Dr. Darin Stokke, DC
Today, even with the onslaught of advertisements claiming the next miracle pill to take away our ills, most of us realize that it’s not a magic medicine that’s important but instead how well we feed our body the essential nutrients it needs that keeps us healthy and strong. The abundance of diet books, health food stores, vitamin shops and the plethora of organic food choices we have is simple proof that awareness about being proactive in feeding our bodies properly is very high today. However, I’ve noticed one nutrient many people rarely consider when we talk about the essentials of the body… Movement!
Body-Movement or exercise is literally an “essential nutrient” for our body. To be truly healthy we must “feed” our body this essential nutrient, as well as the others, on a regular basis. Research shows that movement and muscle activity improves brain function, cellular activity, and hormonal balance not to mention glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and overall lifespan. The problem is society, as a whole, has grown increasingly more sedentary beginning in our schools as we see children required to have less outdoor time, recess time and physical education classes replaced with more classroom hours and more hours in front of a computer, tablet or smart phone. Our workforce of a generation or two ago consisting of manual labor jobs and manufacturing has been replaced with sedentary activities sitting in front of a computer and, with the ability to work remotely from home, even taking away the travel necessary to get to work. Today we, as a society, are literally starving our bodies of the essential nutrient of movement.
Interestingly enough, when we move less, certain muscles become underused and the brain begins to forget about them. The less we use them, the less our brain focuses on those muscles. In the book, “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?,” Dr. Kharizian calls this phenomenon “Neuro-Amnesia.” Neuro-Amnesia simply means if we don’t use it, we will lose it. The problem with this phenomenon is, as we age, these neuro-pathways are even more essential to maintain so that we can remain mobile and keep our balance. It’s also a problem for people who, after working in a sedentary job for years, come to the beautiful year-round warmth of Florida to retire and play golf, pickle ball or tennis five or more days a week. What ends up happening is that the body cannot move for those recreational movements in a functional way without the essential brain-muscle pathways and injuries, aches and pains are the ultimate result.
We know movement is an essential nutrient for our body to remain healthy and for longevity but we also know a majority of our population is currently movement deficient and likely to become injured if simply jumping right back into exercise. The key to getting back into movements and exercise is knowing where to start. The first muscles that become weak and the brain begins to forget about are the small intrinsic muscles used in balance and coordination. These small muscles fire differently and need to be trained differently than our larger muscles and are essential for proper joint support and coordination when doing any exercise or athletic activity. To determine how these muscles are firing we have found the best solution is to put all of our patients through a whole body, seven point, functional movement evaluation. For many of us, if we simply jump right into intensive exercise or an athletic activity, it will simply reinforce the imbalances that already exist from the dysfunctional muscle-brain connections. For instance, a person with weak hip extensors and overused hip-flexors from sitting too much will carry that muscle imbalance into the exercise reinforcing the imbalance and increasing the likelihood of an injury. By grading the movement patterns and determining where the imbalances in the movements are, we can first address the imbalances by reawakening the brain-muscle connections and then retrain the movement pattern. Once this foundation is laid, we can then move into more intensive movements and exercises and get back into the athletic and recreational activities we enjoy most without as much risk for injury.
Move well, move often and then you can live well and live long!