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 Wise words from the late Dr Siff

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PostSubject: Wise words from the late Dr Siff   Fri May 22, 2009 5:01 am

While research has not shown that balance training on a physio ball enhances
one's physical performance in any way at all, research has shown that
balancing a load on the head certainly can. The research revealing this is
intriguing.

For those of us who lived in Africa, it was perfectly normal to see the folk
there (mainly the women) walking for many kilometres with very heavy loads on
their head, while happily chatting away and sharing the news of the day. It
is far less strenuous and more comfortable (at least when you grow used to
it) to carry loads like that, rather than in the hands or on the back. So,
before we had suitcases with little wheels, I always used to put most of my
luggage on my head during my overseas travels and walk to my hotel or youth
hostel in far greater comfort.

Here in the USA, we see endless studies condemning the carrying of heavy
school bags in hand or on the back. In Africa, the kids simply put the loads
of their heads, kept those wonderfully erect postures and never complained
about sore hands, shoulders, backs or arms. Now research is showing that
something very interesting is taking place when expert head carriers are
balancing and walking with loads on their heads.

In reading the extract from the article from Discover journal below, kindly
note that head carrying is by no means unique to Kenyans, but is a ubiquitous
practice all over the African continent. Maybe, we should be balancing loads
on our heads instead of trying to balance on balls in our attempts to enhance
balance and locomotion in sporting situations. By the way, the latest issue
(July 2001) of Discover also contains an article on the efficiency and value
of head carrying in an article on the physics of walking..

The article, by the way, does not mention that longitudinal loading imposed
on the head elicits a lengthening response of the spine (sitting on something
like a ball actually increases the loading on the lumbar spine - see Chaffin
& Andersson "Occupational Biomechanics") and enhances one's posture. Then,
of course, this is nothing new to the older members of this group who surely
will recall their grandmothers teaching girls of the family better posture by
balancing books on their heads. Had they known any better by watching their
African counterparts, they would even have indulged in some progressive
loading and had the girls walking with more and more books on the head.
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