Episode 25: Headlines that Move
Description: Body News Review
The news lately has been filled with exciting body nerd news: After 56 years perched in high heels, Barbie can now wear flats. That’s big news, right? And two days later, NPR featured a story on lost postures and a theory as to why indigenous people don’t suffer from back pain like First-world folks. Headlines ARE grabby, but it’s always wise to dig a little deeper. Tackling a deeper understanding of how our bodies really work is an important step, and this episode features a hearty discussion of headlines that deserve deeper exploration.
DANI: It’s the Katy Says podcast, where movement geek, Dani Hemmat – that’s me – joins biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA, for discussions on body mechanics, movement nutrition, natural movement, and how movement can be the solution to modern ailments we all experience.
KATY: Are you ready?
KATY: To do a show about the news? Today’s show –
KATY: -- is going to be about all of the kind of body health/alignment stuff that’s been in the news lately. It’s crazy! It’s like –
DANI: It’s crazy.
KATY: You’re sending me stuff every day. You’re like, can you believe – what did you say, it’s like the dawning of a new –
DANI: I felt like we’re on the cusp of a revolution.
KATY: The cusp. Yeah, yeah.
DANI: The cusp of a revolution. Every day there’s like 2 or 3 things, it seems like, over the last few weeks. Like, there was a – I think it started out a few weeks ago with the headline of “Barbie Gets to Wear Flats,”
DANI: “For the First Time in 56 Years,” – I was like, that’s huge, man. That’s a huge shift in thinking.
KATY: That poor woman.
DANI: Oh, man.
KATY: Her heels have never even touched the ground.
KATY: 56, and her heels have never touched the ground.
DANI: Right. Think of how – how weird her muscles must be. Like, how – she’s got a lot of work to do!
KATY: If she had muscles it would be really bad.
DANI: If she had muscles.
KATY: Yeah, you know, plastic – it might be where it’s at. You don’t even have to worry about muscles, and adaptation. Now, if only she would get knees.
DANI: She doesn’t have knees?
KATY: She’s got those weird joints.
DANI: Oh, yeah, yeah.
KATY: Did you play with Barbies?
DANI: I only had two and I just gotta confess, I did not like them. They were hand-me-downs. I think one was new. But I immediately always attacked their hair and chopped it off because it just seemed like it would get in the way for them. So I had a lot of little dolls with cropped ‘dos and sometimes I’d, like, let my brother light their feet on fire. It was just weird. No, I didn’t play with Barbies. And it’s a good thing.
KATY: Well, she had interesting knees. She had knees that kind of did this – they would bend a little bit but it was like cracking your knuckles. So I would, like, pop her knees in the same way that someone would obsessively crack their knuckles.
DANI: Where they were kind of articulated? Or…
KATY: They were kind of articulating. I would love to – now what I would probably do is cut it open, to see how they got it to move a little bit. And you know what, Barbie has changed a lot over the 56 years that she has been around. So I know that there are different – like, now Barbie has ankles and articulating an actual hinge at the ankle so that the foot articulates.
DANI: Oh, really?
KATY: Yeah, but I wonder if there were also Barbies with knees, but what does Barbie? I mean, I think Barbie is about what she’s wearing. And it reminds me – my sister used to have a Barbie video game. We got a Commodore 64.
DANI: Oh, man.
KATY: A Commodore 64
DANI: Right on the cutting edge! Oh, my gosh.
KATY: It was huge! It was huge. But the games – I got Goonies, and my sister got Barbie. Barbie video game was – the phone would ring. “Hey, Barbie, it’s Ken. Would you like to go to [fill in the blank?]” Would you like to go play tennis? Would you like to go swimming pool? Would you like to go to dinner? And I think there might have been a fourth option, but those were the options. And the game was to go get your hair done, to pick out your outfit, and to pick out your shoes. So you had a shoe store and a salon, and you would get ready. And then you would have to make it home before the hour was up, which went by really fast, because if you had to play for an actual hour that would be tedious. But you’d go in and she would have, like, different styles, different colored hair, different bikinis. I don’t even think there was a one-piece. You had to pick a bikini. And then to get back and he would cancel on you. “Something just came up! Would you like to go to this? I’ll see you in an hour!” And that was the video game. I don’t know if she’s actually –
DANI: So it was a game that required a lot of skill, I see.
KATY: It was. Well, it was a functional game.
DANI: Functional. And built some flexibility muscles there, some skill muscles. Oh, my gosh! It got canceled! Well.
