Did you know that our bones are so much smarter than we give them credit for? We all know that our bodies are constantly adapting to our surroundings, but just how much do our bones adapt and what kind of impact can that have on our future?
Julius Wolff, a German anatomist and surgeon in the 1800s, proposed the theory that bone adapts to the repetitive stresses it is subjected to. He postulated that whatever continuous strain we endure, our bones will remodel themselves to make them more resistant to similar loads in future. This theory is called Wolff’s Law.
As cool as it sounds that your bones adapt to make life easier, it also means that you have to be careful as to not send the wrong messages causing them to grow improperly, and end up with health issues in later life.
So how can you ensure your bones are receiving the right messages to grow and adapt properly? This is where we need to understand the difference between good strain and bad strain.
Good strain includes activities such as low-intensity walking and high-intensity resistance training. Walking is a great low-intensity exercise to build and maintain strong bones. As little as 1km a day can make a great difference and won’t put your body under too much pressure.
Resistance training helps bones grow bigger, stronger, and denser, making them better equipped to tolerate greater forces without being injured. Ensuring to balance low and high-intensity exercise, repetition of these activities will send our bones the message to grow properly that will benefit you in future.
Bad strain that can cause bones to remodel incorrectly include performing a repetitive task without regular breaks such as using a computer mouse, typing, grasping tools, working on an assembly line or sports training, and most commonly, sitting with incorrect posture for long periods of time.
Posture is a really good place to start with ensuring Wolff’s Law is working in your favour. The world in which we now live is vastly different to the world in which past generations lived, mostly due to the use of technology such as computers and cellphones, as well as the fact that we sit for longer periods of time than previous generations.
“Kyphotic” position (resulting in Kyphosis) causes excessive strains on the muscles and vertebrae, which can cause a minor wedge shape deformation of the vertebra and a permanent loss of proper posture, often referred to as hunchback. Poor posture, unfortunately, is linked to greater discomfort and agony as a person ages, which is not how life should be lived.
Ultimately, it's apparent that our bones will adapt to the repetitive situations that we subject them to. It's critical to make sure that everything we do, from sitting to running, is beneficial to how our bones will grow in the future.