Skip to Content

Book Summary: Built to Move – The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully

Built to Move (2023) is your ultimate guide to building a better, healthier, more functional body. The concept is simple – it provides a handful of simple tests to assess your movement, and a handful of easy-to-follow routines to improve it. Utilizing the latest insights of mobility, sleep, and nutrition science, you’ll learn to keep your body and mind as fit as possible with minimal effort – no matter if you’re a couch potato or a world class athlete.

Introduction: Move well, live better.

Do your knees hurt? Are you worried about your back every time you bend down? Is your whole body tired, achey, and sore?

No more! In this summary, we’ll show you how to build the body you deserve – free of pain, full of energy, and capable of handling whatever life throws its way.

Here’s how this summary works: there will be a simple test at the beginning of each section to assess how well your body works right now. Then, we’ll talk about some simple practices you can integrate to make your body work better.

This means you might want to consider reading [listening to] this summary at home, so you can follow the instructions. Keep in mind that some of the tests and exercises can cause discomfort, but they shouldn’t cause pain. Listen to your body and have fun!

Book Summary: Built to Move - The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully

The Sit-and-Rise Test: Finding Back to Natural Movement

Let’s begin by stating the obvious: We all move, all the time.

And let’s state another obvious fact: We’re all not moving enough. And we’re all not moving well enough.

Sitting at a desk for hours on end, guzzling caffeine, staring at screens all day – you don’t need to be an expert to recognize that modern life isn’t working out so well for our bodies. Too many of us are stiff, sore and in pain.

The good news? Taking care of your body is way less complicated than you think. We’re not talking about weightlifting, yoga, or pilates. Our keyword is “mobility”.

Mobility, a popular fitness industry term, can be broken down like this: being able to move in the ways nature designed us to move.

So without much ado, let’s do the first movement! It’s called the Sit-and-Rise test. Stand barefoot and cross one leg over the other. Lower yourself to the floor until you sit in a cross-legged position. Now, get back up the same way. Try to do this all without using your hands.

Start with a score of ten, and subtract a point every time you struggle or need an assist – for example if you lose your balance. If your score is between three and six, you have some work to do. If it’s between seven and nine, that’s pretty good. Ultimately, you want to shoot for a ten.

Why is this important? Well, the ability to get down and up off the floor is a key indicator of health and longevity. You may have noticed that little kids sit on the ground all the time.

But as adults, we sit on chairs – often many hours at a time. This is a problem. Chair-sitting can cause tight hips, tight hamstrings, and serious back and knee pain.

The remedy? Sit on the floor! There are tons of ways to do so – cross-legged, with your knees bent in a 90/90 position, with both or one leg stretched. Do what feels best for you, and switch it up often.

Your new goal is to sit on the floor for 30 minutes every day. Do this for a week, then redo the Sit-and-Rise test. You’ll notice the difference – promise!

The Breath-Hold Test: Breathing Big, Deep and Slow

Remember when your parents told you to not slouch on your chair?

Well, they were right. But not just for aesthetic reasons. Sitting upright also helps you breathe well. And since your muscles need oxygen to function, breathing well is directly related to how well you move.

So a good question to ask yourself when you’re standing, sitting, or doing any other kind of movement is this: can I breathe well in this position?

Breathing well means three things above all. It means breathing spaciously – being able to expand your belly, chest, and ribs on the inhale. It also means breathing through your nose – if possible, even during exercise. Mouth breathing is associated with all kinds of health problems such as sleep apnea, snoring, and bloating. Nose breathing, on the other hand, is associated with better lung capacity and increased endurance. Finally, you’ll want to breathe slowly. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the part of your body responsible for rest and relaxation.

So let’s do the test. This one is called the Breath-Hold or BOLT Test. Do this when you’re feeling relaxed. Sit or stand. Inhale normally through your nose. Exhale normally, then pinch your nose. Now look at the clock and hold your breath until you feel the first serious urge to breathe.

What this test measures is your so-called CO2 tolerance level. The longer you’re able to hold your breath comfortably, the more CO2 you can tolerate. The more CO2 you can tolerate, the better your body uses oxygen. And the better your body uses oxygen, the more energy you have.