KATY: She didn’t have knees, but she could really recover from a canceled date. So yeah, anyway. So Barbie got ankles and I wrote a blog post about it, which might have been the most popular blog post ever, because I took those teeny tiny pictures of Whole Body Barefoot – of the cover of the book in Barbie’s hands, and that was a lot of fun.
DANI: Those were awesome. That was a great blog post. Yeah, just a note on those joints – my brother had G.I. Joes, and they actually had better joints. They had full-on ball and socket joints, kind of. I don’t know if you ever got to see one of those, but he kind of had a better deal.
KATY: Well, what about the He-Man dolls, where TwoFace, where you could actually just swap your whole face?
DANI: Yeah. Oh, man. We could just – we could do a whole show on our toys of the ‘70s and ‘80s. But let’s move forward.
KATY: All right.
DANI: All this new stuff. What else happened the last couple weeks?
KATY: Well, the other big one – big article, big news piece – was Esther Gokhale, who is a Bay Area, kind of alignment specialist. She has really been doing this work about looking at different populations of people and how they move, and looking at their rates of back pain, and she has a whole program for correcting your body posture, and therefore feeling better, I guess, in your body. And she has a great book – I think it’s like Eight Steps to a Pain Free Back.
KATY: Anyway, she’s been around for a really long time and has gained lots of traction, but they did an NPR piece on her and the way that the article was written up, seemed more to be more about the idea of a J-shaped spine. So if you want to go search the article, you’ll probably find it by searching J-shaped spine. And, um, that went kind of wild, that was a big –
DANI: A lot of people were talking about that in a lot of different professions.
KATY: Yeah, yeah.
DANI: That was huge.
KATY: Yeah, it was good. That was a cool piece, and I, of course, threw my $.02 in to the article, because I think that a lot of people were – you know, when you wake up in the morning, you’ve been asleep, I went for my walk and I come to work at like 8:00 in the morning is when I open my computer. And then when you see, like, 70 emails with, “I thought you should see this article,” you’re like, okay! This is what I will be – this will take up the bulk of my day. Because if 70 people actually sent it, that means there’s probably 7,000 people who thought they should send it. The exchange is usually like a percent of people who actually act on an idea. So that’s what I did, I just put out a little commentary about it – when did you see it? Did you see it before or after I posted it?
DANI: Before. And I actually, I listen to NPR One, which is an NPR app that you can actually pick the stories you want and then it kind of gives you stuff about what you’ve been listening to, you know, kind of like Pandora. It’s like, oh, you are interested in health, so you get these – yeah. And I had read her stuff before as well, but it – this was a lot of exposure for that discussion.
KATY: Yeah, and I think the article, you know, you’re looking for kind of a hook to the article. It seemed to be less about Esther’s work and more about this idea that an S-shaped spine, right? So an S-shaped spine to just give a brief anatomical picture, would be a slight curve at the cervical spine, so that cervical spine is the top of your spine, close to your head. And then another curve over the thoracic spine between your shoulder blades, and then one more curve going in the opposite direction, right? So these curves are opposing, right? You have a curve in one way, a curve in the other way, and then a slight curve in the other way down at your lower back. So the understanding in anatomy, in general, is that the spine itself sits as an S because that orientation of vertebrae loads the discs when you are upright in a particular way that is best for the back. So it’s kind of this alignment, mechanical idea. Of course, the spine doesn’t have a particular shape because it’s made up of a bunch of smaller pieces, so your spine has many shapes throughout the day, right? Every time you go move around. Like, if you cut your spine out of your back, it does not sit in an S shape nor does if you cut the spine out of the back of the people who are in –
DANI: That’s actually a really good visual, to think about that – the shape, thank you, yeah. No, that’s great. It’s weird, but it’s good.
KATY: Well, it’s the same thing with the arch in the foot, right? Like, people think that there’s – that there’s a structure –
DANI: A structure –
KATY: -- in your foot that is shaped like an arch that has broken down. And that’s not – that’s not how it works. The shape of something is the sum total of the behavior of the things. Like, you’re an active, dynamic creature, and so your shape is a moment-to-moment thing. So there is no J-shaped spine or S-shaped spine as a structure. Although, when you look at anatomy books or articles like this, what you’re looking at is drawings. You’re looking at just drawings of people who are trying to create a model of the spine, and they’re like, look, see, this has an S-shape, and then look at this spine, here is a J-shape. So I think that those people were asking my input from the, ‘is it true, that we have a J-shaped spine?’ And it’s like, well, no, there is no spinal shape. What they’re talking about would be what I assume is the most amount of time – how the bones are positioned relative to each other, so that’s one thing. And – you want me to just read my commentary?
