Power Moves: Enhancing Movement Optimizes Your Life
We know the key metrics for monitoring our health—blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood sugar levels, weight, etc. But, it's time for another one: ease of movement. How well we can move, and our flexibility, is an excellent indicator of our joint and muscle health, and can provide the earliest signs of more serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (ms). From our first steps, through out last breath, focused, quality movement—coordinating our muscles, joints, and nerves—should be a vibrant centerpiece of the lifespan. In enhancing our quality of movement, we are optimizing our lives. Let's see how.

How Muscles Move

Our bodies move through muscle contractions, from striated muscles or smooth muscles. Striated muscles feature parallel lines, called striations, arising from the organization of muscle fibers (Hewings-Martin, 2017).  The muscles that enable movement are termed skeletal muscles, a form of striated muscle. Skeletal muscles can be managed with our brain, conscious thought, and are adversely impacted by MS, and other neurodegenerative diseases (Willingham, McCully, & Backus, 2023; Dalise, Azzollini, & Chisari, 2020). However, some striated muscle, such as our heart, cannot be consciously controlled (Hewings-Martin, 2017). Particular molecules, actin and myosin, within the fibers of striated muscles, allow them to contract quickly, resulting in movement. The availability of actin and myosin is dependent on the foods we consume—specifically, food with lean proteins—and exercises in which we engage, namely, strength-training exercises (Tagawa et al., 2022). In contrast, the contractions resulting from smooth muscles, muscles without striations, are generally more graduated than those resulting from striated muscles. Smooth-muscle movements, such as those effected by the digestive system, cannot be actively managed (Hewings-Martin, 2017). Whether voluntary or involuntary, motor movements--those executed by muscles--are predicated upon quality functioning of the nervous system. We will explore this a bit later.

Along with muscles, the other critical component of movement is joints. It is estimated that the body contains 360 joints (Hudson Physicians, 2018) with synovial joints, ball-and-socket joints, pivot joints, hinge joints, elbows, hips, and fibrocartilage joints among them. There are six types of joint movements including flexion—which is bending at a joint—extension—which is straightening a joint—abduction—which is movement that veers away from the body's midline—adduction—which is movement that comes toward the body's midline—rotation—when the movement moves in a circular motion around a fixed joint—plantar flexion—pointing the toes, from the ankle—and dorsiflexion, in which the foot in the direction of the shin (like you are pulling your toes up) (BBC News, n.d.). In particular, synovial joints permit a substantial range of movement. Each movement at a synovial joint is the product of contraction or relaxation of muscles, attached to the bones, on either side of the articulation (the point at which two bones meet) (Oregon State University, n.d.). Though the ball-and-socket joints afford the greatest range of movement at a single joint, several joints—especially, synovial joints--can work together, and often do, to execute a movement (Oregon State University, n.d.). A variety of movements are driven by synovial joints—such as hinge movements (at the elbows) and ball-and-socket movements (at the hips and shoulders) (Physiopedia, 2021)—with movement types being paired, in direct opposition, for improved efficiency (Oregon State University, n.d.). Every synovial joint is essential to maximized mobility and flexibility. 

Nevertheless—as a result of loss of cartilage, wear-and-tear of joints, and degeneration of myelination around the nerves—quality of movement can decrease with age, even with a disciplined exercise routine and years of peak fitness. We'll discuss this further in the next section.

Why Flexibility can Deteriorate with Age

We know flexibility can deteriorate with age; but, the following factors explain why. Aging results in decreased muscle strength and mass, along with lower bone density. Additionally, cartilage—the strong, malleable connective tissue, which protect bones and joints—thins as we age. All these conditions accelerate joint stiffness, with the consequence being reduced flexibility (Nestle Health Science, n.d.). Moreover, myelination—the generation of myelin sheath, the protective layer around axons of nerve cells, that facilitates nerve conduction, the transport of action potentials, which undergirds movement and sensory function arising from Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS) (Salzer & Zalc, 2016)—can also decline as we age, causing myelin to wear away—through fragmentation and irregular changes in shape (Graciani et al, 2023)—anc leaving neurons with markedly less of this critical shield. The progressive loss of the brain's white matter, and myelin, or demyelination, may give rise to neurodegenerative disorders and age-related cognitive decline (Chen et al., 2020). Severe demyelination can burden phagocytosis, the deployment of specialized cells, phagocytes, that aid in the clearing of dead and dysfunctional cells (Rosales & Uribe-Querol, 2017). Among the most deleterious potentials of aging is the onset of MS; however, MS can begin in the latter stages of young adulthood or the early phases of middle age. We'll briefly discuss the impacts of MS in the next section.

