Episode 42: Cardio & Natural Movement
It’s not just heart health; it’s whole body health. How well is your body responding to your bouts of cardio exercise? Katy defines what we’re talking about when we refer to “cardio”, and then finds it a place in the bigger picture of natural movement.
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.
DANI: You have news!
KATY: I have news. I forwarded you this morning the – I know what it is; I think you can read magazines on a device now, right? Do you have a magazine subscription? Do you have a device or are you a booker? You’re a book person, right?
DANI: I’m a book person but I do have a device, but you do usually have to have, I think, a subscription for some stuff.
KATY: Yeah. So they actually – you can get your magazines on your device, and so that’s what I forwarded you. I forwarded you shots that someone else had taken from their device of a magazine that I was in this month. So no one, as far as I know, has actually seen the paper copy. I’m going to walk down to the grocery store to get a copy of – get your pearls on, everybody – Good Housekeeping magazine.
DANI: Yeah, but I’m thinking we don’t even need pearls anymore after you were in the magazine.
KATY: I have officially –
KATY: I have broken Good Housekeeping magazine.
DANI: You broke Good Housekeeping! Well done.
KATY: I broke Good Housekeeping, yes.
DANI: I was pretty impressed when I saw the title of it. It was cool!
KATY: So the column is called, “Housekeeping on the edge.”
DANI: Oh my gosh.
KATY: Exploring the brave new world of homemaking. So here’s what’s interesting: not only – not only did I break Good Housekeeping by featuring a house that doesn’t have furniture, but also this is the first of this new column, “Housekeeping on the Edge.” So this a new –
DANI: Cool! I didn’t know that!
KATY: Yes! Good Housekeeping itself –
DANI: It’s a new feature, then.
KATY: I didn’t break anybody. Good Housekeeping was like, okay, it’s time. It’s time to expand our understanding of a good home.
DANI: Right. I was close that the tagline is – the subheading is, “Exploring the Brave New World of Homemaking.”
DANI: That is cool.
KATY: Yeah, and so I think what happened is they saw some of my stuff, and in discussing it, decided on a whole new column. So it’s kind of crazy, like, whaaat?
DANI: Wow. You’re such a vanguard, you. I love it.
KATY: I am, I don’t even know what that means, but yes.
DANI: It means you’re out in front of everybody.
KATY: I love that it says, this family that – the title of the article: “This Family Traded Mattresses for Monkey Bars. They cleared out a bedroom to make way for more play, they have no TV, no chairs, and no hang-ups about their unconventional, ergonomic home.” So anyway, that’s on the stands – February Good Housekeeping magazine 2016. I’m done. Mic drop. I’m done. I’m done for the rest of the year. I’m taking the rest of the year off, except for this podcast.
DANI: Oh, good. Good one on ya. Yeah, we gotta do that.
KATY: And interesting enough, because this is going to kind of, I think, segue into today’s show: I was in another magazine this month. January – I guess it would be the January issue, so – we’re recording this – the February issue of Good Housekeeping – every issue comes out 10 days in the preceding month.
DANI: Mm-hmm. If you’re hearing this on the 2nd, stop, put the headphones on, and walk down to the store and get it before it goes off the stands.
KATY: Good Housekeeping, flying off the stands. Yay! When I was in Dr. Oz’s magazine this month as well, with a snippet – an excerpt – of Don’t Just Sit There – this section that in the book is called, “Office A$$ is a Real Thing.”
KATY: That’s the name of the subheading.
DANI: You should give everybody a second to put that together.
KATY: I know. So dollar signs are standing in place of S-es.
KATY: You do the rest. You do the algebra. You do the cussing algebra.
KATY: Did I just say it too fast?
KATY: My dad always says I talks too fast. I talks too fast. I don’t even have time to edit my s-es out.
DANI: And really good, too. Okay, go ahead.
KATY: Anyway. But the best thing about this article was that the snippet of this section of the book, explaining about how your gluteus muscle deforms in 3 different ways, and that can be a mechanical signal for storing adipose, because you’re deforming it, right? It has to protect itself, because you are pushing your ischial tuberosities down, thinning out the muscle underneath – is that they put it next to a picture – I don’t even know where they got this. It’s an image of a chair that is a sculpture of a butt sitting.
DANI: Oh, man!
KATY: I need to send it to you. This could be on your Christmas list. If you’re going to have a chair in your house, it should be a chair that is also a butt. And it’s lime green, and it’s plastic. It’s hideous.
DANI: Oh my gosh.
KATY: It’s amazing. Like, just the fact that my name is next to this chair is also, like, what else am I going to do this year that’s going to top that?
DANI: Yeah. You probably feel like you made it with that.
KATY: I did! I did. I would make it if they actually shipped the chair with like a thank you.
DANI: Oh, be careful what you wish for.
KATY: I know, I know.
DANI: Because you never know what’s going to show up in your house.
KATY: No one buy me that chair. But anyway, yes. So it’s been a big 2016, and we are only 17 days deep. But.
DANI: It’s going to be a big year for everybody.
KATY: Yes! But I think that those – I think that these are kind of good segues into this show on – we’re going to do a show on Cardio. We’re going to do a show – I get that question a lot. Cardio, movement, what about heart health? You’re talking about movement vs. exercise, but I really feel like I need cardio, and how does that fit in? How does cardio fit in to natural movement? So many questions about that so we’re just going to do a whole show on it.
KATY: Um, also, February is heart health month.
KATY: I’m not sure if it’s across all the waters, if it’s an international thing, but our CDC, February is technically heart health month. February is also women’s health – heart health month. Certain organizations will parse out women’s health. So anyway.
DANI: Sounds good.