Here, an ideal result would be 30 to 40 seconds. 20 is alright. If your score is below 10, you need to make breathwork your priority.

So, where does the work begin? With something as unconscious breathing, simply becoming aware of how you’re breathing can already be a game changer. Remember the parameters from before – big, slow, and through the nose.

On top of this, integrating a short breathing routine in your mornings can work wonders. Sit or lie on the floor, and take the kind of expansive, slow nose breaths we just talked about. You can even make a hum or a sound on the exhale. Do this for two minutes at a time, working up to three to five rounds. A nice side effect? This double-functions as a meditation practice.

The Couch Test: Extend Your Hips, Fix Your Life

Sitting so much isn’t just keeping us from moving around more – it’s also limiting our movement when we finally do get up off the chair. If you’re sitting, your torso and legs are forming a 90 degree angle. This means your hips are in flexion.

But they long to be in extension just as much. Hip extension is the exact opposite of hip flexion – think of kicking your leg back. Walking, throwing stuff, getting up and down the floor, and all the other things humans are built for require good hip extension.

But thanks to our sitting culture, most people today have limited hip extension. That’s why opening up your hips may be one of the most important practices discussed here

The test for hip extension is called the Couch Test. Unfortunately, you won’t be sitting on a couch for it – unless you fail the first variant of the test. To start with, you need just a little bit of clear wall and floor space, and a cushion to protect your knees. Glute engagement is key to good hip position, so you’ll want to squeeze your butt throughout these positions.

Get on all fours with your toes touching the wall. Place one knee on the cushion at the wall-floor intersection, shin resting on the wall, and your toes pointed down. Your other knee remains on the ground, and your hands are still on the floor. That’s Step 1.

Step 2 is to see if you can ​​raise the free knee and place the foot on the ground. Keep the other knee at the floor-wall intersection. Step 3 is to raise your torso fully upright. If you can hit this position without much discomfort, congrats – you have the kind of hip extension we all should aim for!

If you only get to Step 1 or 2, you have the amazing opportunity to unlock full hip mobility. If Step 1 is already too uncomfortable, you can try the whole thing on the couch. Place one knee on the couch seat, and the other foot on the floor.

The good thing is that the Couch Test is both assessment and remedy. If you want to work on your hip extension, the Couch Stretch is the perfect place to start. Hold the same positions, but for longer – work up to 3, even 5 minutes. Just remember to breathe deeply and squeeze your butt!

The Steps-Per-Day Inventory: Walk Away the Pain

Okay, I’m sure you’ve gotten it by now: Sitting isn’t great.

Sitting in a chair for multiple hours a day is so bad, in fact, that even that 60-minute Crossfit session you crank out every morning is not enough to offset it.

A 2010 study from the American Cancer Society showed that people who sit more than six hours a day are 18 to 37 percent more likely to die earlier than those who sit less than three hours a day.

The lesson is, don’t sit for too long. What’s long? To be safe, let’s say no more than 30 minutes at a time.

And now that we’ve deterred you from sitting, let us sell you on walking. More walking is associated with less obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, depression, anxiety, certain cancers – the list goes on. It strengthens your joints and bones, boosts your circulation, and even improves your sleep, mood and memory. Oh, and get this – walking 8000 steps a day burns twice as many calories than running three times a week.

So let’s do the test. This one could not be simpler – just use your phone or any other pedometer to count your steps for three days. Take the average of those three days, and see how you fare.

Researchers estimate that our hunter-gatherer ancestors got in between 12,000 and 17,000 steps a day. Chances are, you’re not walking that much. But an honorable goal for all of us would be to get 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

You want to aim for quantity and consistency here. But of course, some issues of quality apply too.

For instance, you might want to keep an eye on your foot position as you walk. Your ankles should be right above your heels, not jutting out to the left or right. You also want to maintain a nice arch between the ball and the heel of your foot – this design feature is what literally puts the spring in your step.

To improve your foot mechanics, you want to choose the flattest shoes possible. Or better yet: go barefoot whenever you can.

