In The New York Times, Well Columnist Gretchen Reynolds writes that our daily activities like running is a “total body affair”. Citing a new study a published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, when we run how “our upper bodies seem to work the way they do when we run, but not when we walk”. The study discovered that “an unusual coordination between certain muscles in runners’ shoulders and arms helps to keep heads stable and runners upright”.
Reynolds writes that this research was conceived by and conducted at the laboratory of Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary anatomy at Harvard University and author of the new book “Exercised”.
As a longtime marathon runner himself, Dr. Lieberman also was interested in runners’ upper bodies and, especially, their heads. He knew that a stable head is critical for successful running, but not necessarily a simple thing to achieve. Running is propulsive. You push off, rise and then brake forcefully against the ground with every stride, placing forces on your head that could make it flop uncontrollably, like that bobbing ponytail.
Unlike animals, we humans have the challenge of being upright, on two legs. Presumably to balance ourselves while running, we began, at some point, to swing our arms guessed Dr Liberman, writes Reynolds. Their study confirmed that ‘an unusual coordination between certain muscles in runners’ shoulders and arms helps to keep heads stable and runners upright’.
Their study underscores that running molded us as a species. “If we didn’t have to run in our early days as humans we wouldn’t have this system of muscular interplay today” Dr Liberman told Reynolds.
- Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall | Amazon ($9.99).
- Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding by Daniel Lieberman | Amazon ($24.59)