KATY: Is it a heart health show, is it a heart health show vs. a cardio show? Because it seems like –
DANI: Well, I think that’s an awesome place to start.
DANI: Because usually when you say “heart health” – when people say, “heart health” we all think “cardio.” I’m thinking it might be a good idea to define what we’re talking about here.
DANI: Because we’re all talking about something different when we throw that word around: let’s just say we have to define it to be on the same page for this show. Would you be up for that?
KATY: I would. I would. I would even jog in place for that. I think anytime I see the list of questions that you get, I’m going, wow, I think if everyone just took the time to search the definitions of the words they are assembling into their questions, it would answer a lot of questions for them, because cardio doesn’t have as solid of a definition – like, we all kind of, “oh, I know it when I see it, I know it when I’m doing it, I know when I’m struggling through it,” but what is it actually clinically? How do we know when we’re talking about what cardio – from now on, I’m just going to say, “cardio” instead of “cardiovascular exercise,” because it takes too many words.
KATY: And I talk fast. So I think if we could find the most – I was reading definitions this morning just to kind of go, oh, if someone said, “What’s the definition of cardio?” What would they get? And that is not a good place to get your definitions. Because I think the first – the definition actually provided my computer started with, “Everybody knows that…” and I was like, okay, that’s not a definition.
DANI: Oh, wow.
KATY: That wasn’t a definition of cardio. It was like, “anything that gets your heart rate up.” And I was like, well, I can get my heart rate up reading emails sometimes. So that’s not cardio!
DANI: Yeah. Sometimes a super scary movie will do it.
KATY: Yes. And so cardio has to mean something a little more specific. So I think maybe easiest definition – the clearest – there might be a situation when it doesn’t hold true, but from what I could figure working on it this morning, I was saying that any exercise that works large groups of muscles, raises your heart rate, and is rhythmic in nature is really what most people mean by “cardiovascular exercise” and what people writing and doing research in the literature would be calling cardiovascular exercise. Or what they would be defining it as. But what’s interesting is, the definition of cardio has more to do with the effects of movement rather than the movement itself.
KATY: Right, so if we want to compare cardio, which a lot of people do – like, which cardio’s better? Riding a bike or running? You could make those two events look similar if you’re only measuring for the effects of cardio, which cardiovascular tends to – when we think “cardio,” we think not of what we did to get there, but where we got to.
DANI: Like the results.
KATY: Got to wasn’t clear? So like a rise in breathing rate, an increase in sweat, maybe temperature and elevation of heart rate, or maybe if you’re working with VO2, the composition of the gases that you’re giving off. So you’re looking at the effect – and the movements that it took to get there aren’t typically considered in cardiovascular studies. They’re measuring your response to that – to the movements that you did. So that, for me, starts confounding the result or the extrapolations that you want to make from the results because you’re not really measuring what you did, you’re measuring the effects of what you did. And I think that that theme that I’m laying out at the beginning here is going to come up as we try to answer these questions that people have.
DANI: Okay. You’re saying – I mean, the definition that you prefer to work with is the results and not so much what got us there?
KATY: No, I’m saying that that’s what people think of – when you think cardio, you’re thinking of the results, not what you did. Like, you would say running is cardio – maybe – maybe you would say that.
DANI: Well, sure, just say biking and running, two kinds of the exercise that we’re talking about.
KATY: Is riding your beach cruiser not – like, when does it become cardio? Because I could hop on my beach cruiser and ride 10 miles.
DANI: I see. I see.
KATY: And never really see an elevation of my heart rate beyond something small. I wouldn’t be sweating – or I could ride a bike in a way that does increase all of these things. So cardio is less to do with the mode and more to do with the intensity in which you’re doing it, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the geometry in which you’re doing it. Because you could be doing something that gets your heart rate up in a particular way, and you can find a similar activity that geometrically, load-wise, cellular load-wise looks entirely different, but you could look exactly the same as far as your cardio response.
DANI: I see. That makes so much sense.
KATY: And so – talking about cardio in terms of the response, I think, is why so many people are confused about it. Because they’re not really talking about – you’re not really discussing movement. You’re discussing the result, the physiological response to particular movements. Where I, in everything that I’m writing about, I’m talking about the geometrical movement and the load.
DANI: Got it.
KATY: I’m talking about what got you there. And sometimes people are talking about the destination of being there at, you know, my heart rate is 152, and it’s like okay, well, a heart rate of 152 – you can get there multiple ways, and maybe there are ways that are more nutritious than others. So anyway. That’ll be my perspective.
DANI: Okay. I see. Well, can we kind of try and fit that – everybody knows that you’re
KATY: Everybody knows you, everybody knows!
DANI: Everybody knows. Everybody listening probably knows by now that your paradigm is natural and nutritious movement. Can we talk about, like, where this discussion fits into that. Where does cardio fit into that?
DANI: Is it natural or nutritious movement, and does it depend –
KATY: Well, what are we talking about cardio?
DANI: Yeah, are you talking about what we did to get there? Or –
KATY: Right. So –
DANI: And I think that’s the big – this is almost as tangled right now in my head as when we first started talking about junk food movement. Because there’s a lot of separation of what we’re doing and what the results are.
KATY: Are elevations in your heart rate and your breathing rate natural? Absolutely. Is working at an intense level for a sustained period of time natural and nutritious? Absolutely. So kind of – I always think of in the same way, you want, you know you think of like, okay, I want to load my shoulder joint in so many different ways because the different geometries are going to create different strengths in different parts, and then I will have this really well-rounded strength. The same thing goes for your heart and your cardiovascular system. You don’t only want to be able to function well at a resting heart rate, because there’s going to be a scenario when you become excited, whether it’s a stress response or a surprise birthday party (which is still a stress response) – you know, people say, don’t freak out grandma, she’ll have a heart attack.
