By: Benjamin Cole
Perhaps the biggest phrase the fitness industry next to "what'd you hit yesterday?" is "form fits function." This phrase expands beyond fitness but finds a good home here in that our bodies fit the function we need them to, for better or worse. In this week's Evolve Blog, we're going to talk about ergonomics and morphology, the underlying sciences of the "form fits function" mantra in the fitness industry.
Ergonomics = Environment
The study of ergonomics is crafting our tools, equipment, and environment to better suit the human body and our productivity. Wikipedia states that ergonomics is a combination of numerous disciplines, ranging from engineering and biomechanics to psychology, physiology, and UX design.
Something that is 'ergonomic' is intended to fit your function. A quick Amazon search of 'ergonomics' will provide you with well over 100,000 different tools and equipment, from chairs and desks to mice, footrests, neck pillows, keyboards and more. If you want to work comfortably and productively, you have to do so in an environment that's conducive to those goals.
If you're writing your thesis or working from your computer there's a good chance you'd rather do that in a comfortable chair in an office with good wifi and a cup up a coffee (or two) versus a concrete floor with no support. In ergonomics, you are crafting your environment and equipment to suit your function, with you being the fit.
Morphology = Form of Organism
According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, morphology is "the study of the size, shape, and structure of animals, plants, and microorganisms and of the relationships of their constituent parts." Said another way, morphology is the study of how an organism is structured in relation to what it needs to do by looking at what makes it up and how it "is."
If ergonomics is matching function to fit, morphology is analyzing fit to function. Quite simply, the human body's morphology has been designed over millennia by Mother Nature to be active, move often and stand more than sit. Modern society has forced us to sit down for our work, our commutes, our entertainment, and our gatherings. Some health experts are even saying sitting is the new smoking.
This recent Evolve Blog dives deep on that and spine health. Basically, our modern world and way of life is opposite to how Mother Nature designed us to function. Human Being's morphology indicates that we are meant to move, stand, and run regularly, not sit 10x more than any of those. A lot of us don't have a choice; our work demands of us that we "sit down and get to work."
How can we make the work fit our morphology? You might have seen the relatively recent craze for standing desks and even treadmill desks that are pushing the limit on how we work. This is a great example of abiding by our morphology by using ergonomics to match our function to our fit.
Mindful of Morphology
The point of this article in a large sense is to bring awareness to how the human body was designed by nature and how our modern work environment is at odds with that. Trainers and PTs all across the world deal with their client's postural distortions through corrective exercise and remediating their everyday positions that lead to their conditions. Upper and lower crossed syndrome and kyphosis and lordosis; all-too-common posture dysfunctions caused from excess sitting and poor posture.
So be mindful of your morphology. You don't have to buy a treadmill desk, but buying a more comfortable chair, walking every 45-60 minutes, and taking the stairs are all easy ways to be in accord with how the human body was designed to function. What is your function and how can you either improve your function to your fit or your fit to your function?
Form Fits Function
Now you likely have a good idea of what this phrase means. Your form, how you are, is the perfect fit to your function. If you have an arched back, forward shoulders and protruded cervical spine (forward head posture) there's a good chance you sit more than stand in a day and don't do any corrective exercise to combat this everyday positioning. Your form fits your daily function.
On the flip side of this, you can imagine how an athlete's program is designed. What function is the athletes body or mind needing to form to? What a defensive lineman needs is going to be vastly different from what the quarter back or wide receiver needs; their functions are different mentally and physically but their form fits their function individually. Trainers and PTs work to create the environment and fit for their clients function, be it reverse engineering how it's given them pain or how they can excel in game.
Deliberate Program Design
On a final note, trainers and PTs often look at what your day-to-day is like so they can combat what might be causing your pain or keeping you from your goals. In a way, we reverse engineer your lifestyle, showing you how your fit is matching your function, and we design programs that help you "fit better."
If there's ever a good reason to hire a PT, it's to have another set of eyes see what's your function, how you function, and how you can be more fit to lessen any pain or struggle you might have.
Ideally, this short piece gave you a new lens to view how you function, what "form fits function" means, and what trainers and PTs are doing when they ask you all these questions about how you do your life.
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