Movement vs. Exercise

Katy Bowman, demonstrates natural reflex-driven movement


It’s finally happened.

I have found a teacher who has been teaching, blogging and publishing about body alignment and natural reflex-driven movement. She writes about how exercise as we’ve come to know it is what is actually causing more harm to our human-machine. Over the last (almost five years) you have watched me struggle through the transition from the discovery of HIIT to doing less exercise. I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that returning to pure biomechanics is the answer. And to boot, there is a resource already available for all of us to work from. Katy Bowman has written the “ever-elusive human manual”.

“Once you’re exposed to a very specific, mathematical approach to the functions of the body, everything begins to make sense — the pain. The injury. The cramping. The birthing outcome.”

                                                                                                          – Katy Bowman, MS

About three years ago, sometime in 2012 (approximately two years after starting this blog), I started to experiment with doing less exercise (which seemed a little odd since my blog was about health and fitness, but not completely disconnected, because I was trying to encourage physical movement, which is different than exercise AND I was having difficulty putting that into words). At the time I didn’t really have a name for what I was not doing anymore, except to refer to it as daily body maintenance. When people asked me what I did to keep in shape, I usually answered that I was experimenting with doing less; trying to see how I could maintain my health and wellbeing by doing less. But by less, I meant specifically doing less exercise, yet simultaneously, I was consciously increasing my active living component throughout the day.

“Exercise is not the flip side of the sedentary coin — movement is. While the difference may seem like an argument in semantics, these two habits are quite different.”

This was an odd transition for me, especially because I had been such a believer in exercise; mainly because it was all I knew – I had been a gymnast and sprinter, studied ballet, jazz, modern, flamenco, folk dance, was a cyclist, in-line-skater, body builder, yoga student. For a long time being a ‘competitive athlete’ was synonymous with my identity. After all, you are what you do.

Once I began teaching exercise as a job, I began to struggle with how exercise was offered to the public with respect to living a healthy lifestyle; I always felt that there was more to it, but didn’t know where to find it. Back in the early 1990’s, after becoming a certified Aerobic Instructor and Personal Trainer, I attempted to describe to a friend (thank you, Vanessa) what I was looking for in terms of body movement. She had recently learned about Pilates and suggested I look into it. Finally, when I did take some instruction, the Pilates philosophy hit home. Fortunately, the particular teacher I found had taken classical Pilates exercises to a deeper level, leaning on the restorative application angle. Yet, there was more to discover. I went back to university as a mature student to study Kinesiology, expecting to delve into the science and mechanics of movement, only to discover that The Kinesiology Department, was really the Physical Education department in disguise. They had changed their name based on enhancing job placement opportunities for future graduates. (Phys. Ed is the study of Sport Sciences meaning the study of exercise on the human body).

At present, after finding Katy Bowman, I now realize (because I am also gluten-free and think more clearly) that what I really wanted to study all those years ago was biomechanics. The good news? It’s never too late to start!

About three years ago, it occurred to me that in an effort to maintain a healthy functioning body into my nineties or one-hundred-and-twenties (because I plan on being here for a long time), I should practice now what I plan to be practicing in the future. Why would my activities be different in the future compared to the present if my goal is the same? We have enough years of research behind us to gauge that our modern approach to exercising our bodies is leading to early (or future) hip and knee replacements (or surgeries), it is not protecting us from the “affluent ailments” like osteoarthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis, from being prescribed medications, nor is it keeping us alive longer as if to protect us from death resulting from cardiovascular disease.

Which begs the statement:

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

“Alignment is not posture. Alignment is the position something needs to be in, in order to work correctly.” – Katy Bowman

For 2015, my goal is to study the introductory information put out by the Restorative Exercise Institute and then continue absorbing the rest of their on-line courses. I will share with you my progress but genuinely hope that you will consider investigating for yourself.

“People should know how to evaluate and repair themselves — and, better yet, know how to use their bodies in a way that prevents the affluent ailments.”

Exercise is not movement. Start by reading these three books.

  • Every Woman’s* Guide To Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet by Katy Bowman 
  • Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says by Katy Bowman
  • Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman

piano knabe

In fact, I’ve already given away a copy of Alignment Matters, to my piano tuner. He is a phenomenal musician who can play anything. But when he played a spectacular rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen…here take this book, besides the fact that I can’t believe you just played one of my favourite songs on my antique piano, but because you need to sit on your sit bones when you play the piano, and because I need you to play my piano forever!!! 