KATY: Why is that happening? Because grandma is not trained; she does not have the strength at various heart rates because she’s never taken herself there. So you can say that “I do cardio on a regular basis,” meaning, “I regularly engage in things that are increasing my heart rate for extended periods of time,” but how you go about doing it is what would make it nutritious vs. not as nutritious or natural vs. unnatural. So the response is natural, but how you invoked the response could be less so.
DANI: Got it.
KATY: Less tangly?
DANI: That helps me a lot, thank you.
KATY: You’re welcome.
DANI: Well done.
KATY: And I think the biggest confusion about cardio is that cardio makes all of you better. Right? Like, if I’m doing cardiovascular exercise, let’s just say that you’re running on a treadmill. If I’m doing cardiovascular exercise, because what you’re measuring – you are measuring large variables. You’re measuring temperature, right? That’s a whole body output. You’re measuring heart rate. That’s a whole body output. You’re measuring VO2 Max. That’s the result of what your whole body is doing. However, what I have tried to tease out is that you could be running, and you are going to experience a whole body response – but that doesn’t mean that your whole body was used for that activity. And that’s much more my perspective, is that your whole body can be moving – and moving vigorously – but there are parts of you that are sedentary. So you don’t want to make the mistake of a whole body measure – just because you’ve chosen to measure something whole body, like heart rate, doesn’t mean there are not cellularly sedentary parts of your body that are not receiving the benefit to movement. And so when you think of doing cardio, the reflexes, like my heart - my oxygen delivery system is better. We tend to think of the heart with cardio, but it’s really about the ability for you to deliver your oxygen. And your heart isn’t delivering oxygen better when it’s pumping really hard. In fact –
DANI: And I think a lot of people don’t understand that, so thank you for saying that.
KATY: No. You only have so much blood, and when you start working things really hard, it pulls blood away from non-working areas, and then puts a lot of blood to the areas that are working. If you were doing lots of different things for cardio – this is, again, the rationale for cross-training – if you were doing lots of different things for cardio, then you would have more of a balance of oxygen distribution. That’s not to say that your blood should be everywhere 100% of the time, but we tend to do the same thing for cardio over and over and over again, which means parts of us are getting that extra infusion of blood, and other parts are seeing a decrease. So if your way of doing cardio looks the same all the time, then you could say that, “I am regularly infusing these parts,” or you could also look at the other side, which is, “I am regularly robbing oxygen from these parts.”
DANI: Yeah, starving basically.
KATY: So these parts starve, and aren’t receiving the benefit to movement. Only the working parts are receiving the benefit to movement, which is why I think that the idea of cardio is very confusing and is kind of promoting these patchy parts of health within our body. And I want to say something – I want to keep saying something, is that okay?
DANI: You know what, I’m not going to stop you. Unless you start making words up, and then I draw the line.
KATY: No. Well, you can correct my grammar at any time. Okay, so – last year, December I think it was – in 2015. There was an article in the New York Times – actually, I think it was like an online article. “How Exercise Changes Your DNA.” Or “How Exercise Changes Our DNA.” And everyone forwarded it to me because Move Your DNA had just come out and they were like, ‘oh my gosh, this is what you said! Exercise changes your DNA!’ and I was like, amazing. But I found the article – I’m actually going to use the article as a teaching tool for our training program to see how well those of you who are following along, going – I got the best, what I consider to be, kudos for the show, which was someone saying, you know, I’m listening to Katy and Dani talk and I hear Dani ask a question, and I’m now answering before Katy even finishes answering. I can answer – I know how she’s going to answer it.
DANI: Oh, cool.
KATY: That is it. That is learning.
DANI: That’s awesome, yeah.
KATY: So I’m going to put this article out there to see if people who have been reading for a long time can go, oh, I see how this was manipulated a little bit. So – the article, “How Exercise Changes Our DNA,” was written about a study in the Journal of Epigenetics. I’m going to read the title, so if you want to go search it and read it you can. But it would be easier to just find a link to it in “How Exercise Changes Our DNA,” because the title of it is, “An Integrative Analysis Reveals Coordinated Programming of the Epigenome and the Transcriptome in Human Skeletal Muscle After Training.” So just type in, “How Exercise Changes Our DNA” and link to it. The study was, they took I don’t know how many people, and they had them do – I’m making air quotes around “cardio.” They had them cycle vigorously, but with only one half of their body, because it’s hard to track genetic changes if you’re measuring between two different bodies. How could you see how exercise transforms a body if you’re not comparing the same body against itself? So it was a clever way of going, oh, well, we can take a muscle biopsy, let’s say in the quads, see what the genetics look like, have them do vigorous exercise for 4 or 6 weeks or whatever it was, and then take a 2nd biopsy and look at how the gene changes, or how the expression changes.
KATY: So they had this group do cardio – I’m going to – it’s in air quotes, I can’t like, this is the whole point is the fact that I’m putting cardio in air quotes right now. So this is where a podcast is limiting. When you do a big picture of me just going, here, I’m doing air quotes on the microphone just to really put it in there. The genes only changed on the working side of the body. So when they went back in and did a muscle biopsy, as you can imagine, only the parts that were working received the benefit. The other leg that didn’t do anything did not receive the benefit. However, that person, by definition, was still doing cardio. So measuring the whole body state doesn’t automatically refer back to the whole body got better, right? That body was doing cardio, and what was really interesting was that the conclusion of the writer of the New York Times article – as well as the researchers who were going, well, now we know how cardio works – where for me, the conclusion was, wow, you guys – you guys just showed that it’s not a whole body state of cardiovascular exercise. It’s not the benefit of – I mean, if you measured someone’s heart rate, it was going up. Their temperature was going up. Their breathing rate was going up. But you just showed that exercise only affects things locally. Not only locally, but on a genetic level, the only part receiving the benefit, receiving the benefit of a healthier phenotype from doing that exercise, were the parts that were moving. That a whole body state of cardio did not affect the whole body getting better. So that was huge for me.
