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A Fitness Friend or Foe? Gravity's Effect on Posture & Injury

A Fundamental Force


Our perception of the world has been shaped by invisible forces. These forces control the shape and structure of the universe, galaxies, solar systems, planets, and every living and non-living thing in-between. Before we dig any deeper into a physics lesson let’s focus entirely on one of these forces, gravity. It has a phenomenal effect on Earth, and more importantly, every human being roaming the planet.


From the moment of conception gravity plays a pivotal role in providing nutrients and structure to the tiny cellular mass that you call… you. It helps bring you into this world and teaches very valuable lessons when learning how to navigate through rolling, crawling, standing, and walking. In the early years of life gravity helps build strong bones and develops muscle tone throughout our body. However, there is an anatomical and physiological limit to how massive we can become. Once these limits are reached we stop growing but gravity never stops controlling our physical lives. In fact, it will remain with us forever!


As a newborn, infant, toddler, and child curiosity drives exploration. We move and move, exploring as much of the world as we can get our hands (or mouth) on. I’m learning this first hand with a newborn. Movement keeps balance, or equilibrium, between the body and gravity. If given the opportunity, watch a toddler move around. They have impeccable squat form, among many other near perfect body positions. Every single person, at some point in life, was able to move this way (short of any developmental disorders). But why, as an adult, do we struggle with the most basic of movement? If you think the answer is, “that’s just what happens when you get older,” you are not alone! There is a point in life where curiosity and exploration are forgotten and we stop performing all the amazing movements that once helped keep us mobile. This is the pivotal point in life where gravity transitions from being a friend to foe.


You Cannot Run & You Cannot Hide


Growing up you may have been scolded for slouching and told to, “SIT UP STRAIGHT!” If only that voice carried over into adult life. Holding proper posture is exhausting, both physically and mentally. It requires constant effort and training and must be coordinated with other daily tasks. Research has already proven that humans are terrible multi-taskers. As soon as mental thought drifts to something else, posture and breathing suffer at the expense of our physical body.


Poor posture and awareness is not something that develops overnight. It happens at an incredibly slow rate overtime. So slow, in fact, that we have minimal to no way of perceiving change. Gravity can literally manipulate muscle tension and joint alignment creating dramatic changes to two concepts, force-coupling relationships and arthrokinematics. Changes in these concepts create minor inefficiencies in our muscles and joints. As a result muscles and joints become weaker. However, accumulation of these inefficiencies can manifest into a more significant problem, injury.


There is no way of predicting when something will give. It has either happened to you or someone you know.


“I bent over to pick up a pen.”


“I just reached up to grab a bowl out of the cupboard.”

“I was just... sitting there…”


Hurting yourself by simply living life can cause physical, mental, and emotional trauma! Something you’ve done thousands of times over without incident now has you incapacitated and in excruciating pain. Forget working out, the main concern for most is making sure that never happens again! At the end of the day, however, the biggest question on everyone's mind is, “WHY?”


Rekindling an Old Flame


Rise up and overcome! Take back your place in this world! Use gravity to your advantage again! By changing a few poor habits we can dramatically decrease risk of injury or chronic pain. The only issue is that these changes can take months, and in extreme cases years, to see results. Some may view this as an impossibly daunting task while others see it as a glimmer of hope. It all depends on perspective. The best answer I have for you is to start today… start now. Seek out resources to help regain control of your body, correct posture, and create a strong, healthy lifestyle. Similar to other programs, the first step is admitting that a problem exists and help is needed.


Thankfully we live in a technologically advanced world where gizmos and gadgets can compensate for an inability to remember or multi-task. Smart watches can be programmed to remind you to breathe, drink water, and sit-up straight. Tiny vibrating devices exist that can be worn like a reverse necklace. This small object rests on your back and vibrates periodically throughout the day. It is a subtle reminder to sit-up, engage muscles, and breathe. Please, take some time to research and explore different technologies to assist. This is a dramatic lifestyle change so take all the help you can get. Once the proper tools are in place for you to succeed finding a consistent dedicated amount of time each week is critical to success. Ninety-nine percent of us have the time to dedicate towards moving our bodies but excuses always get in the way. The best counter to the bold claim of “not having enough time” is a personal favorite. Just ask the following questions:

What percentage of your day is one hour? Half hour?


If I asked you to dedicate 4 hours per week I would be asking for 2% of your week. That is about as small of a commitment one can make towards living a healthy, pain free life well into the later years of life. Not to mention the financial savings from surgeries, therapy, and potentially permanent assistance. Now is the time to make a choice to create permanent change in your life. It will take a dedicated effort by always striving to be better than before. Creating measurable goals along the way will help maintain focus and direction keeping you on track. Working out and staying in shape is one of the most difficult things to do in this world. But that should be motivation enough for you to be one of the few who can consistently and effectively achieve it.

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