Most of us would be aware that as a society, we are moving less. With the rise in computer/desk-based work, plus the movement restrictions of the last couple of years, majority of working or studying people would struggle to reach 10,000 steps per day. While the ‘10,000 steps’ number started as just a marketing tool, keeping active and mobile is important for muscular, joint and brain health.
Our muscles thrive on blood flow. When we are at rest (sitting, lying, sleeping) our muscles only use 20% of the heart’s output of blood, or about 1-4ml/minute. During exercise, this can increase to 80% of cardiac output, or 50-100ml/minute. This increased blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and allows cellular waste products to be flushed more effectively. Muscle contraction from movement is also required to push blood from our hands and feet back towards the heart. In our arms and legs, the veins returning blood to the heart have a one way ‘valve’ that is assisted by muscle contraction, best done by walking or running. When you are moving sufficiently, this can help prevent puffiness and swelling in hands and feet (excluding underlying conditions). Muscles can also feel tight and stiff from long periods of inactivity, most likely from minimal blood flow and sustained contractions to hold seated postures.
If our muscles are tight and restricted, this can create restriction in our joints as well. Muscles are like a spring pulling on the bones either side of a joint to pull the joint into position. If muscles are stiff or not functioning well, this can put different pressures on the joint, causing pain, inflammation, or restrictions in joint movement. Joints can also become restricted after prolonged times in a single position, like sitting at a desk or long drives. Also, our joints and muscles are constantly providing feedback to our brains about where our body is and what’s happening. If this feedback becomes a bit distorted by a joint or muscle that isn’t functioning correctly, this can make changes in how our brain perceives body position and what movements our brain deems ‘safe’.
There have been several studies done investigating the link between mobility and brain health. Mobility for these studies is measured in the speed you can walk, your balance (especially on one foot) and how easily you can move from sitting to standing. As chiropractors, we also assess mobility with range of movement tests, like how far can your turn your head side to side (and is it even on both sides) and how far can you side bend your body. The studies have been showing that decreases in measured mobility are linked to decreases in brain volume and brain processing speeds. While these studies are usually conducted on older age groups (65+), we can extrapolate out that keeping mobile can help keep your brain healthier than if you are more sedentary.
This month we are asking you to check your mobility! Follow along with this video and see how you go.
Did you notice any unevenness or pain in your neck or back movements? Was it hard to balance or get up off the chair? You may not be moving to your optimal potential, and this can create issues with your joints, muscles and brain function. If you have any concerns or questions about your mobility, you can make an appointment to talk with one of our chiropractors.
-Mobility measures and brain function-
- Skeletal mm blood flow
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