Seeing the Signs.

Today, walking about town I was struck at the notion that someday, future populations are going to be making large assumptions about us just as we make large assumptions about populations past. These assumptions are usually not total W.A.G (wild-a$$ guesses) but information supported by the evidence — some sort of documentation left behind on the walls of caves or etched into pottery. Feeling a little like Indiana Jones (only without the hat), I collected some evidence about North American humans c.2000:










Two things bug me about these photos (with the exception of the mannequin photos where so many things bug me, I don’t know where to start). One is the forward pitched torso and head and the other is the bent knees. Why is the human form constantly portrayed as a forward leaning image? What we have here is not life imitating art, but our pictographs reflecting the state of our condition.  And what conditions would those be? How about knee and hip osteoarthritis. Osteoporosis. Low back pain. Low metabolisms. Bone spurs. Torn meniscus. Foot pain. I could go on and on.

So I will.

Walking is often said to be “controlled falling”, and, I would agree. I would agree that what most people are doing when they believe they are walking is accelerating their body toward the ground and quickly yanking a foot in front on them to catch themselves before smacking into the pavement. You’re not doing this because it’s the “natural” way to walk, but because one by one, all of the reflexes your are born with have been shut off via the deadening of various motor programs or the failure to turn them on to begin with.

So, for a few quick tips on walking:

1. Don’t let your torso get in front of the rest of your body. This posture uses gravity to accelerate you and your joints to buffer the landing.

2. If you want to actually do mechanical *work* to move forward, your hamstrings need to be at their full length. It is the leg that pushes back in a controlled fashion to move the rest of your body forward. Stretch, stretch, stretch.

3. Stop landing on a bent knee. Only beg on one. The rest of the time, the muscle strip along the outside of the hip and knee should be working to keep the leg bones fully lengthened (straight). Landing on a bent knee is an indication that the strength in your hips is less than the weight of your body.

BONUS: Use these posted signs as a reminder to straighten yourself up when you’re out and about. Use them as teaching tools for your kids, as in “See that sign? Make sure your body isn’t leaning forward like that when walking.”

Quick exercise: Stand on one leg without bending either knee, without leaning forward, without thrusting your pelvis forward, and without putting your arms out to the side. You can do this with your back against a wall to help you figure out if you are leaning forward from the hips or not.  Your weight should be in your heel. This exercise is a simple screening mechanism to see if your legs are strong enough to hold up the weight of your body. If you’re wobbly or have to bend your knee, then you are a faller rather than a walker.

First step to becoming a walker is be able to do this on each foot for a minimum of a minute. P.S. You should be in bare feet.

And, start paying attention to the signs you surround yourself with. The bulk of *learning how to be* is done via observation. Imagine what messages we are programming for normal human condition as opposed to we’re all broken in this boat together. Let us change our movement patterns and then let us change our signs.

This year, I had to modify the Restorative Exercise Institute’s logo from this to this:

The front leg needed to be straightened to how the front leg actually should receive the weight of the body during a normal gait cycle and we gave REX a new hairstyle. Very gender-neutral and frankly, much more flattering I think. You?

In case you hadn’t noticed, I now have an iPhone which means you can expect many more photo-laden posts from me. Also be weary of me following you around, filming the way you walk. My cat is already annoyed at my constant photo-snapping.

See? He hates to be bothered while reading:



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6 thoughts on “Seeing the Signs.

  1. How about *running* mechanics? It is usually proclaimed that landing close to the body on a slightly bent leg is better than with a straight leg extended in front of the body.

    1. Yah, the mechanics of running are, of course, different than walking as running has the potential of creating much higher G-forces. To deal with twice the impact, landing on a bent knee allows the deformation of the knee joint to diffuse the impact a bit. However, your knees won’t last all that long compared to if you hadn’t been a runner.

      The better the runner, the more the “glide” and less the bouncy, up and down motion of a jogger – the less impact and the longer the knees will go on.


  2. Fascinating, as always! (and I chuckled multiple times, as always.) I’ve wondered why runners are so physically healthy except for shot knees. And that last picture was especially amusing since I’m reading and typing around my calico. :>)

    PS – cough*christmasgiveaway*cough
    Can you tell how badly I want to win “Down There?” :>)

    1. Lenetta – The, ahem, Christmas giveaway blog is done — just waiting to post. We’re having so many technical difficulties with notifications, I wanted to have it fixed first.

      AND, just so you know, runner’s aren’t taking any less medications, having any less surgeries, or living any longer than non-runners. It’s just the perception that they are. More and more studies are coming out that intense, high-impact exercise does NOT do what people think!

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