DANI: I – I –
KATY: Or do you have it? Can you read it?
DANI: I do have it. You want me to read it? Okay.
KATY: I think it’d be better if you read it. Because then it’s just a little tedious if it’s my voice and my words.
DANI: Oh, there’s nothing tedious about your voice. Okay. But – what you said was good, and it was a good way to look at it. It’s really easy always to boil these things down with headlines, and so I like, in the way that you do, you make us think deeper than what’s just on the surface. So I’m sure you made me smarter. Here’s what you said about the J-shaped spine: “Being observed here are bodies, not spines. What’s being seen as a J-shaped spine is more of a J-shaped backside with butt muscles included. There are no measures of spines here, but an observation of whole body mass distribution. Do I think improved core and glute mass will decrease back pain? In most cases, I do. Do I think there are positions that; when you move through them, assist the development of that mass? I do. Do I think that taking your current spine and forcing it into a J-shape is the equivalent of moving it in a way that has resulted in a J-shape backside mass distribution? No, I do not. Still, postural adjustment is a step toward using your body differently when you move, which will result in different mass distribution.” And this is stuff you’ve been talking about for years through Alignment Matters and Move Your DNA. “I think the takeaway here is: don’t assume the outcome of a behavior (the shape of the body) is more valuable than the behavior that facilitated it.” Because people would read that – like, you’d read that, and you’d think, oh, I have to hold my spine in this J-shape to prevent, you know, to get rid of my back pain or to prevent my back pain. And that’s not what she’s – go ahead.
KATY: No. Well, I was just going to say, before we go onto the body stuff, is that the thing that I appreciated most that you just read is that you corrected all of my grammatical errors.
DANI: I can’t help it!
KATY: I know! It is so much better!
DANI: I listen to a podcast called Grammar Girl on a regular basis, I mean, how geeked out is that?
KATY: You know, I was reading along as you were reading it and I was like, oh, she just corrected that error. Oh! She just corrected that error. It’s like second nature to you.
DANI: You’re such a good sport. You’re such a good sport.
KATY: I love it! I’m going to just have you speak on my behalf from now on. It’ll be Katy Says, featuring Dani Hemmat, only. I’ll just write my answers and you can read them correctly.
DANI: Oh, my goodness.
KATY: But yes, okay, so that was – that was the thing, was that – and I think that the article – maybe the headline or the broad gist of the article didn’t acknowledge what I just talked about here, but the contents of the article, I think, did if you read it a few times you’ll see that what we were talking about was covered.
KATY: First of all, there was no actual measuring of spines. What they’re looking at are people who move in a particular way, who anecdotally have reports of low incidences of back pain, and you’re going, oh! Well, look at the shape of their spine – it’s like a J, not like an S. So the first thing that the article said was that most Americans have an S-shaped spine, and I was like, okay, that – I would disagree with that. I haven’t worked with most Americans, but I’ve worked with a very large population of people who have back pain, and one of the things with back pain research as a whole is that when there are problems with these curves, whether there’s not enough curve – then that’s when ailments tend to arise, because of the way that people are moving. Not because of the curve itself, but because of how you move with the curve, the way that the loads to different parts of your body ensue, that there’s a repetitious kind of break down. There are positions in which you are stronger, and positions in which you are weaker, where they’ve pulled out hunks of spine, you know, everything’s reduced – they’ve pulled out hunks of spine, compressed it and twist it and see the loads, because it’s just a machine.
KATY: And they’re like, we’re going to add, you know, 10 Newtons of force, and we’re going to squish it and twist it, and then we’re going to add the same amount of force but we’re going to flex a little bit and then smash it and then twist it. And then they can see at what angles the same 10 Newtons does the most damage, and then those become the parameters for then, well, keep your back in this particular curve or whatever as you’re bending or twisting, because this will do the least damage theoretically. Of course, the issue being you’re never just smashing and twisting a spine: you have a particular amount of muscle that’s resisting all of that. So, like, that’s the issue, I think, with –
KATY: With ergonomics, or – or looking for positions that are better or worse for you is usually that there’s some sort of reduced tissue. I mean, it’s as close as you’re going to get, right? It’s the way that it has to be done, but you don’t necessarily want to take it as, you know, gospel, or assign words to it, like “the truth” because it is a reduced model. So anyway, when I look at the pictures of – or at, you know, depths of research and people who have a particular lifestyle, and their anthropometric dimensions, which is a fancy word for the lengths and girth of their different shape, whether you’re measuring their bones or in this case you’re just looking at a body. You’re looking at a body and you go, see? There’s not really an “S” here; it’s straight down and swoops off the back –
KATY: And it’s like, well, okay, the “J” is created by how much butt mass you have. That is not a spinal curve. Your – you know, if you’re looking at someone whose got a nice set of glutes –
DANI: Like me.
