What evolution has done for us

It’s been a little while since I last wrote a blog post and far longer than I would have liked. My aim when I added the blog section to my website was to add a post once a month, not difficult I thought back then, but life seems to have got in the way and that combined with not really being a natural writer has hampered my efforts. I think if I told you that I started studying engineering at university and ended up with a degree in maths with anthropology, you’d understand that prose doesn’t come easily to me. But that might also explain my interest in the human body, for me studying anthropology was a glorious insight into us as a human race, not only from a social point of view but also, more importantly for me, from a biological slant. The fact that millions of years ago, if you met a human or Homo sapiens, to give us our official name, we’d look very different to how we do today. 

Image Credit: Cirque du Soleil

Image Credit: Cirque du Soleil

Homo sapiens have evolved over millions of years to how we are today and with that has come a massive change to our bodies, most significantly going from walking on four legs to only on two.  That change in itself created a massive difference in the forces that our joints are required to withstand. Take the spine for example, a dog, horse or cat has a relative stiff, gently curving beam, we on the other hand have a comparatively flexible S shaped curve, which is needed to keep our centre of gravity over our hips. The flexibility of the spine itself can cause issues with wear and tear and the curvature of the spine can cause slipped discs or broken vertebrae. We have only two legs and two feet and the added weight that is required to travel through these and our knee and hip joints can have a big impact on the joints and bones. 

In order for our spine to function correctly and for us to be pain free, we need to do our best to support it. This is where the ‘core unit’ comes in. The core unit is made up of the deep abdominals (transverses abdomens), the pelvic floor, the diaphragm and some back muscles called multifidus. It is their role to support the spine and hence our bodies. In a normal functioning person, they do this pretty well, but as soon as we have an injury the other muscles take over and the core unit goes on holiday. Once we have recovered from that injury, the core unit doesn’t just switch back on, it continues it's long overdue holiday and that is why we tend to get recurrences of the same back pain time and time again. This is where Pilates can help, Pilates teaches you to engage your core, to use it correctly in order to support your spine and hence help stop that old injury returning. 

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However it isn’t just for those who have had an injury, it can help from an every day point of view too. Take our four legged friends again, they spend the majority of their days (when they aren’t sleeping!) running around, sniffing out smells, chasing balls and so on, hence taking exercise, moving their joints and importantly using their bodies in the way that they were designed. We on the other hand don’t. We don’t spend our days hunting and gathering, and we don’t spend much of our time as adults, crawling, climbing, carrying, running, jumping, balancing, catching – the movements children do instinctively – and hence we don’t use our bodies in the ways that they were designed all those millions of years ago. On the whole we’ve become very sedentary and because of this a whole heap of other problems have occurred and this is another place in which Pilates can help, take your posture, you are probably reading this on a computer, mobile or tablet, what’s the betting you are sitting down and most likely your shoulders are forward, as is your chin. Pilates teaches you (plus it helps remind you!) to think about your shoulders and that chin, using cleverly designed exercises to help get them back into the correct position. 

So next time you are sitting, standing or even walking, just take a moment, think about your posture, think about your core unit and make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be. 

"I don’t do fitness. I do movement." – Ido Portal