This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Katy Bowman. In her own words:
“Analyzing human movement (biomechanics) was typically reserved for athletes and special populations, until biomechanical scientist Katy Bowman decided to apply these same engineering principles to the every-day use of the HUMAN MACHINE for the purpose of reducing common disease.
Initially starting her college career as a mathematician turned physicist, she grew bored with theoretical problems of point masses and strings. Combining her love for anatomy and physiology with her strong engineering background, Katy completed her undergraduate degree in Biomechanics and Kinesiology and began work designing safe exercise programs for injured or post-rehab patients seeking to re-establish a higher level of activity.
After working in the field for four years, Bowman, with physics and engineering skills aiding her, observed that specific gait patterns and anthropometric dimensions were similar in people with similar degeneration patterns. Wanting to study more, Katy returned to her biomechanical studies at a graduate level. In addition to large skeletal movements, she began to study micro-biomechanics: The physics of blood flow in the cardiovascular system, the relationship between neurological function and cellular health, and the role of the pelvic floor muscles in supporting organ positioning and function.
While completing her Master’s program, Katy opened her first “restorative exercise” studio – a facility dedicated to the ABCs of movement. While many people enjoy regular fitness habits, most do so with poor gait patterns and low, all-over muscle use. This studio provided little-known information on how to increase body awareness and performance and quickly developed a large reputation for aiding many in pain reduction, increased bone density, and increased metabolic health.
Growing out of the original space, and then rapidly out-growing a second facility, the Restorative Exercise Institute moved to its current home as Katy released the first three of her corrective exercise programs nationally in partnership with Gaiam, Inc. National recognition, speaking engagements, and television support rapidly created a demand for more BIOMECHANICS!
Katy currently directs the Restorative Exercise Institute, supports the release of her second DVD series – Aligned and Well™, serves as scientific advisor to various health and wellness products, and is currently on tour supporting the release of her first book, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet. You will also catch her, on a regular basis, dropping into class to do her favorite thing of all – teach biomechanics!”
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Definitely a great show for you today. Our guest is into Science and she is into applying it to help people live better. You know I’m happy to have her on the show. She is a master’s level Biochemist and she is the only human Physics Scientist that has focused her expertise to address our country’s epidemic level health crisis and the mechanical causes of disease.
That in and of itself is worth a podcast, I tell you folks and in addition to directing the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, California, she is also the producer and talent of Aligned and Well, the DVD line as well as a bunch of cool stuff over with Gaiam’s Restorative Exercise series. Katy Bowman stays busy, she stays balanced and she is in the mechanical causes of disease. Katy, welcome to the show.
Katy: Thanks for having me.
Jonathan: What are the mechanical causes of disease?
Katy: Oh my gosh. Well those are all the, I think most people are used to thinking about the body as the result, the health outcomes as a result of chemistry but what I study is kind of the wear and tear of the physical Newtonian Physics of what we do that breaks the body down, so the frictions, the pressures, the loads that you create through movement that affect what the DNA inside your nucleus does. That’s the kind of stuff that I look at.
Jonathan: Are you telling me that how I’m moving my body is changing my DNA?
Katy: Yeah. How you move, kind of like you are what you eat, you’re also what you move.
Jonathan: Tell me about some of this research that I’m moving, how does moving, does it help my DNA? Does it hurt my DNA? What causes which?
Katy: Well, it’s not as specific as, the category is not really that I look at move yes or no. Obviously, the easiest way to look at it is if you move, you’re usually better off than if you don’t but I look at what all the forces are doing like gravity, for example, is a big thing where you’re under the effect of gravity and that creates a certain effect within your body. If we look at what the astronauts, what are some of their health issues, being in a zero gravity environment, their bone density starts going down, so yeah, your cells are constantly adapting to the mechanical loads that you’re placing on them. I don’t, I’ve worked on the cellular level effective movement so you can say, “Hey couch potato. Hey athlete” and there’s going to be a difference between the two. What I really looked at is between the same person doing small nuances of behavior. What’s the difference between walking on the treadmill versus walking over ground?
