Movement Shapes Culture Shapes Movement

I’m a car guy. In Boulder that probably equates me with an NRA member, but I love cars.

I’m also a huge fan of Katy Bowman. For those who don’t know her, she’s a long time advocate of movement. She has a great message about movement and culture.

Just like we evolved in a certain nutritional milieu, we also evolved along with movement. That is, we are not static beings. When we move, that movement is like nutrition for us. We need our bodies to move to function correctly.

For example, our lymph system requires movement to pump the fluid around. Or simply moving your joints through all of their range of movement (are you going to Kinstretch?) is what keeps them healthy, and able to move - why would your body spend resources to keep a joint fresh if you never use it?

Lots of health problems can be traced to not moving. Hip and back problems? That’s probably because you sit all day. The act of sitting shapes your bones and muscles to adapt to sitting (which is not what we’re supposed to be doing).

Not moving may be dangerous to you, but that’s where it stops right?

Not so much. As a culture, we change and adapt to the norms. So the more people who sit, the more we all sit. The more we sit, the more normal it is and the younger we start people sitting (schools anyone?) and then we get more and more comfortable chairs. We have bucket seats in our cars. And “ergonomic” desk chairs that support us so much lest we spend any energy to even sit up. And now when babies are born they get buckets to sit in. And those buckets will shape the development of their hips which then mean that they’ll need fancier chairs earlier. And so on.

At first they came for the chairs, but I’m not a sitter so I didn’t care.

But now they’re coming for my cars!

The new BMW 3-series will come to the US for the first time without a third pedal. The Ultimate Driving Machine! Much (all?) of the 911 lineup only comes with the PDK. I guess it’s getting to hard to use two feet when you drive.

Last year Ford announced that they’ll make no more cars except for the Mustang. The only cars that anyone sells are loss leaders to bring the fleet average fuel economy down.

Why are they not selling cars? No one wants them anymore. Why does no one them? Well, it’s because they can’t get in or out of them. I quote from an article in Jalopnik this week (emphasis mine).

The real reason SUVs and crossovers are performing so well isn’t as much about cargo space, all-wheel drive for bad weather or our desire to own vehicles that project an image of rugged, outdoorsy individuality: it’s just that for an aging and increasingly unfit population, they’re just easier to get in and out of.

This is no great revelation if you’ve been following car buying trends the past few years. But this story in The Detroit Free Press really drives the point home, talking about what a critical factor ease of entry and exit has become to car design.

And it adds that as automakers want their products to look sexy, youthful and dynamic, so this isn’t really something they like to talk about:

Easy entrance and exit will become more and more important as the population ages and huge groups like Gen X move into their 50s and 60s.

“Seat height is key,” Knudsen said. “People like to be able to slide in, not lift themselves up or down.”

Automakers don’t talk about this much. It’s a truism that people want cars that make them look younger, not reminders they’re less limber at 60 than 40. Nonetheless, the incoming tide of small SUVs will fit aging drivers and people with limited mobility like a glove.

“Front-seat access is the No. 1 factor in comfort and safe driving,” said Sherry Kolodziejczak, national coordinator for driving safety at the American Association of Retired Persons, which represents 38 million people over 50. “The small SUVs tend to have wider door openings and lower sills to step over. Step-in height is really, really important,” not just for the elderly, but for many people recovering from injury or surgery, said Kolodziejczak, a professional occupational therapist.

The ideal seat height is about 21 to 27 inches above the ground, Knudsen said. Other factors include the size of the door opening, from top to bottom and front to rear. Nobody wants to bump their head getting in and out of their vehicle.

“Getting into a sports car is a controlled fall into the seat and a climb out,” Smythe said. “A pickup is the reverse.”

It’s an interesting game to play, when you think about it. No automaker wants to be seen as the old people brand—Cadillac and Buick still suffer from that “the car you got from grandma after she died” image today—but they have to make things to accommodate the needs of an increasingly aged population.

You can see how our choice of being a sedentary culture has actually changed the market for what’s available. And then the act of being so lazy to get in and out of your cars will make you weaker because you never have to lift your body weight up (or control it going down). And then cars will adapt to an even weaker population and people will keep getting weaker.

So if I program more squats it’s not because I’m mean, it’s because I want to skew the market so that we’re not stuck with an endless sea of bland boring crossovers. And maybe I want you to be healthy and live longer too.

Michael Deskevich