The rest should be a walk in the park – literally. Or perhaps it’s walking your kids to school? Walking while talking on the phone? Walking while practicing nose breathing? We’re sure you can figure it out. Just hit those steps!

The Food Count: Eat Your Veggies, Get Your Protein

Food is a complicated matter for many people. Here’s a trick that may work wonders in how you relate to it: think of food as fuel.

Your daily food intake affects your muscles, tendons, cartilage, bones, and virtually all other parts of your body that help you move. So to spell it out: eating well means moving well.

Eating well is not about one specific diet over another. You can be vegan, Paleo, Keto – it doesn’t matter. It’s all about two key components: protein and micronutrients. Micronutrients are essential vitamins and minerals that come from unprocessed fruits and vegetables. They help promote cell growth, immune function, nerve conduction, muscle contraction and hundreds of other important body processes.

But protein is huge too. It comes from animal sources such as meat, eggs, and dairy, as well as plant sources like grains, legumes, and nuts. Protein provides the amino acids that help our bodies build and maintain muscles, express DNA, make antibodies, and much more.

So, what’s the assessment? This one actually has two parts. The first part is called the 800-Gram Count. It’s simple – record how many grams of unprocessed fruit and vegetables you eat in a typical day. Fresh, cooked, canned, or frozen – it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s not fried or processed. The goal here – you guessed it – is to hit 800 grams of fruits and veggies a day.

Now for the second part. This one is a little more complicated, and is easiest with a nutrition tracker app like MyFitnessPal. It requires you to record all the protein sources you eat in a typical day and check how much protein you’re actually getting. The gold standard here is between 0.7 and 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. But if you’re an active athlete, aim even higher.

So, how do you hit those targets? Plan ahead. Make sure to have nutritious foods on hand whenever you need it. For example, pack a snack box with veggies for work. For protein, use this rule: include a fistful – whether fish, meat or beans – on every plate you eat.

Remember, from a health perspective, there’s no need to punish yourself with an overly restrictive diet.. Focus on nutritious food you love to eat, and the rest will fall into place.

The Hours Count: Sleeping Soundly

Another thing we should all know by now: Sleep is important.

And yet, there are still people out there proudly claiming they only need four hours a night. According to new research, there might actually be a “sleepless elite”of people who can do well on five hours of sleep a night. But they comprise less than one percent of the population. Chances are, you aren’t one of them.

The rest of us need seven to nine hours per night. Yet 35 percent of the US population doesn’t even hit the low end of that spectrum.

So, let’s look at why sleep is so important for our body. Firstly, your brain needs sleep, and your body needs your brain; without them, everything falls apart. One 2015 study from the University of California showed that people were four times more likely to catch a cold when they slept less than six hours a night. Less sleep is linked to lower life expectancy, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke. On the flipside, well-rested people perform better, react faster, and have lower rates of injury.

Here’s the test for this section: count how many hours you’re actually sleeping. Not how much time you spend in bed – how many hours you’re actually snoozing. If you’re getting less than seven hours, it’s time to take action. But not literally – you actually want to make sure you’re sleeping more.

It might also make sense to measure the quality of your sleep. There are plenty of fitness trackers that do so, but you can also just ask yourself a simple question – how rested do you feel after those seven to nine hours of sleep? If you’re regularly getting eight hours but are always tired, chances are you’re not sleeping well.

To sleep better and more, work on you “sleep hygiene.” This means making sleep a priority. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even on weekends. Next, make sure your body is tired enough to wind down. Move throughout the day, and avoid caffeine late in the day. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, cool, and dark. Turn off bright lights and technology a couple hours before bed.

All of these habits let your body clock know it’s time for a good night’s sleep. So rest well, and move better!


We discussed a few of the key habits that will help your body feel, move, and function better. The first one is practicing sitting – and getting up off – the floor. You want to avoid sitting on chairs for prolonged periods of time. Walking is a great way to get your daily dose of movement. To counteract all the sitting, you’ll want to open up your hips with mobilizations such as the Couch Stretch.