You can really start evaluating movement with a lot more variables than what we’re currently doing and that’s what I spend most of my time doing, is educating people that movement is more than yes or no. There are actually different qualities of movements and variables to consider when you’re trying to get a healthy outcome.
Jonathan: We’re certainly all about eating and food and exercise quality here on the show, so what are some characteristics of a high quality movement and some characteristics of a low quality movement.
Katy: Well, natural movements, these are the movements that we’ve been doing for a long portion of the human time line, are movements that, I don’t usually like the term like you have movement requirements based on your DNA because your body is constantly adapting to whatever you do. That all being said is you have a certain amount of strength in all of your tissues that are required for you to do basic functional movements. For example, you need the density in your hip the whole do up while you’re standing and you’re moving around.
The qualities that I’m looking at are what’s the loading frequency? Loading frequency is a good one. What’s enough movement? What’s too much movement? What’s too little, so because loads are impossible to calculate, it’s really easiest to just get…mimic as many natural loads as you possibly can and that would be the weights that you’re carrying around, the joint angles that you’re moving, and then the frequency of what you’re doing both.
Jonathan: So with all you walk into any modern gym and there are a plethora of machines which put you in movements that do not exist outside of gyms, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Katy: Well, good or bad, it’s kind of like, it’s not as easy to say good or bad, it’s more to say like what are your desired outcomes? Certainly the difference between not moving and moving at all, there’s always an inherent benefits to any sort of moving that you do. The biggest problem that humans have right now is using a very small range of their potential motions at a very high frequency. If you just take a joint action in bio-mechanics and I’m a Bio-mechanist instead of a Bio-chemist just in case anyone was listening. Biochemist is a little bit different. So, Bio-mechanics is the study of what are your joints doing so if you’re sitting down all day say you’re, sitting at work, you have a certain hip and knee position. You’re sitting in a chair about 90 degrees in your hip, 90 degrees in your knee but then you go to the gym your “exercise time” and then you kind of proceed to do things at which you’re in that same 90 degree knee and hip flexion. Let’s say, you take a spin class or say you go on an elliptical machine or you’re going to do weight machines but you’re sitting down on them.
What we’re starting to look at is like what is the biological tax of only using the small range of motion of the hip over and over and over again throughout, since you sat down and went to school even doing the same thing and you’ll do the same motion all the way until your final day. What is the ramification of never using anything else and it’s like well it’s the knee replacements, it’s the hip replacements, it’s the cartilage wear and tear so that’s the kind of problem that we’re trying to solve.
Jonathan: Earlier you made a wonderful analogy of people say you are what you eat and you were taking it and saying what you are a bit like you move. It sounds like there may be another parallel with the way people often talk about food, which is this eat the rainbow and eat a diversity of food. It sounds like what you’re saying is move like the rainbow, do a lot of different movements, is that fair?
Katy: Yeah. It’s a great way to look at. We talk about junk food and junk food is not really a thing that brings you robust health but to someone who has no food, junk food certainly has a lot of beneficial properties. It can get you short-term energy. It can fill a void in your gut. It can occupy your…satiate your mind or whatever. There’s always inherent good and everything, however, your cells are unable to function, which means your body is unable to sustain itself on a purely junk food diet, so we know that there’s this whole food that there’s all this qualities of food that are great and you’ve got macro and micro-nutrients.
You also have the age of the food, there is another variable that is mostly, in the last ten years that people are really focusing on. How is the food that you’re eating, how was it developed? Was it developed in the presence of chemicals or not. There’s all these other influences and the same thing goes for movement so that just like there’s whole or real food, there’s also whole or real movement and your body is really most compatible if longevity is your primary objective. For a lot of people who are performance athletes, their primary objective is not longevity but I would say most people are exercising because they do want sustainable health, to be able to move for a long period of time. You definitely need the full spectrum of nutrition that you can gather through movement.
