The Modern MismatchJun 17, 2022
By: Nick Sienkiewicz, DPT, CSCS
A Footwear Mismatch
If you have ever been to ProForm, you know we have a foot fetish (well it may just be me, but we all certainly care about our footwear!). Much of the reason we are so passionate about helping people transition into more natural footwear is because there is inherently a huge mismatch between our foot structure and the conventional shoes most people cram their feet into daily. This incongruity is present with regard to our cultural perceptions of feet as well. Society views human feet as weak and fragile, in need of external support, when in the reality, your feet have all the support they need inside them. You just stopped using your internal supports, so the body eventually becomes reliant on the external structure.
This footwear mismatch is becoming more and more apparent, but there are still many other conflicts present for the human body in our modern world that fly under the radar. Let’s run through a couple big ones:
- Environmental toxins: There are a variety of toxins in our world that are so new to the human body. We have not accrued enough time to be able to adapt and tolerate these compounds, let alone be able to efficiently flush them out and detoxify the system. These range from components found in tap water, beauty products, cleaning agents, your clothes and even into our food supply. We won’t get into the nitty gritty details of specific names here, but these toxins are found in nearly everything in our modern-day society. These toxins sabotage your body’s natural hormone production, are linked to many diseases, and disrupt the natural rhythms of you body, like your circadian rhythm. These contaminants are only increasing in quantity, giving the human body minimal time to react and adapt appropriately. There are ways to minimize your exposure to such toxins, including using a high-quality water filter, using only synthetic-free beauty and cleaning products (deodorant counts here!), wearing clothes with all natural material (i.e cotton, wool), and striving to buy mostly organic foods, locally grown when possible.
- A culture of comfort and convenience: It has only been the better part of the past few decades that we have been able to live so comfortably. You can get everything you need, or at least everything you THINK you need, at the tap of a finger. As cool and advantageous as this may be, it is still abnormal for our species as humans. We evolved to do difficult things, like hunt our food and build our shelter. It sounds crazy, but this mismatch can actually be the source of internal stress. The human body was built for certain tribulations over a few million years in which we, all of a sudden, no longer expose ourselves. The brain and body is waiting to take on some of these burdens for which it is equipped, but they never come. As a result, your body and brain will create that stressor elsewhere, often in the form of mental or emotional stress, such as anxiety. Purposefully placing your body under certain stresses, such as cold exposure, can be hugely impactful for this reason. Your body has all the mechanisms it needs to tolerate extreme cold for short periods of time. We just don’t use them anymore, and when you stop using it, you lose it! Other ways to combat this mismatch would be willing fully doing challenging tasks, fasting for extended periods of time, spending time in a sauna, and even exercising. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you! These endeavors do not need to be done everyday, just every so often.
- Exercise and modern sports: Believe it or not, the way we think of exercise today would be very foreign to our ancestors even just a century ago. We chose a 60 minute window to do all of our movement for the day. Our ancestors would have just been naturally moving throughout the day. Three sets of 10 or running a 5k would make no sense to your great great grandparents, yet it has become the norm for us nowadays. I’m not saying exercise is bad. It is very much a massive positive, but we still have to understand and respect that it is relatively new to the human species. Hence, why there are so many injuries with many of the modern recreational activities in which we participate. Our children are even playing less than they used to, and this is all part of this modern mismatch. Continue to exercise and strength train regularly, but also consider your non-exercise movement. In general, we all need to move more throughout the day in the other hours we are not exercising. Try new activities. Re-incorporate old movements you used to do but stopped somewhere along the way. Watch your children move and play, and try to model them. Don’t stop playing throughout the lifespan.
These are just a few of our significant environmental mismatches between humans and present-day world. We have an amazing capacity to adapt and evolve, but this takes time. Our bodies have not had adequate time to adjust. The world is not changing or reverting backwards, so we as individuals all need to take ownership. Awareness and understanding of these mismatches is the first step. Once we respect that this is the reality, we can begin to adopt a lifestyle that suits both our ancestral past and our current culture. We can certainly blend both effectively, but we cannot succumb and become prisoner to the accelerated modern version of human life.
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