I’ve written numerous books and I’m often asked “Which should I read first?”
This question is difficult to answer because we’re all in a unique place physically, have individual foundations of knowledge, and have different reasons for reading. Movement is a very large topic and not everyone approaches it with the same intention; some people are drawn to one of my books because most contain helpful exercises for various physical issues and some are drawn to my books because they contain the idea that we don’t need to exercise at all. No matter which books you read and in what order, you will find they all contain guidance on how to move more.
The over-arching theme to all of my work is this: movement is a “part” of our body, much like electricity is a part of a working television. The physical issue you may be experiencing, whether it’s bunions, plantar fasciitis, your back going out, diastasis recti, pelvic floor prolapse, hernias, osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and perhaps even other issues like certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease, to give a couple examples, relates to (among other things, naturally) how you move.
Some of my work explains how this relationship functions, i.e., how movement works on a micro and macro level, as far as the physical forces are concerned. It describes the way forces move your individual cells and affect how they behave. And most of my work found here—describes how to change the aforementioned physical forces, and therefore change the physical outcome we experience, by moving differently.
ALREADY this blog post feels sort of technical, so let me say things another way and add some crappy diagrams for, you know...clarity.
My first book was Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, but later I updated and gender-neutraled it to Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet.
Simple Steps is not at all technical—I was actually gearing it to an un-sciency family member with foot pain as I wrote it. If I had to sum the book up in one sentence, it's this: your foot pain is likely related to the physiological state of your feet, which is, in turn, related to how your feet move (relative to themselves and to your body), which, in turn, is related to what you’ve put on your feet every day and how your body has been positioned on top of your feet. Or even more simply: your feet can feel better if you move differently.
Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement is where I first robustly pan out from exercise to show how exercise relates to movement. To use crappy diagram drawings, Move Your DNA is where I say, you know that thing “exercise” we’re always talking about, whether as exercisers, or movement teachers, or exercise scientists?
Yeah, it’s really like this:
Exercise is a teeny tiny fraction of movement, but this isn’t always (or ever?) stated. And so, our numerous discussions regarding “how exercise works” are challenged from the get go because we’ve begun them without a clear picture of the thing we’re trying to discuss.
In addition to showing (simply) how exercise relates to movement, MYDNA does two things: it expands your exercise bubble by offering other movements to do for exercise and it gives you some non-exercise movements to add to your life—both geared to help you to move more and move more of you. This book summed up: You are how you move, and I don't mean just exercise.
After that, I wrote Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning to Minimal Footwear and Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation, and I think of them as extensions of Move Your DNA.
While these are all stand-alone books (you don’t have to read Move Your DNA first or even at all for the exercises to work, i.e., change the forces you experience), they increase the breadth of the application of principles outlined in Move Your DNA.
Each of these books expands the exercise bubble to include more exercises (more movement) as well as introduces additional non-exercise ways of moving more (more movement).
I could have titled these and summed them up as: Move Your DNA: YOUR FEET and Move Your DNA: YOUR CORE. If you read Move Your DNA first and then these other books, it’s likely you’ll get even more out of a subsequent re-read of Move Your DNA because you’ll have seen the idea expanded and applied more broadly.
Movement Matters: Essays on Movement Science, Movement Ecology, and the Nature of Movement is where I deepen some of the detail behind the non-exercise portion of the above-pictured diagrams from Move Your DNA.
Movement Matters is from California, so it's "...like, you know all that movement-around-the-exercise bubble? Yeah, we’re going to talk about everything that fits into that space now.”
Movement Matters is about MOVEMENT, which can make it a challenging read in an exercise-centric world. Because we’ve been indoctrinated in exercise culture, we don’t have an ease of language (and thus perhaps the mental framework) to talk about movement thoroughly. This can make Movement Matters sort of jolting, similar to going off roading vs. driving your car on the freeway. Jolts make you pay attention to the road you're on, and I'll just stop the metaphor now. You get it.
Movement Matters also addresses the idea that despite the fact that each of us requires a tremendous amount of movement for our health and survival,
The daily operation of our life currently allots this much space for movement-in-the-form-of-exercise.
I argue that this is a two-fold problem because it means 1) we’re not moving the amount we require (i.e. this arrangement leaves us movement-malnourished) and 2) we've increased, unsustainably, the demand placed on other living things by not moving (i.e. it leaves others and the planet movement-malnourished).
