to constantly move our bodies. The simplest reasons of course are to get our blood flowing, to keep our muscles strong and to feel great!

But when did physical movement become such a dreaded THING? My hunch is that as our society became more sedentary, movement became less natural. Think about the hours we clock in just sitting, watching tv, working by our desks and staring at our computers. This sedentary way of living has become the norm. Sitting around is now what we do best. So when it’s time to move, we have to pencil in “exercise” into our hectic schedules. And a string of excuses usually result in our skipping out on exercise.

But movement is not supposed to be a chore for which we have to set time apart. It’s supposed to be a natural part of our lives. Think about our ancestors. They walked miles and miles and were constantly running around foraging and hunting for food. Our bodies were made to move, and today they are still built that way.

So let’s move!!

Illustration from

The Frequent And Small Maxim

To help us get moving, I like to apply the “frequent and small” maxim. The best thing about the “frequent and small” maxim is that it eliminates the hopeless tug-of-war between control and guilt. The end goal is not to lose weight or get super buff or anything like that (although moving a lot will definitely help towards this end). The goal is simply to move. In “frequent and small” doses. 

This “frequent and small” maxim can actually be applied to a lot of things. Think about it. Eating “frequent but small” meals is better for you than eating a few very heavy meals per day. Drinking “frequent and small” glasses of water throughout the day is undoubtedly better (and easier on the bladder) than drinking a whole pitcher in one go. Dedicating a few well-placed minutes to hobbies, like practicing a musical instrument, writing, gardening, is more effective than putting in several hours once a month.

The same is especially true when it comes to moving our bodies. Rather than spending so much time sitting and waiting to do your intense gym sessions a few times per week, consider the benefits to your health when you move your body constantly throughout the day, every day.

The 10-Minute Workout, Times Three article by New York Times suggests that a single 30 minute chunk of exercise broken up into 10 minute chunks times 3 can still have the same health benefits. This article does a really great job of making the case for the remarkable benefits of short, cumulative exercise.

Among children and teenagers, repeated bouts of running for even as little as five minutes can reduce the risks of high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure. Also, intense sporadic movements throughout the day is great for boosting metabolism and helping with weight control.

Even just standing up, as opposed to sitting, can help increase metabolic activity and reduce the risk of cardiac disease and diabetes.Stand Up For Fitness,” is another great article about the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, after reading about the benefits of standing, I was encouraged to type half of this article while standing up!

Movement That Flows

Although we’ve discussed how exercising frequently is much better for you than sparse, intensive bouts of exercise, for me the word “exercise” is still fixed to this rigid idea we’ve created in our heads. It means, we are still setting time aside to exercise and counting the minutes that we’ve spent moving our bodies. I find this type of movement awkward because movement shouldn’t be a scheduled and separate THING that we have to do. Movement should flow. It should be integrated in our daily rhythm and feel as natural as breathing.

So how do we get ourselves to move constantly, in a way that flows naturally with our daily rhythm?

Well kids can actually teach us a lot about naturally flowing movement. When you spend a little bit of time observing children, you may notice they are constantly bouncing off the walls! Everything to them is a game. They climb trees, play hide and seek, spin around and leap over parts of the floor that have suddenly transformed into hot lava.  Why, as adults, do we have to be so serious all the time? We have literally grown up to become rigid, sitting lumps. And if we feel like spinning around or leaping in a spontaneous burst of joy, what’s stopping us? Do we ever get these types of feeling any more?

In order to create movement that flows naturally in our lives I think we need to bring back the element of joy. We need to move, not because it’s written in our schedule, but because it feels good! And movement can be as exciting as racing a friend in a short sprint. Or as simple as standing up, stretching, and going for a ten minute walk.


What about you? What are your simple ideas for bringing “small and frequent” movement back into your life?

2 thoughts on “The “Frequent and Small” Movement

  1. Heather Rose

    I love this article! You are so awesome! I totally agree about movement being an integral part of our lives. I am a yoga teacher here in the SF Bay Area and living in a culture where we are afraid to move our bodies is huge part of why we are are the fattest unhealthiest country. Our bodies are used as tools for work, but not celebrated for its beauty, depth, and power. Thanks for writing this! Such an inspiration!

    1. Kareen

      Hey Heather Rose! Thank you =) I’m really glad you enjoyed reading this article. It’s true, in the U.S., we do live in a culture where we are afraid to move. It’s sad how movement has become this dreaded thing that we *have* to do. I think yoga is fantastic for slowly easing people back into moving again. I always feel wonderful after doing just a few gentle stretches. That’s also really cool that you’re a yoga teacher, and even more interesting that you’re in the SF Bay Area. So I’ll actually be there towards the end of this summer. You’ll have to tell me the name of your studio! 🙂


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