Katy Bowman doesn’t believe in plopping down on a couch — or anywhere. “Most people drive to the gym to exercise,” says Katy, a biomechanist and the author of Don’t Just Sit There, a work-life wellness guide. “I prefer to put movement into my life all day.”
So what does a life of constant motion look like? For starters, husband Michael cut the legs off the kitchen table, so the family sits cross-legged on the floor or on wood stumps to eat. The dishes are in low cabinets, forcing the couple to squat to grab a plate. And everyone sleeps in one room — on futon pads, because the pads are closer to the ground than mattresses, forcing their bodies to “cross-train” as they climb in and out daily.
Why live like this? It started when Katy was a personal trainer in college. “Many of my clients had knee, back, and hip pain, and I wondered why. So when I went to grad school to become a biomechanist, I started researching why people had these problems and how they could be prevented rather than corrected. That’s when I realized that you can’t offset a diet of candy bars with kale salad, and you can’t counter being sedentary all day with exercise.”
Physical alignment is also extremely important to Katy. Case in point: Their foyer floor is covered in river rocks — because, she says, “good alignment starts with your feet, which need texture to move their many joints.” All four family members go barefoot as much as possible, even outdoors, and when they do wear shoes, their footwear is minimal.
For the same reason, Katy builds extra activity into her life outside the home, too. She walks to the supermarket and totes groceries in a basket (no cart), and as an “in-arms parent,” she didn’t put her kids in a stroller or even a carrier. Says Katy, “I’m stronger today than I ever was as a so-called ‘exerciser.'”
In their backyard, a ladder is attached to a tree with stretchy straps to make it harder to climb across. There’s also a balance beam, rope swing, and slack line. “When I want to chat with Michael about something or have a family meeting, we’ll do it while moving out here,” says Katy. And instead of browsing Facebook when she has downtime, she’ll swing from the monkey bars.
But she does make some concessions to comfort — mostly for their guests’ sake. “After being furniture-free for a few years, we’ve figured out the components that make our setup not so isolating. We put in a wooden bench and window seats because sitting on the ground is just so foreign for most people,” says Katy. There’s also a (low) coffee table so guests have a place to set down the drink in their hand.
Two to three times a week, Katy and her neighbors take turns cooking for each other, getting together to eat their communal meal. That way, all the kids entertain each other, and Katy and her husband don’t have to hire a sitter. “It’s a philosophy I have called ‘stacking your life.’ I’ve found that by overlapping my obligations — spending time with family, cooking dinner, and seeing my friends, for example — I’m much more relaxed and positive,” she explains. “Sitting still and doing only one thing at a time just doesn’t work for me!”