DANI: That’s big, yeah. We’re definitely going to find that and put that in the show notes. That’s awesome.
KATY: Well, what was so big though, was that idea escaped, and the conclusion of the article was like, so that’s why you guys need to keep on running. You know, and it was a way of taking data and just like going, see, I really feel like this validates what I’ve already been doing. And it’s like, kind of if anything, is it’s highlighting is that you’re probably not doing enough as far as unique and different types of things. This wasn’t really a natural movement vs. unnatural movement, this was part of that nutritious movement – the bigger idea that you’re only getting better in spots where you’re working and how easy it is to be cellularly sedentary. What are the non-working parts? So anyway, I don’t know. Is discussing cardio as a whole body state really helpful, or is it better to break the cardiovascular system down to the more nuanced level of what’s happening at the capillary level?
DANI: Yeah. And I think everybody that really follows your work; they’re just kind of shooting for that balanced movement diet, hopefully. And I’m wondering where that fits in – does how we’re moving affect – it clearly does, I guess, what you just said is how we’re moving affect how the cardio affects us, because you know, walking uphill is way different than cycling. If my heart rate’s the same I’m getting a lot more from my walking up the hill.
KATY: Well, there’s just different – there’s different parts of you – there’s different parts of you getting it. So you know, if I wore a heart rate monitor all day long, I would see that my heart rate is fluctuating with my activity. Again, our idea of cardio comes from doing nothing the bulk of the time, and then doing something at a higher intensity vs. the benefit of your heart rate going up and down throughout the day, and kind of also acknowledging that there’s not that many intense things to do that day. And so I talk about trying to get more movement into your regular life, and people are doing great jobs from what they’re sharing – they’re really transitioning to a movement-based lifestyle. That all being said, maybe they’re still not choosing the intenser of the natural movements. You know what I mean? Like you could say, hey, I moved all day long, but maybe you kind of putted around your house and you sat on the floor – and you did all these great things, which are amazing; I don’t want to take anything away from that. But you would still, you know, need to hoof it. Carrying your groceries – carrying your groceries home is a good example of, like, struggling. Carrying kids for a long period of time is an example of struggling. It’s not a fast movement, but it can quickly become an intense one when you add 50 pounds to your frame, and it’s not like in a backpack. When you’ve got this squirming kid on you.
KATY: So those types of things really starting to get rid of conveniences that keep not only your movement down but the intensity of movement down as well.
DANI: What do you think about, and you’ve probably read this a bunch of times, but a bunch of primal movement and paleo movement really advocate short sprints? Instead of, like, going out and running, they’ll just sprint for a minute because it’s supposedly more like how we would move in nature, you know, chasing after a rabbit or running from a large rabbit with fangs. Things like that. I mean, what do you think of that?
KATY: I think that there’s a lot of validity there. I mean, I think that there’s periods of time – it’s kind of, with nutritious movement, and natural movement as an idea – you want to think about – natural movement’s going to change over the course of a lifetime. So what a child does is different than what a middle-aged person does, which is different than what an older person does, and a pregnant person. What about a person who is carrying an infant?
DANI: That’s a good point.
KATY: So it’s broader than just saying what people do. And what’s happened a lot, I think, in the ancestral health movement are the movements that are being teased out tend to be – have we talked about this before? Everyone wants to be a hunter?
KATY: Like, you’re trying to take a natural movement paradigm, which is like saying that there’s all these things that people do for natural movement, and then only pulling out like the hard ones so that you can replace your workout program with the hardest of natural movement. Not that they’re not supposed to be there, but it’s like – the period and distribution of them should still be set in a population of people who are moving more throughout the day, and not everyone was doing it all – like combatives are not something that every single person was doing. So there’s this other kind of more – there’s roles. There’s roles, like pack animals have roles.
DANI: That makes sense. Yeah. And you’ve brought that up before, where you said I think it was the pace of natural movement is just life, and that’s something we should always try to reiterate.
KATY: And I sprint, but I don’t go out – I don’t go out like, I’m going to go do 5 sprints right now, because that’s natural. It’s more like, my kids are into running right now. They run, we run down hills. So I’ll just run to catch up with them, and a lot of times it’s natural – oh, they’ll run into the road! And I’ll just spring –
DANI: Oh, and your heart rate went up, too!
KATY: My heart rate was up, and yeah, so I have found that I do lots of those things kind of naturally. I’m not usually sprinting from danger, but we’ve been doing some animal tracking, and we have found that walking quickly in a squat – in a squatted position through the underbrush so that you can pop up on a coyote – is hard! You know, your heart rate’s bumping.
KATY: It’s just – you can play with speed and you can play with position. It doesn’t always have to be, you know, going super fast over flat and level repetitiously. So anyway.
DANI: Okay. Well, that makes sense. And thank you for bringing me back to that.
KATY: But I also think – I think that a big contribution that I have put – an idea that I put out before, I think it was in Alignment Matters – it’s when I wrote those “Blood Physics” and “More Blood Physics” posts – it’s like, we want to do stuff for our heart. We want our heart to be healthy. We’ve picked out this body part and given it a hierarchy and placed it on top, and said, okay, I’m going to train YOU! Look at me, I’m looking at you, heart and lungs. I’m going to train you. But here’s how your cardiovascular system works: you have – can I give a quick lesson?
DANI: Please, please.
