Five books you should read about human movement

People have understood the importance of human movement for centuries – it’s great for our mind, our body and our social relationships.

Yet we live in a sedentary world, which wastes human lives and human potential more.

Here are five fabulous books, from older to newer, full of wonderful reasons to move.

Please make suggestions for additions to this list in the comments section below.

Jump in. Read on.

The Mastery of Movement

Rudolf Laban

Laban’s The Mastery of Movement on the Stage, first published in 1950, quickly came to be accepted as the standard work on his conception of human move­ment.

When he died, Laban was in the process of preparing a new edition of the book, and so for some time after his death it was out of print. That a second edition appeared was solely due to the efforts of Lisa Ullmann, who, better than any other person, was aware of the changes that Laban had intended to make.

The rather broader treatment of the subject made advis­able the change of title, for it was recognised that the book would appeal to all who seek to understand movement as a force in life.

In this fourth edition Lisa Ullmann has taken the opportunity to make margin annotations to indicate the subject matter referred to in a particular section of the text, so that specified topics may be easily found.

Kinetograms have been added to most of the examples in Chapters 2 and 3, as Laban originally intended, for the growing number of people who read and write movement notation. Lisa Ullmann has also compiled an Appendix on the the structure of effort, drawing largely on material from an unpublished book by Laban.

The relationship between the inner motivation of movement and the outer functioning of the body is explored. Acting and dancing are shown as activities deeply concerned with man’s urge to establish values and meanings.

The student is introduced to basic principles underlying movement expres­sion and experience and the numerous exercises are intended to challenge his or her intellectual, emotional and physical responses.

The many descrip­tions of movement scenes and mine-dances are designed to stimulate penetra­tion into man’s inner life from where movement and action originate.

Psychology of Physical Activity

Stuart Biddle, Nanette Mutrie & Trish Gorley

The positive benefits of physical activity for physical and mental health are now widely acknowledged, yet levels of physical inactivity continue to be a major concern throughout the world. Understanding the psychology of physical activity has therefore become an important issue for scientists, health professionals and policy-makers alike as they address the challenge of behaviour change. Psychology of Physical Activity provides comprehensive and in-depth coverage of the fundamentals of exercise psychology, from mental health, to theories of motivation and adherence, and to the design of successful interventions for increasing participation.

Now publishing in a fully revised, updated and expanded fourth edition, Psychology of Physical Activity is still the only textbook to offer a full survey of the evidence base for theory and practice in exercise psychology, and the only textbook that explains how to interpret the quality of the research evidence. As the field continues to grow rapidly, the new edition expands the behavioural science content of numerous important topics, including physical activity and cognitive functioning, automatic and affective frameworks for understanding physical activity involvement, new interventions designed to increase physical activity (including use of new technologies), and sedentary behaviour.

A full companion website offers useful features to help students and lecturers get the most out of the book during their course, including multiple-choice revision questions, PowerPoint slides and a test bank of additional learning activities.

Psychology of Physical Activity is the most authoritative, engaging and up-to-date book on exercise psychology currently available. It is essential reading for all students working in behavioural medicine, as well as the exercise and health sciences.

Physical Intelligence

Clare Dale & Patricia Peyton

The highly successful four-part strategy for raising your performance at work and home so that you can thrive in a busy, challenging world, from the experts who have worked with Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies across the globe. 

Do you wish you could be more focused and productive? Would you like to ensure your most confident performance when the stakes are high and your stress levels are even higher?

The way your body reacts in any given situation determines your ability to think clearly and your capacity for managing your emotions. When you understand the way your body reacts and how to manage it, your physical intelligence, you can handle that stressful family situation, the make-or-break meeting and the important business presentation. 

Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton have spent the past thirty years helping business people achieve outstanding success and a deeper sense of fulfilment by applying techniques used by top performers in sport and the arts. This practical guide contains the effective techniques you need to develop your strength, flexibility, resilience and endurance, leaving you feeling confident and fully equipped to deal with whatever comes your way. 

Each step-by-step strategy can be easily integrated into a busy day and is combined with useful tips and inspiring stories of people who have turned their lives around through physical intelligence. 

“This book is an essential counterblast to a better, more integrated way of working and living.” Edward Kemp, Director, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)
 
“Scientific research paired with practical experience and easy life hacks makes Physical Intelligence an inspiring read that will literally change the way you walk through life.” Dr Stefanie Teichmann, Director, Google EMEA
 
“This book is totally brilliant.” Wayne McGregor CBE, resident choreographer, Royal Ballet

The Miracle Pill

Peter Walker

What is the ‘miracle pill’, the simple lifestyle change with such enormous health benefits that, if it was turned into a drug, would be the most valuable drug in the world? The answer is movement and the good news is that it’s free, easy and available to everyone.

Four in ten British adults, and 80% of children, are so sedentary they don’t meet even the minimum recommended levels for movement. What’s going on? 

The answer is simple: activity became exercise. What for centuries was universal and everyday has become the fetishised pursuit of a minority, whether the superhuman feats of elite athletes, or a chore slotted into busy schedules. Yes, most people know physical activity is good for us.  And yet 1.5 billion people around the world are so inactive they are at greater risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes, cancer, arthritis and depression, even dementia. Sedentary living now kills more people than obesity, despite receiving much less attention, and is causing a pandemic of chronic ill health many experts predict could soon bankrupt the NHS.  

How did we get here? Daily, constant exertion was an integral part of humanity for millennia, but in just a few decades movement was virtually designed out of people’s lives through transformed workplaces, the dominance of the car, and a built environment which encourages people to be static.

In a world now also infiltrated by ubiquitous screens, app-summoned taxis and shopping delivered to your door, it can be shocking to realise exactly how sedentary many of us are. A recent study found almost half of middle-aged English people don’t walk continuously for ten minutes or more in an average month. At current trends, scientists forecast, the average US adult will expend little more energy in an average week than someone who spent all their time in bed. 

This book is a chronicle of this very modern and largely unexplored catastrophe, and the story of the people trying to turn it around. Through interviews with experts in various fields – doctors, scientists, architects and politicians – Peter Walker explores how to bring more movement into the modern world and, most importantly, into your life. Forget the gym, introducing quick and easy lifestyle changes can slow down the ageing process and even reverse many illnesses and increase mental wellbeing.

MOVE!

Caroline Williams

Did you know that walking can improve your cognitive skills? That strengthening your muscular core reduces anxiety? That light stretching can combat a whole host of mental and bodily ailments, from stress to inflammation? We all know that exercise changes the way you think and feel. But scientists are just starting to discover exactly how it works.

In Move!, Caroline Williams explores the emerging science of how movement opens up a hotline to our minds. Interviewing researchers and practitioners around the world, she reveals how you can work your body to improve your mind. As lockdown throws us back on our own mental and physical resources, there is no better time to take control of how you think and feel.

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Book descriptions from Amazon or author websites

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