Fitness movement goes back to nature, hones hunter-gatherer skills

In exercise sessions, medicine balls are used to replace stones, and balance beams replace fallen tree trunks.
In exercise sessions, medicine balls are used to replace stones, and balance beams replace fallen tree trunks.ST FILE PHOTO

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Forget the bench press, treadmill and rowing machine. Some experts believe the best way to get fit is to go back to nature and hoist a boulder, jump a stream or climb a rock.

Natural movement is at the heart of MovNat, an international fitness system that reclaims hunter-gatherer skills to achieve strength, flexibility and power.

"Originally, we humans were all able to run, catch and jump, but then we turned it into specialised sports," MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre said.

Le Corre bemoaned an exercise culture that limits physical movement to sessions spent manipulating modern machines.

"How would you train a panther to be fit?" he said. "Not on a treadmill."

MovNat has certified more than 2,000 trainers worldwide who lead clients on retreats, workshops or online courses. In indoor sessions, they use medicine balls to replace stones and balance beams instead of fallen tree trunks.

Le Corre, a French native who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, says people have strayed from their evolutionary abilities and need to be brought back to their own natural movement.

"There's a learning curve involved in turning innate abilities into mindful skills," he said.

Katy Bowman, a Seattle-based biomechanist, crawled, jumped, hoisted and tossed her way through a MovNat workshop earlier this year.

"We spent significant time just going from being seated to getting up off the ground without using the hands," said Bowman, author of the book Move Your DNA.

The group practiced balance, throwing and jumping combinations. At the end was a two-hour trek.

Bowman said while everyone should be able to do these movements, most people must adapt gradually.

"You don't want to do them sloppily," she said. "You want to work towards them in a physiologically intelligent way, the same way you don't throw on minimal shoes and run 10 miles."

Dr Derek Ochiai, an orthopedic surgeon specialising in sports medicine, said MovNat appeared to exercise the whole body.

He added that even elite athletes can have inefficiencies in muscles groups they do not use in an optimal way.

"I look at this (MovNat) as an extreme form of cross-training," said Ochiai, of the Nirschl Orthopedic Clinic in Arlington, Virginia.

Le Corre said when it comes to natural movement, no one starts from scratch.

"Look at what kids do," he said. "They stand and crawl and jump and climb and lift and throw stuff. They don't do bicep curls."