KATY: You wanted me to give you a quick lesson, right?
DANI: Yeah, and I just think since we’re defining, let’s get really clear.
KATY: Yeah. Your heart and your lungs are connected through this tubing system that runs throughout your entire body. So it’s organized in – in terms of size – you have your arteries, which are your big tubes. And it’s pictured in Move Your DNA, right? If you open up – if you open up the textbook, when you’re looking at it, it’s like, here’s the cardiovascular system. All you see are tubes. You see these giant tubes.
DANI: Yeah, big tubes. It just shows you the big tubes.
KATY: Red ones, here’s the big blue ones. There’s just like one highway down your arm. There’s one highway down each leg, two highways up to your brain. And so you get this very simplified system, like, this is my cardiovascular system. This is what I’m training. I elevate my heart and my heart starts thrashing the blood around in this big tube, and the ability is for me to be able to do that and to recover quickly. But your cardiovascular system’s job is not only to be able to go up and down in terms of heart rate – bring it up really high – I mean, cardio used to be, what it was originally used for is, how high can we get your heart rate and you still recover within a minute? So it was about how fast you could get your heart rate down after it being accelerated – not how long can you hold it accelerated. So it’s kind of branched off into different things over the years, which is fine; they’re all different skills. But your cardiovascular system’s job, if you had to pick a much more nuanced job, and a job that you’re likely to experience disease from first if it’s not doing, way before you would experience a heart attack due to a sudden rise in blood velocity or blood flow velocity that you couldn’t handle, like being startled, you know, which would cause a heart attack, is that you are not delivering red blood cells everywhere throughout your body. The heart and lungs’ job is to take in oxygen and deliver oxygenated red blood cells throughout all of your tissues. That’s their feeding system. You eat, you put food in your mouth, but the cells need food and that food is oxygen. That’s what your heart and lungs are doing 100% of the time, hopefully, and when they’re not doing it, things start to die or denature. So when you look at the cardiovascular tubing system that does that job, that is happening at the capillary level. So you’ve got these big tubes that are your arteries, and then from these big tubes are smaller tubes that branch off and are arterioles, so they are – if you look at that big anatomy picture, a lot of times off the big ones you’ll see that they’ll just sort of imply that there’s something branching off by putting little like, branches off here, and branches off here. But then from those smaller vessels, capillaries are branching off of that. And I just – where did I read this – I read that there was something like 60,000 miles covered in your capillaries. It might have been capillaries, veins, arteries, the whole thing. But the bulk of it – the bulk of it is in capillary form. So there is a – if you’ve ever – if you ever get a chance to go see Body Worlds, you can see that when they strip away everything of a body except the capillaries, you are still looking at the bulk of a mass.
DANI: Can they maintain those? I mean, they can leave those when they –
KATY: Yes, they can.
DANI: That is cool. That is really cool.
KATY: Yeah, and you can see it – you can probably Google search it, you know, like, Body Worlds capillaries. So you can see that the mass there is huge – it’s just very thin. And so that is the destination that your blood must reach, and those capillaries are what you infuse when a muscle is working, and what you draw away from when it is not. You’re never going to get the blood to stop flowing in the arteries, or else you’re probably having an episode right now, please go to the emergency room.
DANI: Hold on, can I just read really quick about how many capillaries, like what you said? You just have one sentence that illustrates very well how dense the capillary system is in our body.
KATY: Yeah, where is it from?
DANI: It’s from Move Your DNA.
DANI: And you just say, “Almost every cell in your body is within a few hair-widths distance from a capillary. And you have trillions of cells in your body.” That’s dense. And I don’t think we think that, because we’re all used to that anatomy picture with the few big tubes.
DANI: And when you look at just the illustration in Move Your DNA, it’s kind of like those fan corals that you see, that are just all these brachioles and branches. It’s crazy, and it really changed how I thought about moving blood through my body. Because there’s no way the heart could do all that.
KATY: And it’s just another way of anatomy – like the reduction that is necessary for teaching the parts – it’s like you’re leading the witness a little bit to go, so don’t you want to do things that really get the blood rushing through the tube really fast? Because that’s a good indication of your heart…instead of going, well, I don’t know, not if it’s pulling the blood away from my digestive system! You know, not if it’s removing the blood flow – so it’ll shut the doors, basically, to those smaller areas that aren’t moving or working. So I think a full health disclosure is always helpful, just to kind of see the organ health of people who do chronic cardio. Not just the physique. It’s hard to look past the super lean, glistening, moist, tan –
DANI: Oh, god, schtap it!
KATY: Our whole, in the same way we only see physique as an indicator of health, it’s like, meh, I don’t know, there’s a lot going on besides that skin and the lack of fat on it, or whatever it is that you’re seeing that in your mind is like, “health!” So something else that I think is important is that you’re a shape-shifter and that trickles down all the way to the cellular level. But it’s also the shape of your cardiovascular system is going to change. The number of capillaries – we’ve talked about, oh, you’ve worn high heels for a long time, and you can lose sarcomeres, and you can change the lengths of your muscles, but you change the number of your capillaries all the time based on what you are and aren’t doing. So how you use your body really sets you up for the ability for blood to really flow well through an area. Because by the time – this might be too much for a podcast – it’s all in Move Your DNA. Your tubes, the bigger tubes, they’re like highways, right? They’re like a Southern California – they’re like the 405 in Southern California. It’s just 6 lanes, packed, there’s all these red blood cells – think of in Finding Nemo when all the fish, it’s just a whole thing of fish and they’re all kind of going in the same direction, but they’re kind of crossing each other. And then a smaller group of fish get off to the arteries – er, off the arterioles, but by the time you get to the capillary, there’s only room for every single cell to go through single-file.
