I have been reading Katy Bowman’s latest book, Move Your DNA and am in love with her writing style, wit, and downright simple exercises that you can do to improve the health of your body on a daily basis. If you are interested in understanding more about your body and how it moves, she explains biomechanics in the most digestible way ever (far better than at the university!). In the book, she also explains the science behind our biological need for movement and has a whole chapter dedicated to movement and exercise (PS, they’re not the same thing).
How you do one thing is how you do everything. Gravity is constantly acting on your cells, muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons regardless of what position you are in. Osteoporosis, while many believe to be hereditary, has a lot to do with how you load (put force) your bones throughout your life. Bone strength and calcification is similar to saving for retirement. You must start early so that the compounding leaves you with enough to comfortably live on in your older age. Women who suffer from osteoporosis tend to have weakness and breaks in the neck of the femur. How could a bone that bears the weight of your body be so weak?
Your bones adapt and grow based on the loads you place on them, known as Wolff’s Law. Just as a callus grows on your skin where extra friction happens, your bones will begin to “grow” more bone where they are being loaded. This happens at places where it should (like the neck of the femur if your alignment is on point) and places where it is not ideal, like the side of the joint of the big toe, also known as a bunion. A bunion grows because the joint has been loaded off axis for many years, not because grandma had one and you were destined to. Think about it, if the wheels on your car were slightly turned out, the wear on the tires would be uneven and require more frequent replacement of the tires. Fortunately (and unfortunately), our body parts are not as disposable as tires, so those with bunions are left with painful feet and stiff joints, unless they are willing to endure surgery, which will leave them with stiff feet, painful joints, and scar tissue. The best thing you can do for your bunions and feet is to have your feet aligned in parallel, just like the wheels of your car. This will help prevent the formation or growth of any bunion.
All of the cells in your body respond to the loads put upon them by gravity in relation to your position, in a process called mechanotransduction (read all about it in Move Your DNA). Wolff’s Law and bone growth are just one example of this process. So the big question is – are you loading your body in every way that you can on a regular basis? Are your daily movements and positions ones that you wouldn’t mind having immortalized in a sculpture of your body? If we walked around with the posture we’d like our life-sized statue to have, I imagine it would be more upright and aligned than your current sitting posture. The slouchy shapes we hold for each day have an affect on your tissues. The muscles and fascias that are squished on the front of your body shorten to accommodate the shortening of their length, while the tissues on the back of your body are overstretched and tighten up to protect themselves.
I am always boggled how we can live with pain and weird joint noises for decades without skipping a beat, but the minute our car makes an odd noise, it’s in the shop for repairs. Why does the car get more TLC then your own body?
The moral of the story is that every little bit counts. Every movement and every moment has an affect on your entire body. Are you moving enough? And is that movement in a biomechanically efficient way? Move Your DNA. Now!*
*The first movement of your DNA can be to walk to a bookstore and buy Katy’s book. It truly is that good ;)