It is well known that mind over matter is especially true as our mental state clearly affects our body. In fact, many athletes will tell you that the mind is more important than the body. Surely our mind creates the motivation to get us to push our bodies to walk farther, faster and harder. This can be expressed by perhaps walking uphill, into an on-coming wind, or simply raising the treadmill incline. However, research is beginning to show that the body and, in particular, good, straight posture, affects the mind.
The Mind Affects The Body And The Body Affects The Mind
Researchers have proven that persons and animals judged to be physically stronger and more powerful than their peers are found to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol in their body. Consider testosterone Popeye’s Spinach and cortisol Superman’s Kryptonite and you’re starting to catch the drift.
Testosterone has a multitude of effects on our body, one of which is it reduces our sensitivity to pain. So when we have more or higher levels of testosterone, we are able to endure or tolerate greater pain. This is important when walking because “fatigue” of muscles is the result of toxins that accumulate which cause pain. In short, tired muscles are painful muscles.
Don’t think of testosterone as something that only burly football players and weightlifters have an excess amount of. Women’s bodies need testosterone too, and only those women who produce excessive amounts of the hormone may display male characteristics.
Cortisol affects our body in many ways too, but most interesting, persons with chronically high cortisol levels tend to have more health problems. These people tend to have a diminished immune function, high blood pressure and difficulty with their memory.
So if we can have high testosterone and low cortisol not only could we delay or better endure the pain of muscle fatigue and thereby walk further, faster and harder, but we would likely boost our immune system, prevent high blood pressure and improve our memory. Of course, this should be achieved in a reasonable balance so that women don’t end up looking like The Incredible Hulk.
The Power Of Posture
Researchers have now discovered that bodily movements and body positions can affect our emotional states, feelings and incredibly, alter hormones and chemicals. For example, scientists Riskind and Gotay showed that a poor posture (hunched) as opposed to an erect, upright posture increases the feeling of depression. Imagine if a psychiatrist prescribed walking with good posture (or better yet, FloWalking!) for depression as opposed to the latest prescription pharmaceutical. It’s true! FreudWalking is Wundterful as it keeps you Jung and Skinner!
Researchers Carney, Cuddy and Yap confirmed other scientific studies showing that putting ourselves into positions of brief “power poses” in themselves increase testosterone and lower cortisol. Power poses were described by the scientists as expansiveness (taking up more space with your body) and openness (keeping your limbs open). Earlier research by other scientists determined these power poses.
Carney, Cuddy and Yap found that by simply changing our physical posture, performance could be improved in a variety of stressful situations and people have the ability to “fake it” until they can make it. The researchers did not specifically address walking, but we can use these findings very specifically when walking.
Before we implement the power of posture when walking, we should consider what Bohns and Wiltermuth discovered. These researchers took Carney, Cuddy and Yap’s research further in their paper on “Posture and Pain Tolerance” and found that people who adopt powerful postures are better able to tolerate or withstand pain. When it comes to walking, the more pain (i.e. muscle fatigue) you can withstand, the longer, faster and harder you will be able to walk.
Posture And Walking
So how do we maximize the power of posture when we are walking? The first thing you need to do is start becoming aware of your posture. Surprisingly, despite our mother telling us to stand up straight most people do not, especially when they are walking. So start right now! If you are FloWalking you know how to walk with great posture, and now you just need to remember to it. If you are not FloWalking yet, you likely still have a sense of what good posture is, so start doing your best. In theory, you will keep your cortisol levels lower which will help in making your whole body healthier. You will also raise your testosterone levels which will help you to resist the pain of muscle fatigue. FloWalking is like hormonal replacement therapy without the nasty side effects like acne and diarrhea!
Conquer Fatigue And Walk Farther, Faster And Harder Now!
The next time you are walking and feel yourself getting to the point where you are too tired to go on, think about your posture before you stop. People not trained in FloWalking may have great posture but most likely do not. The fact is most people not schooled in posture or proper healthy walking such as FloWalking do not know how to align their body with “great” posture. Other people may have outright crummy posture (hopefully this isn’t you)! They may be so tired or so unaware of what good posture is that they are walking slouched or even hunched over! Treadmill users may be to the point of pain (and fatigue) where they look like 500 lbs. Biggest Loser participants on the first day in the gym. It is amazing how those trainers can take people that have their own zip code and turn them into athletes, but that’s all in the power of the mind!
Time to Power Pose
Regardless of where your posture is at, this is your moment to shine. In order to walk with your very best posture and just think of Mom telling you to “straighten up”.
For those of you who are familiar with FloWalking, use the “two strings” approach. In fact you can use all 7 steps of FloWalking for perfect walking posture.
If you are not yet FloWalking you can still get some benefits of posture. To start, simply lift your head and chest upward as high as you can! You will feel your body (and spine) lengthen.
When you walk with good posture you are walking with the equivalent of your own power pose. For people who do not usually walk with good posture it may feel a little uneasy at first, but soon being “taller” will feel normal. Don’t worry, there is still plenty of oxygen way up there. To help make your power pose more expansive be sure to swing your arms and try to put extra propulsion in your feet and legs as you push off with each step as if you were trying to “lift” yourself higher. FloWalkers should think “Lift and Lengthen” and swing their arms the FloWalking way.
Whether you are a FloWalker or not, hold your best posture as you walk and you will feel a burst of energy. This “burst” (or what my older FloWalkers call “pep”) is likely at least in part by the testosterone levels rising and cortisol levels lowering, though this is still theoretical. Regardless, by walking with great posture, you will walk further and perhaps faster. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll decide to walk up a hill or raise the treadmill incline. Or you’ll feel so good that you’ll want to run up Mount Everest just to slide back down! There are no limits to the power of the mind!
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Riskind J, Gotay C. Physical posture: Could it have regulatory of feedback effects on motivation and emotion? Motivation Emotion. 1982;6:273-298
Carney D. R., Cuddy A. J. C., Yap A. J. (2010). Power posing: brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychol. Sci. 21, 1363-1368
Bohns, V. K., & Wiltermuth, S. S. (2011). It hurts when I do this (or you do that): Posture and pain tolerance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1-5. Elsevier Inc. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.05.022