DANI: So it’s like a residential street or something.
KATY: It’s like a – it’s more like a 1-lane dirt road.
KATY: You’re going slow, you’re going much slower than you were going on the freeway. So it’s not only the density of blood, it’s the rate change. Fast on the highway, but as you go off you’re starting to go slow, because there needs to be time for that red blood cell to get out. So your blood vessels are outside of your body. It’s housed within your body, but it’ s not – that blood is not interacting with your cells. Kind of like in the same way your digestive tube is like in your body, but because –
DANI: Oh, okay. Oh, I see.
KATY: That red blood cell doesn’t do your cells any good.
DANI: It has to get to its destination first.
KATY: It has to get to its destination. It has to pull into the driveway of the house to have arrived.
DANI: Got it. Wow.
KATY: It’s not arrived when it’s on that single cell dirt road. So they’re going slow through there, and they’re just – the rest of your blood vessels, like the muscles that they live in, should be very supple. They’re constantly changing in diameter, based on where your blood needs to go. Stiff muscles? Stiff arteries. So the less your muscle moves, the less that artery is able to change diameter and respond to this constant, which should be this constant change. But remind me to come back to that in a second.
DANI: Yes, please.
KATY: So by the time a blood vessel gets to the capillary, it’s just having to diffuse across. Just moving across a very single-cell wall. So the walls of the capillaries are not muscular in nature. They don’t change. They can only increase or decrease in number. So if you worked a particular area that hadn’t been worked before, you are going to be pushing a lot of blood to that area. You’re actually pulling it by the dilation of the arterioles. They open, more blood comes in, but now you just have more cars or red blood cells trying to get down this single lane highway. So that is this mechanical signal for your body to then make more capillaries. It has to make more single layer roads –
DANI: That is awesome.
KATY: It’s great, but it’s very organic system. Use it or lose it. If you don’t need it, it’s not going to be maintaining those roads. It’s like county roads: why spend all the money maintaining them if you’re not going to use them? So you’ll quickly see those vessels disappear, and if you use it more, you will grow more. So you’re growing more containers for your blood, which means less has to be stored in your arteries. This should be important for people who have high blood pressure, right?
KATY: High blood pressure is just – it’s just pressure. You have too much stuff in a particular shape. The good news is: you can change your shape. You can change your shape by adding more containers for that blood, but it requires movement, and the containers only stay open when you are moving.
DANI: That’s crazy.
KATY: I find hemodynamics – hemodynamics, for me, is maybe the most fascinating and is maybe the most misunderstood component of exercise in the traditional, like, where I need cardio and strength and flexibility. Because those three categories make it seem like they’re not all inter-related, when it’s absolutely related.
DANI: I think when I first started studying your stuff, that was – your lesson on hemodynamics was what made me first really listen to you because I spent my whole life thinking my heart was doing all the work.
DANI: And to know that it was that muscle movement – I mean that just opened up a whole new world. And really, that was an impetus for me to increase my movement, and that just made sense to me.
KATY: And also the danger – the danger of only increasing the work of your heart, and still keeping a small container.
DANI: Yes. Yes.
KATY: That’s what the blood physics was about.
DANI: Can we talk about that?
KATY: Yes, because that was my big – that’s when I became – that was the blasphemous thing that I was saying, which is like, you have this teeny, tiny container and you’re not following an exercise prescription that is growing you more capillaries. All you’re doing is rushing – you’re just rushing the blood around in the larger things harder. You’re increasing your blood pressure while you’re moving, and it was a – I’m trying to propose the mechanism, that, for people who do have cardiac episodes associated – why are they associated with bouts of exercise if all cardio is “good?” And again, it’s like, we’re talking about dosage, we’re talking about the context. What is this body that is very stiff that you then are going to – you’re going to prioritize rushing the blood around in a stiff container. You’re not also taking steps to increase the size of your container, which would require that you mobilize parts that aren’t mobile and become less cellularly sedentary. Become less cellularly sedentary overall, but also making sure that you don’t have these stiff spots that aren’t participating, because those are areas that should be holding blood when you’re moving that aren’t.
DANI: And that’s the stiff muscles/stiff arteries part.
KATY: Yes. I think one of my most popular Instagram posts was a picture of a river. Like, rivers – your body functions, if you’re an ecologist or if you’re someone who studies water dynamics, whether it’s in an engineering setting like tubing with artificial material so the flow of water through a natural setting and how the shapes of rivers change over time, and how tributaries are constantly branching off. You’ve got like debris falling because the water is eroding the soil; you’ve got a tree fall. Now the river has to go around the tree – so all that happens in your blood vessels as well. You just develop collateral blood flow. You’ll develop a new highway, something that wasn’t there before, because blood needs to keep flowing, and you are constantly – you are reshaping your cardiovascular system with how you choose to flow your blood. You don’t think that you have any control over the flow of your blood, but you actually do. Every movement that you choose to do (or don’t) is affecting how your blood is flowing. So you’re kind of slowly carving and you’re shaping – you’re shaping the arterial system. But what makes the arterial system so great compared to a river – I don’t to say that we’re better than a river, because rivers are amazing – but what makes it different – you know, I’ve had people who are fluid, they’re like fluid physics people, they’re like, well, I work very hard to get laminar blood flow. So laminar flow is when everything is flowing pretty much in the same direction. Turbulent flow is, if you’ve been on an airplane, it’s when the air isn’t all-moving in the same direction, and so there’s eddies or swirls in it. And if you have a swirl in blood flow – even if blood is all coming in smoothly to a place where the blood has got a little whirlpool in it, that whirlpool is going to create a whirlpool out of the smooth blood coming into it. That’s how it works. A little bit, a little pocket of turbulent flow is going to wreck the flow for everything kind of in that area. It’s going to make it all turbulent. So as you do things that change – I’ll say the velocity of your blood flow, because velocity has two components. It’s not just the rate, but also the direction. So anytime you have a burst of activity, or a burst of emotion or a burst of adrenaline, or however you want to think about it. Where you are experiencing a surge – there’s been a dump of chemicals that says, like, I need to get out of here, or whatever it’s doing. You are then taking blood that was flowing one way, and the chemicals are triggering doors opening and shutting as far as your blood vessels go. Opening tubes, closing tubes back up, because it needs to get your blood going faster because you’re using more oxygen now, so it needs to deliver the oxygen faster, replenish it faster – so you are this beautiful series of trap doors that are so sensitive mechanically that they can dilate to the perfect amount, or constrict to the perfect amount based on the message that’s being sent by the blood. But the ability for those vessels to open and close depends on their supple-ness. So if you have a stiff artery or an artery that is stiffened because it has cholesterol attached to the wall of it –
DANI: Can it just be stiff from lack of nat – like if I’m just sitting in the same position all day?
