Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Right Angle Club 2010
2010 is coming to a close, a lame-duck session is upon us, and probably after that will come two years of gridlock. But the Philadelphia Men's Club called the Right Angle, keeps right on talking about the current scene. A few of these current contents relate to speeches given elsewhere.

Stop Slapping Your Feet!

Most people of Medicare age are offended by the suggestion they don't know how to walk. But just watch a movie of a ballet dancer walking, and then sit on a park bench and listen to your neighbors walking. A great many people walk along, slapping the front of their shoes on the sidewalk with each step. Then, just to verify your observation, watch Scarlett O'Hara glide down a staircase, almost floating on air as she goes. That girl knows how to walk, and most people don't.

{Duck Walk}
Duck Walk

A great many people complain to the doctor that their feet or ankles hurt when they walk downstairs, but not when they walk upstairs; how could that be? It's pretty simple, just watch them do it. When they walk downstairs, usually hanging on to the banister as they go, they sort of "fall" on the good foot. That is, they slap the stair as they go, letting gravity drop that foot to the stair instead of lowering it the way they lower the "bad" foot. Essentially, they are falling down the stairs with a jolt to the good foot on each step, just as the sidewalk slappers are falling to the sidewalk with each step instead of walking with their muscles the way a cat would do. When there is a serious pain in the bad foot, they reverse the process, going down "one step at a time". But they know they are doing it, and the pain keeps them from doing otherwise. By contrast, notice how Vivian Leigh would do, when she glides across the ballroom into the waiting arms of Clark Gable. Or the ballerinas in Swan Lake floating around in circles, dipping their arms to the right and left. Those people are not throwing their feet forward and slapping down on them, they are using their muscles continuously, one foot touching the floor slightly before the other foot leaves it. Try it yourself; until you get used to it, at first it's pretty hard work.

But it's a lot easier on the joints than the slap-slap, once you do get used to it. One of the reasons why that so lies in the better posture it requires, with the head balancing on the column of bones in the "core" of the body, rather than extended forward where it has to be held steady by determined muscle action. Furthermore, it requires stretching of the opposing muscles, relaxing the hamstrings for example, and letting the pelvis assume a better angle. When stretching and muscle training get the movements to be better coordinated, the mysterious aches in the back and neck -- just go away.

So, in addition to the various big rusting gadgets strewn around the room, a good fitness center needs several floor-to-ceiling mirrors for self-observation. Once you learn the signs of bad body mechanics and can see it in yourself, much of the corrective posture takes care of itself. Walk like a cat. Not like a duck.

Originally published: Sunday, June 13, 2010; most-recently modified: Wednesday, June 05, 2019