Jonathan: Let’s keep the analogies going. I love goose bumps. I’m getting goose bumps because I love analogies. I also do love goose bumps. The whole foods movement is obviously a wonderful movement, a movement that a lot of people are rallying behind. What is the whole movement movement? I didn’t think about that before I said it. What is the whole movement movement? What would you be doing to live that lifestyle?
Katy: Well, it’s so big. It’s so big.
Jonathan: The whole? It’s whole.
Katy: It’s the whole. It’s the whole. It’s like asking you, “Hey Jonathan, could you in two minutes explain everything that I need to be eating” and you would have to sit there and list all of the nutrients because it has to do mostly with everything, all of the movements that you would have done sans any modern convenience. If you look around and you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to get up today.” The first thing you do is you get out of your bed, that’s a foot and a half or two feet off of the ground. Already, just by getting up out of your bed instead of getting up and sleeping off the floor, you’ve already missed a whole range of motion and knee and hip flexion.
You already missed one rep of something that you would have done every single day of your life and if I took you through an hour of living in modern convenience, you would see that objectively if we put little goniometers, which is a fancy way of saying an angle measurement in every single one of your joints and EMGs all over your muscles, that the difference between one hour in the way we live our lives now to the way we would live our lives where there nothing, would be huge. The difference between whole food and junk food is nothing compared between the difference between the whole food and junk food movement. If we’re going to quantify it, it’s mind blowing.
It is just the loads in what you’re missing out on are huge and I don’t want people to think that I’m talking about even just basic health like the shape of your body literally that it is in right now. I’m not talking about the figurative shape, the literal shape that you have to your bones are a result of how you’ve moved throughout your life. They say when you have a newborn baby you don’t lay it on its back for too long because it’s head kind of flattens out because the bones are shaping based on the loads they are experiencing. All of us, our whole shape of our body is different than how it would have been, which is just really I think profound. Of course I’m totally biased in the profoundness of health but I do find it to be profound because so many people are struggling with health issues that are just a result of, for some reason movement kind of became downgraded as not as essential as things like eating and breathing but it is, it’s just as essential.
Jonathan: What do we do? I, like you, I get excited about the science. It’s amazing. It’s great, like you are what you move, however, many of us like myself I have to sit at a desk for 12 hours a day, that’s how I live, so what can I do to not have junk movement? What can our listeners do to not have junk movement given the constraints of modern life?
Katy: Yeah. Well, I mean, the cool thing is because the gap between the two is so huge, any small change that you make usually has like these profound changes on health. You’ve probably seen a lot of like a standing work station suggestion, they’re going to be on your computer and I participate in modern living just like anyone else. I’m on my computer a lot but I don’t sit at a desk. I stand at a counter or a standing work station or because I have a laptop, I’ll sit on the floor. Say you’re going to spent four to five hours on your computer, there’s nothing that says you have to keep your body static while you do it.
You have the option of changing that around even if you got a desk that had a standing option or for a lot of people, it’s like putting a box on the top of your desk and standing up. The other one is like walking. Walking is may be in terms of frequency, what humans did the most as far as the highest loads and the most frequent joint configurations that you would cycle through. Most people have stopped walking where historically, it’s calculated that humans have walked an average of about a 1,000 miles a year.
If you break it down into per day that’s I think is like 2.75, somewhere between two and three quarters and three miles a day. A lot of times a kind of the reflexes, “Okay, will do hunter gatherers” is where a lot of the natural movement information comes from and there’s modern hunter gatherers on the planet right now so we have all these measures of things like their bone health and their osteoarthritis and we know the frequencies in which they move and we know our incidences and we know how much we move.
We can quantify that pretty well. The mistake is to go, okay, if they’ll walk 9000 or say they walk an average of 1,000 miles a year, which is about three miles a day, what we tend to do is go, “Okay, that’s three miles a day, I can do that” and that’s great because if you’re walking zero to bump up your mileage is awesome but then there’s this whole other thing going, they don’t walk three miles a day. Some days they walk one, some days they walk five, some days they walk twelve, some days or for two days or three days in a row, they’ll walk zero. It really is understanding this whole concept of variability. The fact that variability is the backbone to human adaptation and so the less you vary, the less physical reward something gives you and then also I try to like have people not think about the term exercise.
