Movement vs Exercise: What Were We Designed To Do?

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Full transparency here. I am a Primal Play affiliate and if you are interested in learning more about the Primal Play 30 day Animal Moves Challenge, and you’d also like to show some support for, there are two links you can use.

  1. For the full program including a “Playbook” to track your progress, access to the private Animal Moves Program Facebook page and a bonus pdf: The Importance of Play, head to this link to receive 15% off the total price of the program (recommended version, as you get the full experience, comprehensive tracking and support)
  2. For the full program only (solo version), go here to receive 15% off the total price as well.

This helps me to keep the lights on here and allows me to continue to bring you guys great content. Your support is so incredibly appreciated. Please know that I only support and promote products I use myself or that I fully believe in and that are in line with what stands for. Thank you in advance. Stay tuned for a blog series with my experience doing the program myself.


In some of my earlier posts I’ve discussed what it means to move towards reconnecting to the true nature of being human, using a historical and ancestral lens, traditional wisdom, learning where we came from, what kind of environment we were designed to live and thrive in, what kinds of foods we were designed to eat, and so on. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend you check out those posts, 1, 2 and 3 as a basis for this one.

The term “exercise” has been used all throughout our modern western society for decades. We now live in a culture that is exercise crazy. We run for kilometres, use all sorts of machines and equipment, we do classes, we do laps, we can’t stop exercising! But, are we healthier for it?

From all that I have learned so far, I have decided that I am not fond of “exercise”, well at least what that word represents. The same way in which humans were designed to live in a particular kind of environment and equipped to eat certain types of foods, we were also designed to move in ways that suit the environment we evolved to live in.

I prefer to use the term “movement”, as “exercise” in all its forms as we know it today is for the most part, not really moving like a human was designed to naturally move. Many activities such as isolating muscles on machines, cycling for extremely long distances or running for long periods on a treadmill are so far removed from our movement design and gets us further and further away from our true nature. These kinds of things shape our movement patterns artificially, increase our risk of injury and musculo-skeletal deformation, and over time, can negatively effect the functioning of different organ systems in the body. Plus, it can make movement feel like a chore and quite frankly, make many of us bored! The latter can have physiological and mental repercussions in itself.

Movement = life. When we give our bodies the types of movement inputs that our genes were equipped for and expect of us, we avoid injury, we maintain health and we thrive. Historically, there was no concept for making time to “exercise” because we basically moved around for a lot of the day. But now that many of us sit down for majority of our lives, we have created the concept of “exercise” which, apparently will get us off the hook for being so still the rest of the time. But is this really conducive to being a healthy, happy, connected human of nature?

The following concepts are highlights from the work of some of my favourite movement geniuses I have followed over the years, and have experimented and incorporated some of their methods into my own movement practices. They have inspired my perspectives towards human movement and I believe their work to not only make so much sense, but to be absolutely vital for optimal human health….

On a cellular level, just like humans require certain nutrients from our food to function well and be healthy, we also require movement nutrients for health and for life. This includes the most basic of movements which many of us are deficient in; walking. There are many reasons that regular walking, especially in nature and out in the sun is incredibly important. Not only does it help with balancing stress hormones, lower blood glucose levels, elevate mood, it also helps to keep many of our body systems functioning well, and it brilliantly nourishes our cells with vitamin nature and vitamin sunshine – more nutrients! 

Our modern society has become a sedentary one. Many of us spend majority of the day sitting down. We sit down in our cars or public transport to and from work, many of us sit down at work all day, at many social activities, at home watching TV, at the computer or on our phones. We were not designed to be such sedentary creatures. Many people think that the one or two hours they spend at the gym or going for a run each day gets them off the hook for sitting most of the day. This has become of great concern, to the point where there is now even a class of people known as active sedentary people. This refers to athletes who may spend a few hours training for their sport or activity, but spend the rest of the time sitting down. 