DANI: Just kidding.
KATY: When I look at Dani and I’m like, “Look at that J-shaped spine!” The song would just not be as good. I like J-spines!
[Sir Mix-A-Lot plays in background]
KATY: Man, we’re stuck in, like, the 90s. This was the retro show is what this is!
DANI: I think they all are, actually.
KATY: You know.
DANI: Just to be honest.
KATY: We’re living in the past!
DANI: I know. Didn’t you bring up Walkmans a while back?
KATY: Well, maybe – maybe when you focus a lot on the mass behind you, you just look back metaphorically, physically, all of it.
DANI: Oh, my gosh. That is beautiful.
KATY: Thank you.
DANI: That is the best thing I have heard all day.
KATY: As is your J-shaped spine.
DANI: Thank you.
KATY: But anyway, so when you’re looking at – you can’t compare – well, you can, but there’s difficulties that arise when you’re going to compare an S-shaped theoretical spine outside of a body and a J-shaped one. I would wager that if you were to actually take clinical measurements comparing spinal curvature that there’s not a vast difference in spinal curvature as much as there is a difference in mass distribution, meaning that the people who have less back pain – the people who they’re looking at who have this so-called J-shaped spine just have such a nice, well-balanced distribution of mass around their core and backside that creates a particular look “to the spine.” That’s one of my bigger issues – you know, you’ve taken my courses – about – that measure – that we’ve gotten really lax about measures.
KATY: So spinal curve is one of those weird things. You can do, you know, a “clinical measurement” of someone’s spinal curvature, but all you’re really doing is just setting a line upon someone’s back. Like, if I have, um – I have the flexi-curve. Flexi-curves are in research is what is the easiest way to take a spinal measure in a community-screening kind of way. You know, you’re not looking at a side view of an x-ray.
DANI: So is it something you place along –
KATY: It is – well, here’s a funny story. When I was doing my graduate research, I was looking at ways to reduce symptoms of pelvic floor disorder was my thesis project, through different corrective exercises. So I took measures of spines before and after because spinal curvature, there’s a particular spinal curvature that is itself a particular risk factor. So I wanted to see, can we change, you know, spinal curvature? So I was reading all the literature. When you’re doing a research project, even the method that you use – like I’m going to use this flexi-curve measure – hast to be tested – is hopefully tested by someone else. Like, you can’t use a method that hasn’t been established to have a particular validity.
DANI: Okay, that makes sense.
KATY: Yes, right? And if it doesn’t, then the research you could do would be just testing the reliability of a measure. That itself is a piece of research that is assembled into other research moving forward. So I had found – because I needed a way, an inexpensive way, to measure the spines of 50 people, you know, so people were like, why don’t you use things like, you know, things that have a higher value or accuracy? It’s like, because those things are expensive, and we can’t pay $700 for everyone to get 2 x-rays and then an x-ray lying down doesn’t really show you very much about upper – anyway. So I found this, I had picked out my tool as a flex-curve, but I could not find one. So it’s like, I’m searching the Internet for flexi-curves, it’s like, where is the flexi-curve, it’s some tool, I’m emailing the researchers who did it, like, where did you get this flexi-curve. And no one’s emailing me back, and it’s time for my study to start – only to find out, talking to a client at the time, and the guy’s like, I think that they just mean it’s a flexible ruler.
DANI: Oh, my gosh!
KATY: It’s a ruler – that he’s like, “You can go get it at Home Depot, I think they’re like $10.” I was like, here I am thinking that it’s some sort of, like, technical thing because, you know, because of jargon –
KATY: They have to write all of these research articles so jargon-heavy that you can’t even recognize – or they don’t even add a picture – that what they’re describing is simply a flexible ruler from Office Depot for $10.
DANI: Well, flexi-curve sounds so much more authoritative than flexible ruler.
KATY: It does. It does. It’s a flexible – it’s I almost added a curse word right there – it’s a flex – it’s an effing ruler! Meaning flexible! It’s a flexible ruler! And, uh, yeah, and it’s awesome.
