The largest organ on our body is the skin. Its protective layers guard our muscles, bones, internal organs, and ligaments, while its active function results in the most fundamental of our five senses – that of touch. For all our focus on maintaining optimal organ function through diet, exercise, and lifestyle, could it be that we’re neglecting the organ that figures most prominently in our daily, direct communion with the material world?
I know that it’s awfully easy for me to go several days without real, meaningful physical contact with another human when I’m on the road promoting the book or giving a talk. Oh, sure, there are handshakes and incidental shoulder brushes and maybe even the occasional fist bump, but it’s not the same. I miss my wife and kids. You can’t exactly hug total strangers (nor would you really want to) or even business associates. When I’m away from my family and close friends, I realize just how ubiquitous our self-made, imaginary personal bubbles have become. We all walk around with them. This world is getting more crowded every day, and yet we’re somehow able to maneuver through it without so much as touching a single person unless we’re crammed into a train or city street. And still, even in those situations, people are loathe to make contact with one another, even ocular, and we manage to avoid most of it.
How mobile are your wrists and ankles? They’re the primary hinges for our two major sets of extremities – hands and feet – and yet they often go neglected. They’re two of the most common sites of debilitating pain and acute injury, and yet people do little else to correct the problem than tightening the high tops, strapping on some constrictive sleeves, or avoiding activity altogether. All those “solutions” miss the point entirely, in my opinion. Rather than fix the root issue, they skirt it and apply expensive band aids. If you know anything about how I approach other issues of health and wellness, you can guess that I’m not satisfied with the band aid approach to wrist and ankle mobility. We can do a whole lot better than that.
Do your shoulders slump and round when you walk, sit, or stand?
Do you get lower back or neck pain when doing twisting or rotational movements?
Have you resigned yourself to living with that nagging rotator cuff pain that flares up during workouts and in bed?
If you answered “yes” to any of those (and most people will answer yes to at least one), you may have poor thoracic spine mobility. Even if you don’t notice any of the symptoms leaping out at you, it never hurts to get more mobility, especially in the thoracic spine. And establishing good habits by actively maintaining and training mobility, as opposed to being content with what you have (even if it’s not optimum), is always a good move. Scoff at the prospect of thoracic spine mobility all you want; you still gotta have it.
It’s funny. Once you realize the relationship between nutrition, disease, health, and metabolism is complicated, complex, and completely interdependent, things somehow get a bit simpler. Everything is connected to everything else. Chronic stress begets chronic inflammation, which chronically elevates cortisol, which induces insulin resistance and belly fat accumulation. Celiacs are usually intolerant of casein, too. Diabetics get heart disease more and have higher cancer mortality rates. Diabetics are often insulin resistant and usually overweight. Celiacs are often Type 1 diabetics. The overweight sleep less, work more, and get less sun than leaner folks.
People are exceedingly mobile these days. We can jet halfway across the world at a moment’s notice, check email on our phones, hop in the car and be in another state in five hours, conduct business from anywhere, transfer schools, and shave while reading the paper on the morning commute. Social mobility, financial mobility, spatial mobility, information mobility. Mobile workforce, mobile phone, Google Mobile. Yeah, clearly, mobility is highly prized.
What about joint mobility?
Too many people discount, or even outright ignore, this crucial aspect of physical fitness. Raw strength, speed, and stamina are all important, especially to athletes or weekend warriors, but everyone of any age or fitness level needs the ability to move their limbs and joints through their full range of motion as ordained by nature. That goes for grandmothers, teens, and couch potatoes alike. Though not everyone will be picking up barbells or running sprints or long jumping, we all have to function in a three-dimensional world. We all have space and gravity with which to contend if we’re planning on enjoying and experiencing all life offers, and that’s accomplished by moving through spatiality and against gravity. To thrive in this environment, we require the full, unfettered use of our limbs, joints, and muscles. Losing the shoes is a big step; so is getting strong and fit. One of the biggest, in my opinion, is regaining and maintaining maximum joint mobility.
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