Good question! I realise that as we refer to 'natural movement' more in what we share it would probably be best to clearly define it.
Natural movement can be defined as the movement we do in everyday life without modern intervention or equipment. Many people confuse natural movement as "primal movement" or "functional movement" but sometimes those schools of thought can be a bit derivative, as there is nothing natural about a 150kg back squat. However, the squat pattern in itself is a natural movement.
We have to look to anthropological concepts and evidence of evolutionary changes to understand what is 'natural' for humans. It should be said that pretty much everything we do in our modern lives is unnatural for our bodies. Most of the activities we do are not natural and the conditions we live in are not natural either - we live in temperature-controlled dwellings, filled with comfortable furniture, surrounded by technology, and our lives are shaped around convenience.
How Long Does It Take To Evolve?
All of this has been introduced in a relatively short period of time, from an evolutionary standpoint. The data shows that it takes about one million years for a lasting evolutionary change to persist. While humans have been around for six million years, modern humans have only been around for 200,000 years, and modern civilization is only 6000 years old. The incredible changes that have happened even within our own lifetimes to change our behaviour - less movement, more sitting, artificial lights, everything right in front of our eyes - has wreaked havoc on our health because it's not what our bodies were designed for and none of it was present when we experienced evolutionary changes. During those millions of years the vast amount of stressors that we experienced to influence change are completely unlike what we experience now. Being exposed to the elements and living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle would have required us to walk, climb, squat, kneel, carry things, have small tissue adaptations to temperature change, and be alert to search with our eyes for both predators and prey. Our tissues move so very little in the modern world and most people aren't even aware that natural movement is the key to keeping all of their trillion cells alive and healthy.
You're Not As Active As You Think
Now this does not mean that in order to live healthy lives we need to go back to the wild, but incorporating more natural movement in our lives can be incredibly helpful and go a long way. This is where you have to distinguish how much natural movement you are actually getting in your day to day life. It's a common assumption that if you hit the gym for 60 minutes, five times a week, you're being active, but that only accounts for about 4 percent of your time, which means that you actually fall into the category of "actively sedentary" (visit this link for further explanation on the topic and a cool narrated animation).
Furthermore, if your exercise time includes things like running on a treadmill, lifting heavy barbells, cycling, running, then even your movement time is being spent doing unnatural movement. Now that's not to say you have to give up your joy - if you love weightlifting, continue doing it! But understand that you will still need to find ways to incorporate natural movements into your life.
Side note: Please don't use vigorous exercise as some sort of atonement for either your lack of movement or what you ate. You aren't "undoing" either of those things, and if anything you are creating more unnecessary stress for your body. Start to view movement (and food) as something that your body needs, and exists on a continuum - you can have high output days and low output days but what you do over the week matters more than day to day.
Something I Think Everyone Should Consider...
There is a large volume of scientific research showing that physical loads have direct effects on the ailments and injuries we develop. Many of the processes in the body, including genetic expression, can be regulated mechanically, which means that the movement of your cells directly affects the health of your cells. This could mean that we can prevent certain diseases from developing in our bodies simply by moving more!
There is still much research to be done in this area but moving forward with the current knowledge, we should look beyond the physical repercussions of being immobile and also consider how our lack of movement could be affecting our overall health.
Blend Natural Movement Into Every Part of Your Day
Visit this link to see a day in the life of the wonderful Katy Bowman, who has done incredible work in bringing natural movement to the forefront. Taking a glimpse into her life is super inspiring and can give you some ideas on how to make some changes in your days.
For me, I try to start my day with some daily natural movement. If you've been to one of our movement and mobility classes then you'll have gone through some daily sequences with us. They are based on simple movements to get your joints moving in your entire body and is a great way to set the tone for the day. I am mindful of how much time I spend wearing shoes, the type of footwear I choose, and even how my clothing affects my tissue. I am lucky to have a very active job, but I try to make sure that even when I am working at my computer (like typing out this blog) I change up my position, look out the window to change my eye focus, and get up for frequent movement breaks. I have given up sleeping with a pillow, and I highly recommend progressing to this if you have ever experienced neck, back or shoulder pain. I'll point you to Katy's blog about how your pillow is an orthotic for more info on that or you can message me if you want to find out about my experience with it. I used to be a double-pillow sleeper so believe me, it can be done!
Hopefully this helps shed some light on what we mean when we say you need to move more! We don't necessarily mean exercise, although that is included in the continuum of movement, but moving your whole body in more natural ways to support the way your body was designed to move!
If you want to delve further into this topic and learn more I highly recommend Katy Bowman's book, Move Your DNA (no she doesn't pay me to say this... I just think she's incredibly knowledgeable and has taught me so much). If you get the audiobook she tells you how much walking it will take to get through each chapter :)