DANI: Did you find – you found out in time, right?
KATY: I did.
DANI: Oh, excellent.
KATY: And I went and bought one that day. I actually bought 3. I always have one on hand because it’s the easiest way to show how I could trace a curve on your spine or on my spine – you just lay it along someone’s back – and then, um –
DANI: It’s kind of articulated like Barbie’s knees, actually.
KATY: It’s not – it’s got a long – it’s better than Barbie’s knees.
DANI: But it’s like one long knee, like – because I have one, too. When I went out and got my flexi-curve –
KATY: When you saw my flexi-curve?
DANI: Yes, I was like, I need one. Where will I find one of those?
KATY: Um, from the – it’s like, I remember when I was in an undergrad we had to measure body fat –
DANI: It’s from a giant lab.
KATY: We had to measure body fat in undergrad, and there was like, this tool, you know, it’s just a caliper, and I was like, they should call it a – it’s called Fat-O-Meter was the name of it. I was like, no, this is a (pronounces Fat-o-meter as) fatometer.
DANI: I was going to say!
KATY: Yes, the fatometer. Fat-O-Meter was the name of the –
KATY: -- was the brand name. So I just started calling it a fatometer much to everyone’s delight. Get the fatometer and the flexi-rule and call it your tool bag. Anyway, an article, a research article that I’m actually working on now is to show how – this is a podcast that would do really well with a video companion and some brief lessons on area. But anyway, a long story short, it’s very easy for you to, by standing, change your spinal curvature to look like an S, or to look like a J, but it’s not the spinal curvature that’s really of importance when it comes to loads. Or I should say, it’s not only. The curve – the S-curve, when we’re considering an S-curve, what makes the S-curve of a value is that the vertebrae sit in a particular way in this S-curve. The S-curve, you notice, we use S-curve and J-curve because it’s impossible to actually put numerical values on a curve because everyone has a different set of anthropometric dimensions. So you can’t say that a spine should have this certain amount of degrees because the taller you are, or the smaller you are, those degrees would – like, your spine is not a single set of angles that just gets bigger and bigger and bigger as you get bigger. The curves are offsetting what’s happening in your whole entire body. So your spinal curvature as an adult is not the same spinal curvature that you have as a younger person because your segment weights are different.
KATY: So there’s a relative neutral for everyone, but not an absolute neutral for everyone numerically. So that’s why we use things like S-shaped spine. What we really mean is that there is a neutral to your spine in which all of the vertebrae themselves are in a neutral position. But I can make an S – I can get the flexi-curve on my back to get an S or a J or whatever by changing the position of my vertebrae relative to each other and could achieve a J-measure or an S-measure, but not have a neutral, healthy spine in either case. I really wanted to – to bring home this deer spine. I found a whole, entire deer skeleton when I was hiking a couple weeks ago.
DANI: Totally intact?
KATY: Intact. Laying in the woods.
KATY: I had hiked off the trail and down by a river, and there, on a bed of moss, next to the river, was a whole, entire spine and rib cage of a deer that was – that had sat on its side –
KATY: None of the bones had even like – for a moment I panicked that it was a human spine, because it wasn’t – there was no head, there was no legs, and it was – I was like, it’s decomposing! It was perfectly decomposed leaving just the bones – it was gorgeous. But it’s really hard, um, to teach – you know, I’m talking right now, I’m trying to talk about relative vertebral positions but what I would have liked to do after I brought this skeleton home would be to show you how I can get an S-shaped curve but how that S-shaped curve would not imply that the vertebrae were doing any particular thing. That it’s very easy to get a range of S-shaped curves and, I imagine, a range of J-shaped curves that would allow the vertebrae to be doing something different. Meaning that you can have vertebrae that are twisted, or thrusted, or flexed, but then you could do different combinations of vertebrae position and get this shape that you want. And so that in itself is of interest to me. The measures of spinal curvature. That was a really long sidebar, I mean, are we still even talking about what’s in the news?
DANI: Absolutely. Did you – so you didn’t bring it home.
KATY: I didn’t, and I – I regret it. But it was just one of those things where I didn’t know – I should have packed it out. I’m kicking myself right now. Dangit.
DANI: Well, can you go back?
KATY: I could, but would it still be there?
DANI: Well, I imagine. And I have one other question – since there was no legs nor head, how did you know that it was a deer? I’m impressed.
