Built to Move

August 5, 2011 in Fitness, General, Health, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

This time of the year, the wildlife in my area begin to really step up their preparations for winter. I think that it is most evident with the squirrels. August is the month they start harvesting the pine cones from the trees. If you haven't ever experienced it, pine cone harvest is interesting. A primary feature of the harvest is the squirrels chewing through the branchlet holding the pine cone and letting the pine cone fall to the ground. Some of the pine cones are quite large; they are like bombs falling from the sky on roofs, decks and roads -- sometimes seemingly well aimed at any person in the area. Yikes! You really have to be ready to duck.

For the most part, you don't see the increase in activity with people. In our modern society we have disconnected from the seasonal cycles in satisfying our need for shelter and food -- the primary needs that in past generations occupied most of people's time and kept them moving. We have our homes with electricity and natural gas delivered and grocery stores full of food year around; there isn't a whole lot of preparation especially compared to hundreds of years ago. This is an important fact as it relates to the health of our bodies.

More and more in health-related articles, I see references to the fact that the human body was made to move. Movement keeps our bodies working correctly; movement helps in circulating our blood, pushing food through our digestive system, keeping our joints lubricated and strengthening our muscles, just to name a few things. The human body has not adapted to our current lifestyle of immobility in which we drive cars instead of walk, blow leaves instead of rake them, blow snow instead of shovel it, the list goes on. Our bodies don't do well sitting at desk all day using a telephone and computer only to go home to sitting in front of a TV.

In his book, "The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion: Revolutionary Program That Lets You Rediscover the Body's Power to Rejuvenate It", Dr. Pete Egoscue does a great job of explaining how our body is one system, dependent on movement to keep all of the parts working properly. According to Egoscue when we sit for long periods, the muscles in our legs become weaker while the hip flexors that hold our upper bodies up become stronger. This results in the tendency for the hip flexors to take over the work of moving our legs when we walk and causes dysfunction in our ankle, knee and hip joints. The dysfunction typically results in the cartilage in these joints becoming worn, making movement painful and something that we want to avoid even more.

In my post Getting More From Less, I mentioned Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk comment about senior academics viewing their body is a way of getting their brains to meetings. Unfortunately for sedentary people, the brain is part of the system that requires movement to work properly. Two new studies out add to the evidence that physical activity helps to keep the brain functioning properly. Results from the Women's Antioxidant Cardiovascular Study, in which 2,809 women with coronary risk factors were evaluated, show that the equivalent of a daily 30-minute walk was associated with lower risk of cognitive impairment; as activity levels increased, the rate of cognitive decline decreased. The second new study compared activity energy expenditure and incidence of cognitive decline. The findings from this study indicate that greater activity energy expenditure was correlated with more protection against cognitive impairment. A report in the Archives of Neurology states physical activity appears to be one of the more promising preventive strategies against cognitive impairment in the elderly population. This is great news.

The challenge is how to get people moving. As Egoscue points out in his book, people are pleasure seeking. We have get our bodies functioning properly so that walking and other forms of activity are no longer painful. It is somewhat similar to Dr. Grandma's philosophy - Good Heath Can Be Yummy. In both cases, the positive and pleasure seeking aspects must be apparent before people will be willing to move forward on either.

The first step is shedding yourself of preconceived notions. Even though you may be born with taste buds that are more sensitive to sour, it doesn't mean that you cannot acquire a taste for certain sour and tangy tasting foods. When I first tried plain yogurt, I didn't care for it at all. But I have come to like it. Perhaps you have bad exercise experiences from gym class, aerobics classes or some other activity. I hope that the evidence of exercise's benefits to your health will help you get beyond those unpleasant memories. Suspend your disbelief that exercise and movement can feel good. Start slowly and if you are in discomfort, perhaps The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion can help you. Regarding your diet, Dr. Grandma has lots of healthy recipes to help you find your way to eat healthier. In a lot of ways we are as dependent on our movement as the squirrels gathering pine cones - it just isn't that evident to us on a daily basis.