KATY: Yes. Yes. But those two things are not mutually exclusive. So there’s a mechanical reason, like, it’s not just stiff because you’re sitting there all day. It has adapted to your sitting position and has changed in its mass distribution. So the shape of the blood vessel has been affected by you not just sitting throughout the day, but sitting throughout your life. Sitting throughout the last 10 years, 50 years, however you want to think about it. So there’s a structural adaptation. It’s not just stiff in the same way that your muscles aren’t just tight. There has been a mass change. Some masses change, whether your fascia is clumpy or contracting, or the number of sarcomeres are less – there’s some physical change in your shape, a difference in masstribution - mass distribution – did I say masstribution? That’s amazing!
DANI: I think that should be a word. That one I will let slide.
KATY: Thank you.
DANI: That is good. Thank you.
KATY: Thank you very much! So when you, then, go okay, I’ve been sitting on the couch, I’m going to get healthy! And you’ve been sitting your entire life, you have a shape that has facilitated your previous lifestyle, and then you go, hey, I’m going to go do cardio because cardio is good, and I read a textbook and here’s what’s going to happen, I’m going to increase my rate of blood flow and that’s going to be awesome, but that textbook model doesn’t really apply to you because your arteries don’t move. Your arteries don’t get bigger or smaller. So all you’re doing is inducing the rate of blood flow and you’re creating lots of turbulent flow. So it’s not to say that increases in heart rate are not natural, that they’re not awesome and health making, it’s just that you have to consider that you might not have the structure that allows for that right now. That there’s a different prescription or priority of movement that would better serve you, which is to start to get the tubes more malleable. Start to get the body more malleable, so that’s like this idea of mobility and then make sure that all of your parts are able to contract and release, that you’re not taking your stiff parts with you as you go out and do your run, in which case you’re not really affecting yourself at the cellular level and you could be causing a problem.
KATY: So that’s what those posts are about. So, anyway.
DANI: So it’s really less about the cardio and more about you. Because that change in blood flow is natural, but your parts aren’t dealing with that in a way that maybe they ought to.
KATY: Yeah. It’s the same argument with, like, natural birth, it’s like, we want to say what’s natural, but the part we need to acknowledge is that our structures are not the natural version that would be doing these natural things. There needs to be a transition. Transition to minimal footwear, you need to be able to transition to be able to do cardio. And then you want to make sure that the cardio that you’re choosing to do is coming from a natural source. Does that make sense?
DANI: It does. It does.
DANI: And I think that’s something that I like, you just touched on briefly, is that expectation that we put on our hearts, you know, all day long if we’re sitting – or all life-long – you know – that if we’re sitting, and we’re fairly one of those sedentary/fit people.
DANI: I’m going to get up and I’m going to work all day for 8 hours and then I’m going to head to the gym and run, or head out the door and run. My heart has been working all day to get stuff as far as I can through my body – because I’m not really moving. My muscles aren’t really helping that move, right? It’s just my heart’s having to work hard.
KATY: Right. But the cardiovascular system doesn’t include the muscles, right? In the picture, it’s just heart and tubes. And it’s like, but that’s not how it actually works. It is the rhythmic action of your muscles that signal the opening of the tubes. So not only – like, you stress your heart by not moving, because the heart 1) it’s nice because there’s not that much oxygen to deliver but 2) you are asking that your heart pump regularly against quite a bit of resistance, just throughout the day, because you’re not going to help. I’m not going to move anything. I’m just going to sit here and the heart has to do the work, and you’ve removed a lot of the key team players that would move those balls forward. I’m getting in the Super bowl spirit. You’ve gotta move your, you’ve gotta move your oxygen balls forward, and it takes a lot of players, and we’re just like – here, heart, you do it! And then, when I’m done making you work all day, then I’m going to ramp you up to work really hard. And the good news is: when you do that, at least you’re using more muscles to facilitate, but there’s just a different, a whole different paradigm of viewing what cardiovascular health actually is. So that’s all. I’m just putting it out there.
DANI: I think if people understood what that really means to your bodies, they would look at movement habits in a whole different way, in a whole different light.
KATY: I think they are.
DANI: I think we need another shout-out for Move Your DNA and it doesn’t really matter that Katy is my friend or that we do a podcast together, because I think everybody with a body should read the book or listen to it. But the illustrations are really good.
KATY: Well, you know what? Even if you get the audio book, there’s still a PDF supplement with all the pictures.
DANI: Oh, sweet! Good, good.
DANI: But it’s like a textbook to me. And it’s for me, it’s all curled and the cover’s ripped, and there’s post-it notes and stuff, but every time I open it and re-read something, I learn a lot, and it really is like a textbook for your body.