The term exercise is also kind of a modern equivalent to saying, you know what you don’t have time to eat all day so I would like you to eat a daily requirement of 2000 calories over a period of 45 minutes. The ramifications of these like I got to go out and do this huge bout of exercise for 45 minutes to get my heart rate up and whatever. That’s also not really the way the body works optimally, so you could even take your requirement of somewhere between three and eight miles that you’re going to do a few times a week and break it up. It’s just as good to go for a ten minute walk seven or eight times a day as it is to go walk for an hour and 20 minutes.
Jonathan: This is in terms of the impact that has on your genetic expression or like is that specific to the like, I guess, what is the goal, because you mention like athletes have a different goal than someone who’s just after longevity so this is after like if you’re just after general longevity?
Katy: Well, not just general longevity, its robust health.
Jonathan: Got you. Got you.
Katy: Like movement, the reason we move, the reason movement is a requirement is that you’ve got all your like if I asked you, what does your cardiovascular system do? What would you tell me? It’s the same thing probably that everyone tells me. It’s like, you know, the heart and lungs are moving the oxygen around the body but it doesn’t really work that way. The oxygen you’re breathing in, the oxygen is getting into your lungs and it’s getting into the main arterial system but the oxygen isn’t getting out of the arteries.
It’s not getting to the tissues that it feeds, it feeds through capillaries, so if someone doesn’t have a lot of anatomy or physiology training, your blood network is like a circuit of sorts that has like the main arteries and veins but then there’s always, once it branch off and they trickle all the way down until you’ve got a capillary. Every single one of your cells is about ten micro meters away from a capillary and just for context, a micrometer is about half the width of one of your hairs so your body’s proliferated with all these capillaries but the oxygen isn’t getting out of the arteries into the capillaries so in order to get oxygen out of the main blood stream and into the tissues that eat it, because it’s all about cellular feeding. The whole reason we move is to take in oxygen so that the oxygen can get to the tissues. It requires movement. If you only feed yourself one hour a day as opposed to feed them multiple times a day, it would be the same thing as telling that you can eat once or breath.
If I told you, “You’re going to have to breath for the day over a period of one hour, it’s kind of stressful. It’s kind of stressful and it is stressful to the body as well and that is why we’ve got all these kind of biological alerts that are going off because the amount of movement we’re getting is very low and so you end up, the tissues are dying faster than you can regenerate and that is essentially what disease is.
Jonathan: Katy, I’m not exaggerating, you’re literally blowing my mind. Is this like a movement I have, are you on the brink? This is big. This is cool stuff because I have never thought about it that way but it’s very true because you give so many powerful analogies. You’re making me think of the movie Wall-E, have you seen this movie?
Katy: Oh I have, yeah.
Jonathan: Okay, so there are a couple of things, right? So gets it on both levels, one, people stop eating food and it’s just like vitamins in feeding tubes and we say like, “Oh, you don’t eat food anymore” you’re like, you said, “Just take a vitamin.” It’s a vitamin approach. The junk food like junk movement but in addition, they don’t move anymore and because they don’t move, the body adapts to the demands you put on it. We all get that on some level, so their bones disintegrate. They just turn into these blobs but we don’t realize that just like the food we take in influences the makeup of our body.
Obviously when you take a step back I had just never taken that step back personally, how you move, day in and day out is also applying stress to your body and your body responds to the stress that’s put on it. If we put on stresses in a way that is not the way that they were put on our body for hundreds of thousands of years or millions of years depending on your beliefs, clearly our body will react differently than it did during that time period. There’s the ancestral health movement.
Why doesn’t that include things like movement in the way you’re talking about here because it seems very ancestral. It seems very comparative and in fact, in that community, there is more things like is cross fit in example of this because that’s very popular in that community. Sorry, I’m rambling because you’re getting me excited.
