- Brian Tully, MS, EP-C
Fountain of Youth. Exercise Well to Live Well.
(As seen in Leland Magazine)
We are all going to age; there is simply no getting around that, but how “old” we get is somewhat up to us. It has often been heard that exercise is the fountain of youth. However the type of exercise and the execution of those exercises will play an important role in its effectiveness.
The joints of the body require a fine balance between mobility and stability. Certain joints are more specific to a role of stability and others are more in the mobility end of the spectrum. Our training and our daily activities should strive to keep the different joints in their preferred end of the spectrum.
When we cheat the joints into the wrong end of the spectrum, we break down our body. Sure the body is resilient enough to roll with it and adapt to fulfill the flawed movement request, but over time we pay the price.
For example, the hips are considered to be one of the joints in the mobility end of the spectrum. This means that the joints above and below are meant to be more on the stability side of things. Those joints would be the low back and the knees. Surprise…Two of the more common pain and injury sites we are forced to endure.
Many of you will rule these injury sites as part of the aging process. The “it’s just happening because I am getting older” diagnosis doesn’t have to be true. Using your joints in the correct manner will give you years of reliable, pain free movement. But this is dependant on the fact that you are using them correctly and consistently.
Let me get back to the resiliency factor I mentioned earlier. Yes you can operate with tight hips and rotate from your lumbar spine without any issues for years. But then one day you bend over to pick up a pen you dropped…and it happens…pain and tightness in the low back that stops you in your tracks. What happened? Was that pen really that heavy that it threw your back out? Not likely you are experiencing the cumulative effect of using the joints incorrectly for too long.
To help you visualize what I am talking about, think about taking a wire hanger and trying to bend and break it. Doesn’t happen does it? It just bends. But what if you then bent it back the other way, then back again, and continued back and forth until all of a sudden it snaps like a thin, dry piece of wood. Was it that one bend at the end that finally snapped it or was the cumulative back and forth motion. I think you see my point.
Continuing with the hips example, lack of disassociation of the spine and the hips is one the main causes of low back issues. An unstable lumbar spine will lead to degenerative disc disease, sacroiliac (SI) joint problems, sciatica, degenerative facet joint, etc. Years of an unstable lumbar spine creates the repetitive stress cycles that ultimately break it down until you are left with these problems.
This doesn’t have to be your path though. Getting your hips mobile by improving range of motion in all planes and balancing that range of motion will allow the hips to do their job. And once they can do their job you can work on disassociating them from the lumbar spine. Then the lumbar region can focus on its job of stabilizing the core.
Although we mostly discussed the hips here, the major joints of the body all have a similar impact when not used correctly. The body staggers back and forth from stable to mobile from the ground up to create the stability and mobility the body needs to move with both control and power. See the chart included here to view the overall big picture of which joints are designed for which role.
As mentioned earlier, when a joint is functioning more in the wrong side of the spectrum…the joints above and below take the impact.
The ultimate goal is to train smart to be strong for the long term. This is important in both your exercise and your daily life activities. When you use your body well, you can move well for life. This will give you the feeling of utilizing the fountain of youth to your favor for the life you deserve.
If you have additional questions regarding this month's article or have a topic you would like to see covered in future articles, please reach out to me via email.