KATY: It took me – well, you know what? I – I’ve seen – it took me –
DANI: I mean, I’m assuming the rib cage was a lot – you know, like –
KATY: It’s not. I have a picture of it. I should send you a picture of it.
DANI: Yes, please.
KATY: I think I might have actually put it on the Aligned and Well Facebook page when I took a picture of it, and I took a little video of it, because at first I was like, Crime Scene! Video! And you know, and then I was like, no, wait, hold on – HOLD ON.
DANI: Quick, grab the fatometer! Oh, my gosh.
KATY: I whipped out my flexi-curve from my backpack because I am that big of a nerd.
KATY: And yes, there was no fat on it. The fatometer showed 0 because there was no meat.
DANI: But it’s important to test, so it’s a good thing you did it.
KATY: It is. Well, you have to be logical about these things.
DANI: Mm-hmm. You are a great scientist, you really are.
KATY: The cervical vertebrae: they’re a little bit, um, heavier. I just – it just took me a couple minutes before I recognized what it is, because I’ve seen deer skeletons before – of different sizes. I mean, this was a big one. Something else that I was thinking, too, well, I wasn’t thinking it but I was talking with someone else – a lot of people like to go out and kill deer for the fun of killing it, but they don’t actually pack it out.
DANI: Who does that?
KATY: People here in the woods.
KATY: Yeah, it happens a lot. So now our forest rules are, you can kill it but you have to pack the entire thing out, you know within – you can leave the guts and stuff. But I think it was just one of those things like maybe someone had a gun and was just shooting? I don’t know, because it was big. It was big. Maybe they cut the head off? Because there was no – maybe they just took the antlers.
DANI: Oh, just for the trophy of the antlers.
KATY: Yeah. And then left the spine there, the spine which in itself was a trophy. You know what? I think I’m probably going to have to go back out there and see if I can get it.
DANI: Yeah, man, if it’s not too much out of – you know – what is it, a couple hours’ hike?
KATY: Yeah, no, I mean it wouldn’t have been – it wouldn’t be that big.
DANI: That may be just cool for teaching purposes, too.
KATY: Well, right, you know, the spine – you know, I make a lot of construction paper models, but how awesome would it be to have actual bone? Because your spine moves underneath your skin, and you’ve got mass distribution, muscle distribution, that stacks alongside of your spine based on use. And so you are never looking at the spinal curve unless you’re actually looking at the spine. You’re looking at a whole body in front of you. So, anyway.
DANI: Yeah, all the other stuff that comes with it.
KATY: That was in the news.
DANI: And did you get to read – I don’t know – we might have to go over this another time – about the high heels? The New York Times’ science weighs in on high heels article?
KATY: I did, that was with the uh, flight attendants?
DANI: Yes. And that brings us to talking about – everything. The spine isn’t just; you’re not looking at the spine if you’re looking at all the muscles that are going alongside of it. And that was kind of this, um, New York Times article came out about – if you have seen the new Jurassic Park movie, I think it’s Jurassic World. Did you see it?
KATY: Why would I see anything made in 2015 when I can see all of the movies that came out in the ‘90s?
DANI: Or you could just, like, sit in the corner with your Game Boy or something, I don’t know. So it was great – the dinosaurs were great, the story moved along at a nice clip. But I was incredibly distracted the entire time because one of the main characters ran around the entire time in high heels. And they even spoke to it, they’re like, “Well, that’s not a good thing to run around in!” and she’s like, “Oh, I’m fine.” And she’s like running along in these high heels from a T-Rex.
KATY: Yeah, but she –
DANI: And she – her ankle never twists. But it was very distracting, and even my 10 year old daughter, who I think I’ve indoctrinated with, you know, “you don’t need to wear high heels!” She just turned and looked to me, and she was like, “There’s no way that woman could be doing that.” But –
KATY: Don’t they call that the suspension of belief? I mean, I think what happens is – I think suspension of belief –
DANI: Suspension of dis- disbelief.
KATY: Yeah! Suspension – well, maybe you had to suspend your belief just to enjoy the movie for a little bit.
DANI: Well, you know, I correct people’s stuff when I read it, so apparently I have a hard time with that.
KATY: There you go. You’re an editor. Maybe – like, if you’re – if it’s like dinosaurs – I bet you there’s other things going on in that movie that other people are balking at. Probably a bunch of paleontologists were like, “Oh, my gosh! That would never happen!”
DANI: Oh, yeah, and I’ve read the velociraptors are too big in some of the articles and all that geeky stuff, too.