Katy: That’s okay. Well, I would say that I have a lot of followers, we called them followers or people who are trying to learn about this who do come from the ancestral health because I’m definitely using an evolutionary biology or ancestral health platform, so there is an element of if that’s not your thing, then you could also just say, well most people can understand. For me, the evolution of movement has happened, you can start with the agriculture revolution if you want to go 10,000 years back, which is kind of that whole fundamental pillow.
It’s like “Okay as soon as we stopped hunter gathering and started farming, that’s human transition.” There’s also closer would be the industrial revolution and then even closer that would be the technology revolution. You and I are post-industrial revolution because that’s 250 years ago but I thankfully am just past tech, meaning that I didn’t actually set my skeleton during the tech time.
People who are, I’m 37, so kids who are like 17 now, their bones have been setting in an entire time where movement is even less than it was when we grew up, now compared to us growing up, compared to when everyone like before industrial revolution where people were still making a lot of their own stuff and moving throughout the day.
There is a shift there and of course there is this giant shift between what nomadic populations are doing and what we’re doing now and I don’t think that anyone is really looking at it. What I see in ancestral health is that the movement portion is not as radical as the food, so we’re still stuck in this paradigm of exercise. Are you familiar with the Venn diagram?
Jonathan: I, I am. Yes.
Katy: Are you the Venn diagram guy? If you imagine a Venn diagram, a big circle, on the circle, I put movement so everything is movement. Anything that you do with your body that changes its position whether to the ground or relative to itself, some part relative to itself is movement but within the movement bubble, there are two sub bubbles. One bubble would be exercise and the other bubble would be natural movement and so what’s happening is people are looking to like, “Katy, what are some more natural movements I can do for my workout?” and I’m such a purest because I have to be because this is my life’s work. This is everything I’ve done scientifically. This will be my contribution which is exercise is what’s doing us harm. The whole concept of exercise is what’s doing us harm, not that there’s anything wrong with movement but exercise is a very specific thing. It’s moving for the benefit of something. Where movement is just something that you do to get through regular life.
It has lots to do with the psychological of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations, the frequencies, if you kind of always think about it as like I’ve checked off the box of moving today, like unless you change your mind set and wrap it around the entire new paradigm, you’re always going to be wondering why this little niggling thing in your body is not going away. It’s like your cellular feeding is off and it’s a real specific way to feed. There’s a real easy way to put yourself on a grid and see what’s you’re feeding and what you’re not and then you have to slowly migrate towards, if I can use a pun there, migrate towards hunter gatherer movement.
I’m writing a bigger book about it. It won’t be out until next year because there’s a lot of different ways you can implement it. If you did a tour of my house or actually on my blog, there’s a tour of my house. I don’t have a lot of furniture in my home. I don’t have any couches. I don’t have any chairs. What I’m trying to present to people and I know it’s like I’m not really as crazy of a person as I sound right now. It’s just it’s kind of like you’re going, “Okay, I live in the real world” so it’s like, “Yeah. I live in a real world and I know all this information, so what do I do?”
Sitting in a chair, that was the big risk factor last year, sitting is the new smoking but what the research really didn’t say or what media didn’t tease out of the research., it’s not the sitting that’s like the smoking it’s the stillness in one position that’s the smoking. When you don’t position it that way it’s like, “Oh, sitting is a new smoking” and it’s like “Great, then I’ll stand here while I work” and that has benefit but it’s kind of like the argument of like all accidents happen within 15 miles of your home so you’ll move.
The point, the sitting was not the problem. It was that there is an adaptation on the cellular level that happens when the geometry of your body is repetitive. You actually harden the walls of your arteries that way. It has to do with, I’ll give you the one minute Physics lesson. If you have a straight hallway, can you imagine that straight hallway and your walls down the hallway? If I come along and I put a bend in your hallway and I’m rolling balls down the hallway, where does that ball going to hit now?
Jonathan: The wall.
