Why it’s important to expand your movement comfort zone!

Clark (1995) theorizes that there is a positive correlation between one’s motor skillfulness and daily activity level. This is important because of the rising obesity- and inactivity-related diseases in our society and the decreases in activity among everyone from children to adults. Low self-efficacy toward movement abilities and diminishing movement comfort zones play a role in these decreasing activity levels, and I believe it is our job as coaches and trainers to increase clients’ self-efficacy and movement comfort zones.

Self-efficacy is a person’s perception of his or her ability to successfully complete a certain task, and individuals tend to avoid tasks where their self-efficacy is low (Jongen et al., 2016). Based on this, Clark’s theory correlating motor skillfulness and one’s activity level isn’t too much of a stretch. People who don’t believe they can do activities are less likely to do them, but why don’t people believe they can do activities?

I think one reason people have low self-efficacy toward movement is that with less and less movement over time, movement comfort zones get smaller and smaller. Many adults spend a majority of their lives moving from chair to chair, and other movements aren’t practiced so they become less comfortable. Getting down to the floor and back up, for example, is something that rarely happens for many. This movement becomes out of their comfort zone, avoided, and soon enough, they can’t get down to the floor (or up from it).  As the old adage goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” and this applies to movement skill as well.

Dan John is a well-known strength coach who strongly advocates that everyone get down to the floor and back up 25 times a day to increase comfort on the floor and movement ability and as prevention for falls or fall-related injuries. He mentions research that showed people who had difficulty getting down to the floor and back up were five times more likely to die in the next six years than the participants who did the task with ease (Barwick, 2012; Barreto de Brito et al., 2012). Using these patterns on a regular basis is the best way to increase one’s comfort with them.

I also observe limited movement comfort zones in many kids, especially those who don’t regularly participate in sports or other exercise-based activities. Their movement comfort zones aren’t challenged, they don’t expand, and through their lives, these kids avoid more and more activities because they lack the self-efficacy to participate. One thing I do with the kids I coach is push the boundaries of their movement comfort zones. We crawl, roll, and tumble, practice handstands, climb cargo nets, and traverse monkey bars. I integrate this idealogy with adult clients and in my own life as well. I think the best way to increase movement self-efficacy and comfort zones is through repetitive practice of activities out of one’s comfort zone. This expands one’s comfort zone and provides experience-based evidence about how skillfulness in many movements can be easily obtained with practice.

References

Barreto de Brito, L. B., Ricardo, D. R., Soares de Araujo, D. S. M., Ramos, P. S., Myers, J., Soares de Araujo, C. G. (2012). Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 0(00), 1-7.

Barwick, T. (2012). Can you do this? Simple sitting test predicts longevity. NBC News. Retrieved from: http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/13/15870881-can-you-do-this-simple-sitting-test-predicts-longevity

Clark, J. E. (1995). On becoming skillful: Patterns and constraints. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 66(3), 173-183.

Jongen, P. J., Heerings, M., Ruimschotel, R., Hussaarts, A., Duyverman, L., van der Zande, A., & … Visser, L. H. (2016). Intensive social cognitive treatment (can do treatment) with participation of support partners in persons with relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis: Observation of improved self-efficacy, quality of life, anxiety and depression 1 year later. BMC Research Notes, 91-8. doi:10.1186/s13104-016-2173-5

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