By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
There are more than 600 muscles in our body from the top of our head (yes, it has muscle, too) to the tip of our toe. Then we have 206 bones and about 300 joints. Together, our bones and joints and our muscles make us move anyway we like- enable us to move our eyes, open our mouth and move from the house to the garden, etc, etc. If you observe yoga and gymnastics, you will be amazed at the range of motions of our body. The bone is the lever and the joint is the fulcrum. A lot of machines have been built around the principles of our musculo-skeletal system. Look at the backhoe, it is like a giant hand.
These were given to us, I would say, for many reasons. You see, in nature, everything has value and everything is there for a good reason. That is nature. So imagine if we only had muscles like the worm, not bones & joints. Thank you, Lord, for designing our bodies beautifully!
The bones and joints give the framework of our bodies but it is the muscles that will move them. There are voluntary & involuntary muscles. Involuntary muscles are automatically designed to move, even if we don’t think about it. Their continuous movements are necessary for our survival. These are the smooth muscles in our heart, airways, kidneys, blood vessels, intestines. Our Creator is good. On the other hand, voluntary muscles tie the bones together and make our body look more beautiful. Perhaps. And they are, well, voluntary. I mean, they are designed only to move if your brain commands them to. Like your leg muscles will not move you from the bed to the kitchen if your brain does not command them to. Or if your mom or dad commands you to. I remember one elder admonishing a disobedient child, “Haay, adi ka kaba-a. Awni metlang et ba-a-en nan isbom sika.” (How do you translate that in English?)
Sometimes, your brain is sluggish that all you can think of is sit or lie down. Sleep or just watch movies or games. And the more you do not move, the more your body including your brain will become lazy. In 2018, Raed Mualem et.al., stated, “There’s a pandemic of physical inactivity around all ages.” They conducted a research “The Effect of Movement on Cognitive Performance” and concluded that “… at least 10 minutes walking has significant effect on mathematical problem-solving abilities in higher performing high school but more so in lower performing students.” ( Frontiers in Public Health April 2018). Now we have another pandemic -this covid pandemic- which even encouraged us to just stay home. I have many friends who say they have become much less active and are too lazy to walk outside the home. With adults not encouraged to move about, who will now bring the children out in the open? I am worried that my grandchildren are spending so much time now with gadgets. Even if we censor what they watch, it’s still not healthy to be sitting down so much.
Internet is replete with researches on the benefits of physical movement on memory and learning “Physical movement energizes the brain by increasing blood flow, oxygen and nutrients. It increases alertness, attention and motivation, more nerve cells bind together and the chemicals released at the synapse help “fix’ memories and improve recall.” (“Procedural Memory, Movement & Exercise- Learning on the Move” learningonthemove.org)
Aside from enabling us to move and keeping our brains alert, our musculo-skeletal system functions to maintain posture, strength, stabilize our joints. Meaning the less you move, the more you have joint problems. Movement also produces heat to maintain body temperature. About 85% of heat produced in the body is a product of muscle contraction. So you will observe that if you move and move, your body will warm up. As one Belgian sister informed us as she whizzed by “I’ll go ahead. We were trained to walk fast in Belgium because it is cold there and walking fast makes us warm.” While we were in college in Baguio City, we heard some students performing war dances in the bathroom. Hot showers were unheard of then.
People are really designed to move and move often. We are given more or less 12 hours (in the tropics) to move about. In nature, darkness is the limiting factor for our movements. What happens if we live against the design of nature? In the scheme of nature, if you don’t use something for what it was meant to do, it will deteriorate. Natural lang yan. Look at a house, if it is not used, it will depreciate more rapidly. What about a machine? You don’t use it, it will rust and malfunction. Same as our body. Our muscles, bones and joints are meant to move us so if you don’t use them, they will atrophy. They will lose their mass, strength and flexibility. These are obvious in persons bedridden for long. But these will also happen in people who choose not to be physically active. They cannot carry even a basket of camote, they easily trip and cannot walk far. Perhaps this is why God gave us grandchildren so that even in our senior years, we will be in top shape. Imagine, all those running after little tykes and carrying them in our backs. Literally keeping us on our toes and keeping our minds alert.***
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13