Other practices that are also essential for good body function are breathing, eating, and sleeping well. These things do not have to be complicated – and you’re not aiming for perfection. You’re just trying to give your body the care it deserves, with as little hassle as possible.

About the author

DR. KELLY STARRETT is the coauthor of the New York Times best sellers Becoming a Supple Leopard, Ready to Run, and the Wall Street Journal best seller Deskbound. He is also the cofounder of The Ready State, and the cofounder of San Francisco CrossFit. He consults with athletes and coaches from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, the US Olympic Team, elite Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard forces, and consults with corporations on employee health and wellbeing. He lives in California.

JULIET STARRETT, J.D. is an entrepreneaur, attorney, author, and podcaster. She is the cofounder and CEO of The Ready State, the former cofounder and CEO of San Francisco CrossFit. She is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal best seller Deskbound, and was a professional whitewater paddler, winning three world championships and five national titles. She lives in California.


Health, Nutrition, Personal Development, Nonfiction, Self Help, Fitness, Sports, Diet, Exercise, Stretching, Longevity, Happiness Self-Help


NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • Simple and proven physical practices designed to improve the way your body feels—less stiffness! fewer aches and pain!—and boost the overall quality of your life, no matter how you spend your time. From the innovators behind The Ready State and the movement bible Becoming a Supple Leopard.

After decades spent working with pro-athletes, Olympians, and Navy Seals, mobility pioneers Kelly and Juliet Starrett began thinking about the physical well-being of the rest of us. What makes a durable human? How do we continue to feel great and function well as we age? And how do we counteract the effects of technology-dependence, sedentary living, and other modern ways of life on our body’s natural need for activity?

The answers lie in an easy-to-use formula for basic mobility maintenance: 10 tests + 10 physical practices = 10 ways to make your body work better

The book offers:

  • Easy mobilization practices to increase range of motion and avoid injury
  • Intuitive ways to integrate more movement into your daily life and escape sedentary habits
  • No-fuss guidelines for improving nutrition and sleep
  • Basic breathing practices to manage stress and pain
  • Quick and simple assessments to gauge progress and what needs improvement

It’s full of foundational wisdom for everyone from beginners to professional athletes and everyone in between. Built to Move introduces readers to a set of simple principles and practices that are undemanding enough to work into any busy schedule, lead to greater ease of movement, better health, and a happier life doing whatever it is you love to do—and want to continue doing as long as you live. This book is your game plan for the long game.


“The definitive guide for building an all-around healthy and high-performing body and mind.” —Andrew Huberman, Professor of Neurobiology, Stanford University & Host of The Huberman Lab Podcast

“Whether you are a professional athlete, a serious weekend warrior, or, like most people, just trying to fit it in, Juliet and Kelly are there every step of the way. The Starretts have created an accessible path for helping us all live a more fulfilled and pain-free life. There is a time and a place for getting obsessed with how much weight one can lift or have fast someone is, but we all need the basics to build our foundations upon true principles spelled out in Built to Move.” —Gabrielle Reece, professional athlete and bestselling author of My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper

“Built to Move is the definitive guide for building an all-around healthy and high-performing body and mind. What makes Built to Move so valuable is not just the extensive real-world experience that went into formulating the protocols it describes, or the rigorous peer-reviewed scientific studies those protocols are based on, but its elegant simplicity. Built to Move makes exactly clear what we all need to do, and when, and how, so that anyone can reach their health goals, regardless of current fitness, income level, or life demands. [This] should be (self-) assigned reading for anyone looking to enhance their mental or physical health and performance.” —Andrew Huberman, Professor of Neuroscience, Stanford University & Host of The Huberman Lab Podcast

“Every time my body asks, ‘What did you do to me?’ I go to the Starretts for answers. They’ve opened my eyes to simple and astonishingly effective approaches to back pain, hamstring pulls, and sore Achilles tendons. Now they’re offering my personal dream come true — a way to get ahead of the injuries before they happen.” —Christopher McDougall, bestselling author of Born to Run