Movement Matters offers my broadest perspective on human movement (keeping in mind that exercise is a very narrow view of human movement, which is why there are no exercises in this book). That all being said, Movement Matters offers plenty of exercises in movement—that is, it asks you to think about ways to accomplish the tasks in your everyday life with more movement and less movement-outsourcing.
With this approach, you don’t need to add more exercises to get more movement, which means that tips from this non-exercise book can help you get more movement than all my other exercise books combined.
Movement Matters summed up: our movement is part of both a personal and global ecosystem, and our lack of movement is taxing those ecosystems unduly.
My next book was Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole Body Mobility. Dynamic Aging is another stand-alone exercise book I wrote for those of you asking me, “I really want my parents to be doing these exercises, but they aren’t motivated by the same things I am; can you write that book?”
Yes I can, with the help of four of my friends—all septuagenarians who’ve been exercising and non-exercising using the content of all my other books—for almost ten years now. And P.S. Every single human on the planet who's alive is aging and can benefit from doing so dynamically, so you could also think of this as a book to approach any of the changes outlined in all of my books in a gentle way.
Here’s a snippet from Dynamic Aging:
We thought Dynamic Aging would be a short book, but by the time we added all the exercises and stories from my co-writers, and lifestyle tips, it ended up being a pretty hefty beginner's exercise guide as well as guide to non-exercise movement. As in, it tripled in page count. This book summed up: You're not having trouble moving because you're too old, you're having trouble because you, like most of us, haven't moved that much, and you've had sedentary behavior longer. Or maybe it would be: Move Your DNA: Yes, I'm Looking at You, Oma.
If Move Your DNA and Movement Matters had a baby, it would be my latest book Grow Wild. This is not an exercise book, but an “all the ways to move without exercise” book. It breaks down all the “containers” that children (all of us, really) we live in—culture, clothing, food, home, learning, and celebration—and how you can make changes to those containers to maximize the movement young bodies need to grow up to be healthy adult bodies. It also covers movement as a nutrient more than any other of my books. This is a full-color book stuffed with photos to inform and inspire, no matter where or how you live. It’s dense, like a field guide, perfect for parents, alloparents, pediatric therapists and pediatricians and educators. Essentially anyone creating space for and working with kids.
Grow Wild summed up: Children, like trees, are shaped by the movement they are exposed to, and once you learn to spot movement opportunities, you'll see they're pretty much everywhere for the taking. P.S. Most of these other books are necessary because so many of us grew up in households and cultures without a ton of movement. This one is also available as an audiobook if you want to take in this essential information, but don’t want to order a heavy book!
I also have a few other books (Alignment Matters, Don't Just Sit There and Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief that are out or going out of print to be replaced by better versions).
So which to read first?
For a movement teacher/professional/someone wanting to understand movement on both a deeper and wider level, read them in the order I wrote them. Because this is the order in which I dispensed the information, there is a natural flow from one to the next:
- Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief
- Move Your DNA
- Whole Body Barefoot
- Diastasis Recti
- Movement Matters
- Dynamic Aging
- Grow Wild
If you can only read one, read the one that will get you moving the most.
That is, if your achy foot, or weak torso, or 9-5 job is thwarting whole-body movement, start with a book geared toward the thing ailing you.
If it’s your feet and you can’t decide which foot book is most appropriate, we made this graphic to help you compare the books.
If it’s something in your trunk—the strength of your torso, perceived instability of your lower back, issues in your pelvis—that have your attention, read Diastasis Recti.
If you’re feeling pretty good, generally, or perhaps not great, but in a general way and feel like more movement might help, or have realized that you’re pretty sedentary when you’re not exercising and could benefit from a head-to-toe exercise makeover as well as from moving more outside of your exercise time, read Move Your DNA.
If you’ve got the feeling that you could benefit from a head-to-toe exercise makeover, but like to take things slowly or are feeling particularly unstable, read Dynamic Aging.
If you want to build movement into a child’s life and raise life-long movers—or if you want to get yourself moving more with lifestyle suggestions (as opposed to the exercises in the other books)—read Grow Wild.
If you’re not an exerciser, or particularly motivated by wellness or health as a category, but are into biology, ecology, permaculture, or environmentalism, Movement Matters is a good book to begin with as it makes our personal movement more than a “part” of a thriving physiology, it argues that our personal movement is a part of a thriving ecosystem. If this perspective will get you moving more, then read Movement Matters.
If you find this much reading to be daunting, I also have audiobooks for Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, Simple Steps, Movement Matters and Grow Wild.
These are the books that I’ve written; you can find excerpts of some of them here. I hope this helps you figure out which might be of best service to you!