Gravity - the fountain of youth?

Space travel can be credited with advancing our understanding of the world and beyond as well as bringing us amazing products and technological advances from the artificial limb to water filters.


However for me, what I find really interesting is the knowledge we gain about our bodies when we study what happens in space.


Dr Joan Vernikos, former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, has spent years researching the effects of space travel on the human body and how to combat the negative effects on an astronaut's body. Without gravity working on our bodies we lose bone density at a rate of more than 1% a month, our health degenerates at an incredible rate. Therefore NASA spend a lot of time and resources understanding why and how gravity affects our bodies and what training is best to combat the effect.


Without gravity working on our bodies we lose bone density at a rate of more than 1% a month, our health degenerates at an incredible rate.

Amazingly however, taking away movement can be just as bad as taking away gravity. When conducting a bed rest study Dr Vernikos realised that subjects exposed to prolonged bedrest experienced amazingly similar effects to the astronauts she studied, such as neuromuscular conditions, osteoarthritis and balance and vision disorders.


We’ve known for a while that immobility is bad, but it’s pretty terrifying that bed rest can cause the same health problems as space travel.


But stay with me as things are about to get interesting, we know immobility is bad, so we go to the gym, but now research shows that time spent sitting is not undone by exercise and just to add insult to injury, standing isn’t the silver bullet either.


Time spent sitting is not undone by exercise.... neither is standing the silver bullet.

Vernikos research has led her to the understanding that it’s regularly changing our posture that is key to improving health, in other words, regularly disrupting our relationship with the gravity that is acting upon us. It’s the movement of going from a seated to a standing position that is good for us, not the actual standing or sitting.


Regularly disrupting our relationship with the gravity that is acting upon us is what helps us age more gently.

Vernikos’ research found that standing up just once every hour had more benefit on our heart than walking for 15 minutes and that standing up and sitting down for 32 minutes does not produce the same beneficial results as standing up 32 times throughout the day.


The experts think that this interruption is more important than exercise itself, though we are not proposing a regime of sitting on the couch and getting up once an hour to sit back down again!


As a massage therapist we are forever changing our interactions with gravity, sitting, standing, lunging etc, but for the majority of our clients, I understand it’s not that easy.


So what do we recommend? Our best advice for now would be;


  1. Set an alarm and change your position every hour

  2. Incorporate some lunges, squats or a plank maybe - changing your centre of gravity a few times in 10 mins

  3. Simply interrupt your entire body’s interaction with gravity as often as you can


There will be more information to come on this subject I am sure, there is the proposal that people with physical disabilities and the elderly may benefit from exposure to hypergravity, so watch this space……. Pun intended.


http://www.joanvernikos.com/pages/sitting-kills-moving-heals.php



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