As a result of sitting for too long, health detriments include our blood pressure and blood sugar levels being increased, there is restriction of blood and lymphatic flow and inhibition of proper functioning of many processes in the body, not to mention we increase the risk of many different health conditions such as heart disease, musculoskeletal issues, obesity and other metabolic conditions, etc. Katy Bowman even takes it a step further to say that the solution to sitting all day is not just standing up. It’s mainly the stillness that is a problem. Standing still all day comes with its own health issues. Moving throughout the day is the ideal aim for us to get our adequate movement nutrition (in a future post I will share some ideas on how we can move throughout the day, even if we are required to sit at a desk for work all day)

We were equipped physiologically and historically to lift heavy things (carrying or moving objects when hunting or gathering), or sprint for short bursts and then resting (making a quick escape from a predator). We can emulate many functional and practical movements of life in a modern setting today, such as functional weight lifting for strength and conditioning, high intensity sprint intervals and Primal movement practices and activities

The importance of “play” as a form of movement is perhaps one of the most overlooked concepts. Plenty of people find “exercising” or “working out” a nuisance or something that they have to do but don’t necessarily enjoy. But what if we also did activities that we actually really enjoy as part of our movement activities? As Mark Sisson describes, these activities could be bushwalking/hiking, stand up paddling, ultimate frisbee, etc. Just the enjoyment factor alone releases feel good hormones, endorphins, elevates mood; and that’s just the beginning.

We are inherently nature beings, and this is why it makes so much sense for us to move within our natural landscape. No wonder we feel so calm and connected outside in nature, in the sunshine, alongside the trees, plants, animals and insects. We were designed for practical and functional life movements such as walking, running, crawling, carrying, lifting, throwing, balancing, climbing, squatting, swimming and breathing. Moving naturally, the way we were designed, in our natural environment, is surely how we can thrive. Erwan LeCorre is living proof of this.

I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing several of Darryl’s Primal Play sessions, both in Sydney and in the US. As adults, we have forgotten about our playful side and how to have fun whilst moving. If we look at kids play together, they are creative, they have no fear, they have the time of their lives and they move constantly, practically and functionally. Practical movement for everyday life situations is how we humans can thrive throughout life. We can also look at the way animals move and emulate their whole body movements to be strong, fit, agile, adaptable and free. Experiencing Darryl’s methods actually blew my mind at first, as he opened up a whole new way of thinking about movement that makes so much sense and is ridiculously fun!


My preferred movement practices include bushwalking/hiking, walking in general, stand up paddle boarding, balance work on logs at the park, swimming, functional weight lifting, strength and conditioning movements, Primal Play movements. I have periods where I do all of these things, and I also have periods where I only do one or two of these things. For me, it’s important to have variety, as well as listen to what my body wants to do and when. I don’t know about you, but I want to (and will be!) moving functionally and practically for life, regardless of the usual limitations around age and ability that our society has ingrained in our belief systems throughout our lives (more in future posts about this).

The more we move the better off we are going to be. The  most important thing  is to find what makes sense to and works for you. Whether it be yoga, Crossfit, jogging or carrying rocks outside in the bush as your preference for movement, as long as you are having fun, love what you do, use a smart approach (eg. not overdoing it) and it’s not hurting you, then keep moving for your life!!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like my article, Lessons from the Animal Kingdom: What can we learn from looking at the way animals move?

Here are those links again for ease of access:

  1. For the full program including a “Playbook” to track your progress, access to the private Animal Moves Program Facebook page and a bonus pdf: The Importance of Play, head to this link to receive 15% off the total price of the program.
  2. For the full solo program only, go here to receive 15% off the total price as well.


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If you liked (or didn’t like) what you have just read, then feel free to send me some feedback as I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at


DISCLAIMER: All content I share here on my blog is written from my own personal inquiry, experiences, thoughts and opinions and is not intended to replace medical or lifestyle advice from a practising professional.

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3 thoughts on “Movement vs Exercise: What Were We Designed To Do?”

  1. I love the work Katy Bowman with her approach to movement. I also love what Darryl Edwards is doing, especially with Primal Play – lots of fun! Look forward to reading more Lucy…

    1. Hi Simone, thanks so much for your comment! Both Katy and Darryl have changed the game for what it means to a naturally moving human. I’m glad you love their work as much as I do 😉 I really appreciate you taking the time to read this post and sharing your thoughts. So thank you for that.

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