KATY: See? I love it.
DANI: But the New York Times did this thing – because everybody was talking about the heels.
DANI: I mean, just all sorts of articles and little stories and bits and pieces, and this was titled, “Science Weighs in on High Heels,” so I got really excited.
KATY: Because Science is a person?
KATY: And it’s a he. He’s like –
DANI: He’s sitting at home looking at his fatometer.
KATY: He’s like, “I gotta weigh in on this one.” Wink, wink!
DANI: “Always getting these phone calls asking me to talk about stuff.”
KATY: Weigh in. That’s funny. So what did Science weigh in and say?
DANI: Well, I’m not sure it was entirely Science. I was disappointed like many people were at this article, because you usually have higher expectations for this certain publication. But uh, they basically – no. Not basically. Here’s exactly what they did. They took these students –
KATY: No, the New York Times didn’t take the students, though, right?
DANI: No, no, no. It was – Han – Hanseo? I don’t know how to say it. Hanseo University in South Korea, they took these young women that were at the University that were studying to become airline attendants, and apparently you have to study a long time to do this there. And they were actually required to wear high heels to class since they would always have to wear them if they got hired by a Korean airline. So they started studying the freshmen, the incoming freshmen, to the seniors, because each class would have an additional year of heel wearing behind them, and that’s making it easy to track physiological changes. So there were just 10 women from each class that they invited to the lab, and they tested their balance with a wobbly board, and the strength of their ankle muscles using computerized exercise machines. So in the beginning, I guess, everything kind of adapted, these muscles, and they said that the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors had greater strength in some of the muscles around their ankles, and then the seniors, who had been wearing the high heels the longest, showed weakening in those same muscles, compared even to the freshmen, who were new to the heels. So – this is the study, essentially, was this study with these four years of – and I don’t know how long the study itself went on. It was not in the article.
KATY: I do. I have the article, I read the article.
DANI: Well, how long was the study?
KATY: Would you like me to weigh in?
DANI: Excuse me, are you Science, or Ms. Science?
KATY: Would you like me, Katy Bow – Katy Bowman Weighs In.
DANI: Now, that’s an article I’ll stand behind!
KATY: Katy Bowman weighs – in your heels? Just don’t run behind me in your heels.
DANI: Apparently it can be done.
KATY: It can totally be done. And those velociraptors are sized just fine. The study was actually submitted in a letter to the editor. The study was just a one-time measure. The study just brought in freshmen, sophomore, juniors, and seniors. So it didn’t actually track them, a person going through the four years. It just looked in general at, how did freshmen who theoretically would now be wearing high heels more often, because it was a requirement, like 8 hours a day, even though people wear heels, they may or may not worn them for a particular amount of time. Of course, they could have also worn heels before. That wasn’t really controlled for.
KATY: You had women who had been wearing the same type of shoes that they’re going to have to be wearing on the airline, they wear them in school so that they’re ready to go. So the freshmen tested at a certain level of balance and measuring different – I think they used all extrinsic muscles – which are muscles that have one attachment in the foot and one outside of the foot. Essentially, the strength of your ankles, if you will.
KATY: And measured them individually to find different strengths and compared those numbers to sophomores, who then, theoretically will would have been wearing those same shoes for 2 years, and then did the same measures for juniors and then the same measures for seniors.
DANI: Oh, so they didn’t follow the women.
KATY: No. No. So they’re just – they’re looking at when people come in, I guess the summation of findings being when freshmen come in, they’re wobbly and their muscles are a little bit weak. But when they’re sophomores and juniors, they have adapted their – the theory is they have adapted, they perform better in the shoes, these muscles are measuring better in terms of strength. But after 4 years, those adaptations are no longer apparent, that they are back to being wobbly. Or I shouldn’t say back to being, since they didn’t test the seniors at the beginning level. The theory being that after sustained, long-term use of these shoes, the benefits of them are no longer apparent. That your seniors, you know, people who have been wearing them for long bouts of a work day – and then standing around, right? So it’s a little different, perhaps, than wearing them in your office because you’re sitting down in your office quite a bit of the time, but as a flight attendant you’re certainly up a lot more and you’re walking a lot more in them. So walking in heels is different than just wearing them. That by the time they got to be seniors, or that these seniors who were measured, they might have had a particular anomaly to that group that left them all with weaker ankle muscles and less balance than the freshmen coming in. I mean, they are older. They’re four years older. Maybe. Maybe they’re not. I don’t know. Is there a particular age? It didn’t have the age in it.
