The other day I was doing my hand strengthening and wrist bone-building exercises.
And by doing my exercises I mean that I was making bread with my toddler.
It struck me. What if instead of teaching physical education as sports or exercises, just for the sake of being active and having fun, we taught the connection between purposeful movement and health?
What if we taught our children how to make bread … as exercise?
I started thinking about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:13. How she “works willingly with her hands.”
What has happened to that mentality? Are we a generation that works willingly with our hands?
According to a recent article, Millennials May Be Losing Their Grip, grip strength has significantly decreased compared to averages in 1985. In other words, we really do need to consider if we are using our hands enough.
Not only is grip strength a problem for our hands, but can influence bone strength and density as well. In fact, one of the hot spots for osteoporotic fractures (breaks due to bone loss) is in the distal radius of the wrist – the big wrist bone on the thumb side of your arm.
External and muscular forces are needed to build bone
For someone who works with their hands on a regular basis, not only are their muscles strong, but their bones must be strong enough to withstand force to be able to perform tasks such as lifting, carrying, and grasping. With load, bone will build (osteogenesis).
In other words, bone density and strength increase as demand increases.
Consider the amount of work it takes to make bread the old-fashioned way.
First you gather grain. Then you grind it. After you stir your dry ingredients, you add the yeast and water. Water that would either have to be carried from outside or perhaps pumped by hand.
Next you knead. And you knead some more. You add flour. Fold. Knead. Until the consistency is just right.
Then you let it rise and likely are busy doing a whole host of other manual chores. And repeat (knead, fold, rise.)
Modern version of old-fashioned bread-making
Maybe we don’t have to hand-grind our (homegrown) grain or haul water in from the creek, but we can still make this work for us.
How about this? We use a Vitamix to grind our grain (or better yet a grain mill– this one’s on my wish list). We get water from our Berkey water filter to add to the flour. Then we knead. And we fold. And we knead.
What does kneading dough do to your bones?
Bones are interesting things. They seem to be hard and strong, but they are also sponge-like.
So when you push on them, or put pressure on them -like pressing your fists down into bread dough- the blood actually squishes out of your bones. When the pressure is let off, the blood returns.
It’s like squeezing a sponge to get the water out then releasing it to draw the water back in. (Great little bone education experiment for the kiddos by the way!)
This is cleansing for the bones. It helps them to get rid of old cells and waste in order for cell turnover to occur. Because strong, healthy bone cells are needed to make strong, healthy bones.
Not only do bones replace their old cells, but when stress is put on the bones, they say, “Hey! She’s working! Let’s help her out and add a bit more bone cells next time around to make her job easier.”
So next time you’re thinking about whether to buy bread or make it by hand. Remember your bones.
Just another thing to add to your list of things to make yourself.
But seriously, what if we added once or twice a week of bread making as an exercise to strengthen our hands and bones?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should never do a wrist-specific bone building exercise like this …
Except if you make bread you get to share it! Or eat it. Just sayin’.
So while exercises can be fun – or necessary due to pain, injury, poor postural habits, etc. – consider them to be a step to something more real-life. Because you don’t have to do a certain set of exercises forever to be healthy. We were designed to work and recreate, not to work out as a substitute for real movement.
What if we made bread?
What if, instead of “working out,” physical education classes, or playing sports, we learned how to live in an active, balanced, fulfilling way that encourages health as a way of life, not just something to check off of a to-do list?
Maybe we’d get to have our bread and eat it too.
Or maybe there would be fewer wrist fractures and grip strength would be the best it’s been since 1985 (or 1885).
Maybe we could teach the next generation that real, productive exercise is exponentially more beneficial than logging time in the gym.
Either way, it’s time to rethink our approach to health and purpose to view it as a lifestyle, not a set of exercises.
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