Oh! and I sent all three books to my Aunt Adrienne, in Ontario who was the person that first introduced me to Aerobics and Body Building (when I was sixteen). This month she turns sixty-nine years old and is a proponent of staying active. Post to follow, you won’t believe what she does. She will inspire.

If you have read this far then you deserve to enter your name in a draw to win a copy of Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman. I have two copies but take note that the one I’m giving away is gently used, but if you want it (cause you really should read it), leave your name, an email or twitter handle where I can contact you (if you win) and tell me why you should get this book. If you leave a comment below, I will automatically have access to your email so you don’t have to leave it in your comment for the world to see, if that is a concern for you:)

Open to Canadian and U.S. residents only. You’ve got until March 1st, 2015 to submit your entry. UPDATE: Congratulations to LoLo, she wins a copy of Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman, MS.

* “…although the title and cover are geared towards women, this book is written for any person who is seeking a primer on optimal alignment and looking to establish a foundation that restores health.” – KB


  1. I’d be interested to learn how the average person, with an average job can integrate 8 hours of proper movement into their day. I’ve always preferred more physical labour (which isn’t necessarily the cure either), but it seldom pays a living wage, so I do digital work. It is highly distracting to take frequent breaks from doing computer work in order to stretch or move. I may feel better physically, but I lose focus. Does she touch on that in her book?

    1. Great question. Not losing focus while taking periodic breaks is probably something that just has to be worked on. The Pomodoro technique is all about that. It’s a personal issue…to be more productive and suffer physical decay, or learn to become more productive in a different way?
      Thanks for entering the give-away…good luck, Nicole!

  2. I have heard this woman’s name about 3 times this past month and she is saying all the things I have said for years with all science and know-how to back it up. I would love to win a copy of her book and further delve into this study. Mahalo!

  3. Thank you Kathryn. The very first time you mentioned ‘alignment’ a while ago, I started thinking about it while moving, exercising, sitting, standing, etc. For many years I was doing mindless HIIT until lower-back pain and plantar fascitis hit me. Luckily I found a good physiotherapist and she explained how I should exercise with proper alignment. What a difference it made! Unfortunately exercising less is not an option for me. I try to move as much as possible during my day but is not enough – sitting 8 hours at work (i asked for a standing desk, fingers crossed!), then more sitting while commuting and there goes the entire day…!
    I will get the books you recommend and see what I can add/ change in my routine.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Mirela,

      Judging from your comment I think you will devour the information in the books and be able to construct a routine that will restore you body. You’re in the draw for the book–

      good luck:)

  4. This might be just what I’m looking for. I’ve been suffering with lower pack problems for the past two years and I’m willing to try anything to avoid surgery (it’s not to that point yet but I fear it’s only a matter of time). Glad I found your blog, look forward to learning more! Thanks!

    1. Hi Shaylah,

      Yes, I’m glad you found this information. While you are waiting on the results of the draw try the sample alignment snack on Katy’s blog. Here’s the link for the free sample What a great deal at only $5 per download, you get instruction that you can follow at your own pace whenever its convenient for you. Memorize the routines so that you can do them without the videos but be able to refer back to them to refine your understanding as you progress. Great stuff! 🙂

  5. Thank you Kathryn for the great information & sharing. I visited Katy’s site – it builds on training I have had & assimilated working w/ Pavel et al. Just starting to study her work – thank you for pointing me in Katy’s direction.

      1. Along with your thoughtful teaching, insight & philosophy you have great references (like Katy) for me to learn & improve on myself, in my journey that’s life…
        Thank you for the great post!
        My rhomboids are more relaxed & my spine is longer already!!

      2. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂
        I know what you mean, I’ve been incorporating the ‘alignment snacks’ as part of my study and am benefiting immensely, even in such a short time.

  6. I’ve been researching the rehab of my labral (hip) tear for months, as I’m not interested in the surgical options. Multiple times, from many different sources, this book is referenced. Already being a fan of being barefoot and sitting on the floor, I believe the philosophy will resonate with me. Being a former dancer and now (prior to tear) CrossFitter, I really appreciate the distinction between exercise and movement. Thank you.

    1. Sorry to hear about your hip. Isn’t it interesting how oftentimes the information we are searching for is right in front of us? i.e. the book keeps coming up! Until finally it becomes familiar enough that we recognize it as a gentle sign. Good luck, Christina…your name is entered in the draw.

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