KATY: Anyway, that all being said, this trend, though, follows kind of the – what biologically is known about how muscle behaves. Because adaptations aren’t long-term improvements, you know, something can become shorter and tighter to accommodate a new environment, but after a while, shorter and tired – tighter – can lead to discompen- discompensation of tissue, you know, where you have different tissue breakdown because your body adjusted to make the damaging loads a little bit easier on your body. But eventually, it’s called creep, right? Your tissue starts to fail, so. That’s what they were hypothesizing was happening in this particular group. Although – what was the advice at the end of the New York Times article?
DANI: Well, the takeaway was they – none of the doctors that – there was a biology professor and then this doctor – suggested that women, you know, avoid heels.
DANI: They just said, uh.
KATY: Science doesn’t want you to change your heels! Science likes the way those heels look on ya, ladies!
DANI: And then he dropped the mic and walked out of the room.
KATY: That’s right.
DANI: Um – that – that Science.
KATY: In his flat shoes.
DANI: Yes. That Science. Yeah, it basically just said, well, if you’re wearing them at the office, you’re sitting, you know, maybe slip them off a little bit.
DANI: Or do some heel lifts – and as one of our colleagues noted, that’s like saying, you know, you don’t have to quit smoking, just make sure you take some Vitamin C. And it’s just – so I was, maybe I was frustrated because maybe Science, when he weighed in on this, he didn’t tell me what I believed that I wanted to hear.
KATY: Sure. Well, that’s always a point. You know, like, that could be it. But it’s also, you know, it’s New York Times. It’s not Science, it’s not , it’s really this journalist’s selection of questions. That kind of stuff bugs me a lot less now, I’d say.
DANI: Yeah, well, I was never – I’m pretty much a relentlessly optimistic person, so when I read a headline, I think, “Oh, okay!” And you, through your teaching, you know, and just the way that you have, um, I guess, not maybe intentionally taught me to think, but I just think deeper. I’m more of the devil’s advocate and I don’t just take everything at face value and I’m getting better at it. I still kind of do – you know, I see Science weighs in on high heels and I just sit there with my chin in my hands and wait for Science to tell me what it is I want to hear. But I think – with these headlines, it’s always – and clearly, articles, not just headlines – you just can’t take it for what it is all the time. I mean, it does help to think in a broader sense, and that’s part of what I like about you.
KATY: I’m pretty sure it’s, “Think more deeplier.” Duh.
KATY: I’m here to help.
DANI: We need to take Science out for a beer is what we need to do.
KATY: I’m here to help. You take Science out and I’ll take Grammar Girl out and we’ll have some talks.
DANI: Okay. She might have something to say about that. So yeah, it was a very interesting couple of weeks in the news.
KATY: My goodness.
DANI: I just – yeah.
KATY: I thought I was going to have nothing to do, I was like, it’s summer, take a break, here’s 70 emails – what do you think? It’s like, augh. I think, um, I think my day is full with talking about this stuff. But you know what? We didn’t even get around to the skinny jean stuff.
DANI: No, in fact, let’s do that soon, because that’s also exciting. It was huge. And there’s more than skinny jeans – there was skinny jeans, and some other stuff that I’ve been stockpiling for you. I’ll send it your way.
KATY: Yeah, our next show will be about clothes, like clothes and loads, yeah?
DANI: I like that. Clothes – clothes and loads. Katy Bowman is going to weigh in on clothes and loads with her fatometer and her --
KATY: and my –
DANI: And her what? What was it, a flex –
DANI: Flexi-curve. Flexa-curve.
KATY: Flexa-curve with an “i.” Flexi.
KATY: Sci-sci-sci She blinded me with Science!
DANI: And that brings us to, Miss ‘80s, we are at time.
KATY: All right, well, thanks for hanging out with me, Dani.
KATY: And thanks you guys for listening. For more information, books, online classes, you can find me, Katy Bowman at KatySays.com. You can learn more about Dani Hemmat, movement warrior and Barbie doll mangler at MoveYourBodyBetter.com.
DANI: Take care!
Thanks for listening. For more information, visit Katy Bowman’s edutaining blog, www.KatySays.com. For books, online classes, downloads, and continuing educational courses with Katy, visit the Restorative Exercise™ Institute at www.RestorativeExercise.com. Her most anticipated book, Move Your DNA, will be available in September of 2014. You can learn more about Dani Hemmat at www.MoveYourBodyBetter.com and www.DaniHemmat.com.