“Juliet and Kelly Starrett have given you a detailed, accessible road map to help you move through life feeling better, stronger, and more confident than you ever imagined, no matter where you’re starting from. There is no body this book will not revolutionize.” —Melissa Urban, cofounder of Whole30

“Built to Move is a must-read for anyone with a body—that is to say, you. The Starretts have written a sweeping yet easy-to-understand and practical guide for anyone who wants to live healthier in the 21st century, from professional athletes to those well beyond retirement age. The book’s strength lies in how it blends the authors’ decades of cutting-edge practice with breaking science to help us live longer and better. Critically, Built to Move inspires action. It changed how I live my life, and I’m better for it. It’ll do the same for you.” —Michael Easter, bestselling author of The Comfort Crisis

“Built to Move is a game-changer. Most fitness books stop at the proverbial gym door; the Starrett’s crash through that door and show that the most important work for better health happens outside the gym, and it’s available to literally everyone.” —David Epstein, bestselling author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

“The Starretts are the epitome of what a Spartan is. I LOVE that they are so focused on mobility. Maintain mobility and you’ll be able to do anything. Built to Move is an amazing book.” —Joe De Sena, Founder and CEO of Spartan

“Through practices that are engaging, introspective, and fun—yes fun!—Built To Move is the roadmap we have been waiting for that will revive what has always been your most valuable birthright: to move your body with confidence, pride, and play.” —Jen Widerstrom, Celebrity Trainer, CEO, Author, Speaker

“Built to Move is a long overdue compilation of essential practices we all need to feel vital and functional. This simple guide is the body’s operational manual that we were not given at birth. This is not a training resource; this is a life tool to be implemented now and used forever. You’ll find yourself having fun brushing your teeth on one leg, deep breathing while walking, and activating muscles while standing in line…You’ll start to feel alive and vital the moment you implement these tools into your daily life.” —Rebecca Rusch, 7-Time World Champion, Emmy Award Winner, Speaker, Entrepreneur

“Built to Move provides a daily living manual that can be implemented on a long-term basis. I’ve watched for years how Kelly and Juliet delivered their knowledge of movement, mobility, and injury reduction for the Army’s Rangers. Now you can use this [book] to maximize your athletic performance and significantly enhance your comfort for a healthy life. We are all built to move!” —Mike Ferriter, Lieutenant General (Retired), US Army Ranger, President & CEO National Veterans Memorial and Museum

“Kelly and Juliet have long been at the forefront of translating complex health and fitness concepts into practical, accessible tools that can help us move better. They are masters in this domain and Built to Move distills their vast knowledge into widely applicable daily habits and tools that won’t just help you move better but live better as a result.” —Kate Courtney, Mountain Bike World Champion, World Cup Overall Winner, Olympian

“The Greek philosopher Aristotle was quoted as saying, ‘Life is movement.’ If this is true, then we have been living less capable lives in recent years. Kelly and Juliet Starrett are not going gentle into that good night but raging against poor movement by providing a framework to live a more robust life. Through the implementation of their daily routine you can reclaim function and find your best self.” —John Welbourn, former NFL footballer and Power Athlete

“Built to Move should be the standard movement practice we all start living by and teaching future generations.” —Matt Vincent, Highland Games World Champion

“All of us, athletes and everyone else, need strategies for daily living. This book has amazing, life-changing insights on how to stay active and pain-free.” —Georges St. Pierre, 2 Division UFC Champion and Actor

“We take it for granted that our complex bodies will just keep on going forever in excellent condition, which is like buying a Ferrari and leaving it sitting out in the weather all year long, for years on end, and expecting it to just continue to work perfectly. This book needs to be the curriculum for any human who moves and desires to move well. Read it. Your body will thank you.” —Ben Greenfield, author, coach, and speaker

“Eschewing intensive workouts, the Starretts focus on boosting mobility through simple exercises….Helpful illustrations demonstrate how to perform the exercises and the low intensity of the workouts will appeal to those intimidated by more demanding regimens. Even couch potatoes will be motivated to get moving. —Publishers Weekly