Katy: It’s going to hit the wall, so you’ve got all these blood cells in your blood. They have mass. They’re going down your blood stream and you’ve got a really beautiful way of branching arteries so you’ve got basically like a beautiful hemo-dynamic system which is just the physics of water where the size of two being changes so that there’s never what they called like turbulent flow. You want everything very laminar as if you were flying. When you’re flying in an airplane you want as much laminar flow as possible.
When it gets turbulent, it gets little bumpy. With turbulent flow in the blood stream what happens is that it sends your blood cells crashing into the walls of your artery and so that starts a wounding cycle and then that wounding cycle leads to eventually a change. If you sit and if you’ve ever had a scab on your hand, you can thicken the skin into a scar by just repeatedly picking at it and what you’re doing is your actually changing the cell, you’re changing the state of the cell, so the same thing happens with the epithelial cells that are inside your arteries.
It’s like they’re going to bombard them with physical pressure more so than, how its designed is not really the most perfect way to say it but I say it for ease like more than with a greater load than the tissue can adapt to handle or evolve to handle. It just adapts by becoming thicker but then that eventually, it’s like a short-term adaptation like great, you’re not going to tear a hole in the wall so it becomes thicker but the whole part of your blood pressure regulation system requires this elasticity.
Adaptation, I think people are kind of confused when they hear adaptation because they think that it means improvement and adaptation is a short-term change for short-term survival. It affects your ability for your body to work in the future so that it can work right now. If natural movement or with a natural constantly fluxing geometry, you would never have this artery stiffening that does in fact, it starts you down a cycle of a lot of cardiovascular issues, so it’s all about change.
It’s all about variability even if you’re like, “I don’t have time to fit natural movement in my life.” It’s like, instead of sitting in your couch, sit on the floor. That’s a change all the way down to the geometry of your blood vessels and so the more frequently you use different geometry, the less you’re going to adapt to any one thing.
Jonathan: Katy, you are awesome like. This is just awesome. I just feel we’ve already gone way overtime. I don’t care because this is cool stuff like kudos to you for this work. We’re going to have to talk again offline because this is just, I’m a fan. I haven’t sat like this and just take notes and been enamored by one of my guest in a really long time. Kudos to you madam, I just liked you on Facebook and also followed you on Twitter, so you got at least one more fan on both groups.
Katy: It only took me 34 minutes.
Jonathan: It totally scales so if you could just do that, no, obviously and hopefully, the listeners are also enjoying you as much as I am because this is fabulous stuff and folks obviously Katy is a brilliant woman and you can learn way more about her as I am going too as soon as the show ends at katysays.com and that’s K-A-T-Y-S-A-Y-S.com, you actually just released a new book, correct?
Katy: Yes, Alignment Matters.
Jonathan: You’re funny too and you are just my new favorite person today. Good job Katy, you got an A+ for the podcast today.
Katy: That’s you and my Dad.
Jonathan: Folks, her name is Katy and she is awesome. Katy, tell our folks just a little bit more about yourself just really quickly, where you’re from, what you’re doing, what you’re doing next all that kind of fun stuff.
Katy: Well, I am from everywhere. I like to think. You can read everything you ever wanted to read about me. I started a blog seven years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long, katysays.com and it started as just a place where some of the people…I have training for this you know where I answered questions from people who’ve been to the training and it’s slowly evolved overtime into a place where I began to write more and more articles.
You can see the evolution of my writing and my thinking if you start at the beginning and it’s a lot more heady now and a lot more of this kind of… I didn’t start teaching out the cells part of it, you know, I started teaching more of the orientations because really we talked about this level first but where you should start in your body is just kind of understanding how to assess the parts of you that no longer move and that’s really the best thing you can do for your health and you can come stalk me online.
The Facebook page is a good place, that’s probably the Aligned and Well Facebook page is where I spend most of my time and I’m there a couple of hours a day answering questions and just dishing out information such as this.
Jonathan: It’s awesome Katy. Well again, it’s katysays.com. Her name is Katy Bowman. Katy, thank you again so much for coming on the show. It has been awesome and we’ve got to have you back.
Katy: Thank you Jonathan.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoy today’s show as much as I did. That was a freaking good show. Remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.
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