DANI: If you haven’t indulged, please do. That’s all I have to say about that. That’s just my own endorsement. It’s a really good book, and the first time you read it, it’s got some really big ideas that just make you stop and think but there’s a lot in there.
KATY: There’s so much in there, you could read that book a lot. Sometimes there’ll just be like a word – or not a word, a sentence that I’ve dropped in that it’s like, that’s a whole other door of stuff that I did not put in this book because it would just be too long. It’s just a primer. A primer on a new way of thinking about movement. But thank you. Thank you for sharing.
DANI: Yeah, I love it. So that’s about it. We totally – and this is hilarious. We totally forgot a movement break.
KATY: It’s not important. It’s not important. Just jog in place! Just jog in place, just jog in place, just jog in place.
KATY: Can I tell you? Here’s my biggest – if you’re like, ugggggh, heart health, stiff muscles, I don’t where to go! Get your arms over your head. I don’t know if I gave this tip before, but your arms being down by your side – I do not think that’s good for your heart at all. So if you did nothing else, we focus so much on the lower body because we’re trying to improve gait and all these forces and loads that are created through every step. So the arms, still, through every corrective idea don’t get served as well as the lower body. So just reaching your arms up over your head, reach one and then the other, kind of callisthenic style, just to break up the motion. Move them front and back a little bit, just to – they’re so stiff. You have no idea how stiff they actually are.
DANI: That feels good.
KATY: Especially when you get, when you can develop a lot of hypermobility in response to the tension, so you get a lot of movement of the arm but it’s not actually at that muscular level. So anyway. Move – alright, there’s your movement break.
DANI: There’s your movement break. Right. And now we’re done.
KATY: And my heart rate is up! That’s crazy. As I was doing it and talking, I was like, oh, I feel an increase in my heart rate.
DANI: Well, I’m teaching a bunch of Girl Scouts knife skills, and I bet my heart rate will go up and my feet won’t be moving at all.
KATY: Just make sure it’s rhythmic in action.
DANI: All right, well, I just want to give a quick – did you want to say anything else? Or shall I –
KATY: No. I’ve said enough. I’ve said enough.
DANI: I just want to give a shout out to our listeners – you know this, and I know this, but they are the nicest, smartest people: funny and supportive. I just want to say that.
KATY: And you’re not biased at all.
DANI: I’m not biased at all. But I taught a workshop a couple weeks ago and 75% were people that listened to the podcast that came. And what a delight to meet – I’m going to do the Romper Room. I see you, Tammy. I see you, Jen, and Jennifer. They were just great, and funny, smart – great questions. People that want to move better, and I love it. That’s all I have to say.
KATY: Well, on another note. I have gotten some really great emails from different professors and different researchers that have been joyously kind and appreciative and supportive and going, hey, thanks for that, I did this and this research thing, and so it’s not just in the listeners, the podcast listeners, just people who read this stuff and it’s like shifting – I mean, Good Housekeeping! It’s changed that, but it’s shifting the way people are considering how to do research design, and you know, I don’t really participate much in that academic community, because I’ve just chosen to go a different route, but to still have my hands on – I had a great exchange with a math professor who read Move Your DNA. Math models and biology are challenging, that’s the big – academically speaking there’s an age-old conflict, but modeling biological phenomena is tough because you have to reduce it somehow. So in Move Your DNA, and in the foot book, I used a factorial for all the ways that a foot can conform, so he was like, this is a great book, but here is an even more refined model. So I just updated the book based on his model –
DANI: Oh, cool!
KATY: And that led – and I was like, oh, but you know what? That doesn’t even – that’s not going to hold for the knee, because here’s actually, the knee isn’t one joint, right/ The knee is 3 bones, and while we’ll call it one joint for simplicity, we wouldn’t say that the knee joint was that different just because the lower leg was turned out or whatever. There’s three bones – and it was just – it was so nice to have conversations with people who communicate in a very – they’re just – kindness – there’s just a – they’re thinking of the words, and they’re like, what about this?
DANI: That’s awesome.
KATY: And I’m like, this is so – this is so helpful. I got to refine a biological model. That’s never happened to me before. I’ve never been part of refining a mathematical model, and now it exists, and this is cool. And we’re still continuing to refine it and I’m in a relationship now with this very kind person in a different country –
DANI: That’s wonderful.
KATY: And um, yeah, it’s exciting. Because I get to know my own work better through other people’s interactions. That’s fantastic.
DANI: Well, you’re a good science communicator yourself. You’re like the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of movement. I just want to say – that’s who you are.
KATY: Why, thank you. Well, thank you – you! And you! And you, Dani. Thank you for listening. Out of all of it – you’re the one who has to sit and listen the most! Like, you’re obligated. Anyone else can turn this off, but you can’t be like, yeah, I’m out. Let me know when you’re done recording.
DANI: We need opt let them go and create a demand for more capillaries in their bodies.
KATY: That’s right. So thank you for listening, but stop it. Stop it right now. For more information, after you have walked, after you have moved, after you have waved your arms in the air like you don’t care, you can find audiobooks, right? That’s where it is right now. You can find online classes, you can find me, at NutritiousMovement.com, and you can learn more about Dani Hemmat, movement warrior and what’s your blood type?
KATY: Movement warrior and AB- -I am O+
DANI: Are you O+?
KATY: I am.
KATY: You can find Dani always at MoveYourBodyBetter.com unless she’s outside not online, which is probably most of the time.
DANI: Yes, and then leave a message. Thanks for listening.
KATY: Thanks, guys.
We hope you find the general information on biomechanics, movement, and alignment informative and helpful. But it is not intended to replace medial advice and shouldn’t be used as such.