Video and Podcast

Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview

Built to Move is our life jacket, handed to you, with instructions on how to prepare your body for whatever comes its way, be it aging, injury, or just the physical aches and pains that can come from living in this chairbound, technology-loving, caffeine-fueled world of ours. With this book as your guide, you’ll stop “throwing” your back out when you make the bed. You’ll no longer find yourself uncomfortably bent over when you get up from a chair after a long session at your desk. Your shoulders will relax. You’ll lose weight and become less susceptible to related diseases like diabetes. Your spine will become more stable, your energy renewed, your mind clear. If you’re an athlete or devoted exerciser, you’ll be faster, stronger, and less prone to wrecking a shoulder or hamstring. Knee aches will fade. What you’ll essentially be doing is building yourself one hell of a durable body. And you’ll be doing it in some very unexpected ways.

To see what we mean, take off your shoes. That’s right: shoes off. Now follow these instructions:

In an area free of debris, stand with one foot crossed in front of the other. Without holding on to anything (unless you feel very unsteady), bend your knees and lower yourself to the floor until you’re sitting in a cross-legged position. Now, from the same cross-legged position, lean forward with your hands outstretched in front of you for balance, and rise off the floor—if possible, without placing your hands or knees on the floor or using anything else for support.

You have now just taken what’s called the Sit-and-Rise Test. So, how’d you do? Don’t worry if you didn’t ace it. There’s no public service message on TV telling you that you need to practice getting up and down off the floor. Doctors never mention it. Fitness trainers have other fish to fry. But being able to sit and rise without support is a singular way to tell if you’ve got a body that’s dynamic and able to move in ways that will make you feel alive—and even help you stay alive longer. Same goes for hitting all the other usually overlooked benchmarks you’ll encounter in this book.

The reason we hit you with the Sit-and-Rise Test so soon (we’ll revisit it in full starting on page 30) is because we wanted to get you thinking about what being able to get up and down off the floor represents: mobility. “Mobility” is a kind of wonky term that refers to something quite beautiful: the harmonious convergence of all the elements that allow you to move freely and effortlessly through space and life. Everything is in sync—your joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves, brain, and the vasculature that runs through the body. The program in this book—and our life’s work—addresses this whole network of movement components. Harnessing its power will help you achieve agility, ease, and quickness of step while vanquishing restriction, rigidity, and pain.

And, contrary to what you might expect, achieving good mobility doesn’t call for exercise. No cardio. No strength training. Instead, it’s a series of simple activities that enhance your capacity for free and easy movement, and in doing so also improve all the systems in your body (digestive, circulatory, immune, lymphatic) that are impacted by putting yourself in motion. You use your body’s infrastructure, so you don’t lose your body’s infrastructure. Mobility also primes the body for exercise, if that’s what you want to do. But more important, it primes the body for life.

The premise of Built to Move is simple: 10 tests + 10 physical practices = 10 ways to make your body work better. It introduces elements of well-being that most people have never heard of before, weaving them into a plan that everyone can accomplish in one form or another. Like the Sit-and-Rise activity you just did, the tests are markers of what we call Vital Signs, indicators of how well you move, how much you move, or how well some of your other lifestyle activities support movement. You’re about to find out things like whether you can raise your arms overhead without restriction, if you can balance on one leg, how high (or low) your daily micronutrient intake is, and how many hours of sleep you’re getting per night. These aren’t things that are traditionally known as Vital Signs, but we’d argue that it’s just as important to gather information on these aspects of health as it is to chart your pulse, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. These Vital Signs provide clues to why you may have aches, pains, and fatigue; they foretell whether you’ll be able to recover well from illness or injury; and they serve as a harbinger of how active you’ll be as you age.

    Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

    Your Support Matters...

    We run an independent site that\'s committed to delivering valuable content, but it comes with its challenges. Many of our readers use ad blockers, causing our advertising revenue to decline. Unlike some websites, we haven\'t implemented paywalls to restrict access. Your support can make a significant difference. If you find this website useful and choose to support us, it would greatly secure our future. We appreciate your help. If you\'re currently using an ad blocker, please consider disabling it for our site. Thank you for your understanding and support.