Move your body, everybody

Move your body, everybody

An American sports trainer has an original approach to getting students out of their chairs


Frank Forencich, founder of Exuberant Animal, during his demonstration of simple physical activity at Victoria Park.
Frank Forencich, founder of Exuberant Animal, during his demonstration of simple physical activity at Victoria Park.
Photo: Edward Wong
It's a common complaint: students don't get enough physical exercise. But a top American exercise guru believes in the worth of fun, light workouts. So get ready for "standing arm swings," "figure eights," "desk push-ups" and "desk stretches."

They are all in Frank Forencich's pocket-size book called Movement Snacks. It's a manual for getting people to reconnect to their bodies through simple daily exercises.

Forencich, a trainer in martial arts and sports, is a 55-year-old advocate of physical happiness. He is also the founder of Exuberant Animal, a health leadership organisation in Seattle, in the US.

Rather than promote a popular type of spiritual happiness, he urges people to experience the joys of feeling good in their skin. He was recently in Hong Kong to speak at the TEDxPearlRiverWomen event. He also held workshops for teachers and students.

Forencich thinks what schools are doing with sports today is going against one fundamental element of exercise: fun.

"We have year-round training for students in highly competitive sports," he said. "In the end, they get tired and bored. Many of them drop out and end up disliking sports. In the United States, some people have begun to look at the sustainability of sports training by putting back the element of play in order to make it fun."

A sense of play is vital, he said, to get people, especially younger generations, moving,

"Play means doing something for its own sake instead of achieving an end result," he said. "It involves freedom, novelty, surprises. It also helps us to build rapport with others socially."

He thinks many teachers are following a wrong approach: they are too concerned with trying to get their students to "do it right".

"When there is no fun for students, interest [in the activity] will not last," the expert said.

And staying motivated is key to success, he added. His simple yet fun exercises are designed to help people give their bodies a much-needed workout in a relaxed manner - at home or in the office.

"People find it difficult to [start exercising] because they think they need to go to the gym and follow a set of exercise routines," he said. "But some movements can be done in five minutes throughout the day."

Forencich thinks the modern world with its many creature comforts has made people lose sight of their physicality.

"We are disconnected with how our body feels by not doing anything other than move our fingers [on keyboards]," he said. "What we get in return is an epidemic of lifestyle diseases and [mental problems]."

Forencich studied human biology and neuroscience. He thinks the importance of physical fitness is a highly underrated aspect of our well-being. Many people see bodies as just "what carries our head," he noted.

"Physical movement is essential for us to feel good about ourselves," he said. "The body and the brain develop together. Research has found that vigorous movement helps us to be more focused and engaged. That leads to happiness."

Recent scientific findings have confirmed such views, he added.

"When we move, our body releases oxytocin, a hormone known to help us bond and affiliate with others," he said. "What few people know is that the hormone also decreases fear and increases trust in people. Think about what that means to our personal relationships and our community."

"Body movement is the most ancient and primal activity we have," he said. "I would ask students to think about what they want to do with their body when they get old, then work towards the goal and put their priority back on health,"

As for him, he knows the answer: "I still want to climb mountains when I'm 80."

Visit to learn more about his work


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