Impacts of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Optimizing myelination may be the key to preventing disease onset.
MS is a chronic, often progressive, condition entailing damage to the sheaths, or myelin, of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of MS, and their duration and severity, vary from person to person, but typically include:
  • Fatigue
  • Vision challenges
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Muscle spasms, stiffness, and weakness
  • Tremors
  • Mobility issues
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Cognitive difficulties—thinking, learning, organizing, etc.
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Spasticity
  • Bladder problems
  • Bowel difficulties
  • Challenges with speech and swallowing
                                                                                 (National Health Service, 2022; National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2022)

If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, or have been enduring any for more than 48 hours, please consult your medical provider

The causes of MS have not been conclusively determined, and, as of this writing, there is no cure for the disease. Current medications focus on expediting recovery from attacks, mitigating relapses, slowing disease progression, and alleviating MS symptoms (Mayo Clinic, 2022). Recent research, however, indicates that optimizing myelination may be the key to preventing disease onset, and optimizing whole-body movement.

How Improved Myelinaton May Relieve MS

As suggested above, myelin is a kind of "highway" for neural messages, ensuring that actions, including movements, are quickly, and optimally, executed. Myelin sheath manages the efficiency of neural synapses (the spaces at which neurons connect and communicate with each other, and through which action potentials, neural impulses, are carried) and impulse transmission (Graciani et al., 2023). Therefore, protecting and optimizing myelination—the production of myelin sheath, around nerve cell axons, through the generation of Schwann cells and the optimization of oligodendrocytes—is central to maximizing the fluidity, and quality, of movement. Aerobic and musculoskeletal exercises—jogging, running, dancing, walking, swimming, hiking, circuit training, strength training, tai chi, and yoga, among others—have been shown to promote retention and overall neurplasticity (Graciani et al., 2023). Though myelin degradation is a customary attendant of aging, a daily routine of aerobic and musculoskeletal movement, and a disciplined diet, may optimize myelin durability throughout life. Optimizing the durability and resilience of myelin may also alleviate the impacts of MS.

nerve cell

Nutrients that Can Enhance Myelination

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) such as those found in salmon, mackerel, cod, or tuna; eicosapentaenoic acid; docosahexaenoic acid; omega-3 fatty acid; calcium; vitamin C; choline; iron; zinc; HDL cholesterol;  phospholipids; and sphingomyelin, all of which are primary components of myelin sheath, myelin generation and development (physiological elaboration) (Hoppenbrouwers et al., 2019; Science Direct, 2019; Nestle Health Science, 2023). Having a consistent diet of foods with good fats, and engaging daily in musculoskeletal exercise or conditioning, can also raise myelin-protein expression (Mayo Clinic, 2016). 

Myelin-promoting foods include:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Avocado
  • Blueberries
  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Broccoli
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Pumpkin seeds
                                             (Flure, 2015)

Additionally, foods containing vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin K also promote myelin production and repair. 

A diet with the above nutrients, coupled with routine musculoskeletal exercise, can enhance myelin, consequently, optimizing movement and neurological health. Your best life truly is in each and every step.


BBC News. (n.d.). Types of joint movement. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z2gyrdm/revision/4

Chen, D., Huang, Y., Shi, Z., Li, J., Zhang, Y., Wang, K., Smith, A.D., Gong, Y., & Gao, Y. (2020). Demyelinating processes in aging and stroke in the central nervous system and the prospect of treatment strategy. CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, 26(12), 1219-1229. https://doi.org/10.1111/cns.13497 

Dalise, S., Azzollini, V., & Chisari, C. (2020). Brain and muscle: How central nervous system disorders can modify the skeletal muscle. Diagnostics, 10(12), 1047. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4418/10/12/1047/pdf

Graciani, A.L., Gutierre, M.U., Coppi, A.A., Arida, R.M., & Gutierre, R.C. (2023). Myelin, aging, and physical exercise. Neurobiology of Aging, 127(2023), 70-81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2023.03.009

Hewings-Martin, Y. (2017). How do muscles work? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319322

Hoppenbrouwers, T., Hogervost, J.H.C., Garssen, J., Wichers, H.J., & Williamsen, L.E.M. (2019). Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) in the prevention of food allergies. Frontiers in Immunology, 2019(10). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6538765/

Hudson Physicians. (2018). Bone and joint health. https://hudsonphysicians.com/bones/

Mayo Clinic. (2022). Multiple sclerosis--Diagnosis and treatment. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350274

National Health Service. (2022). Symptoms—Multiple sclerosis. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms/

National Multiple Sclerosis Society. (2022). MS signs & symptoms. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms

Nestle Health Science. (2023). Maintaining mobility as part of healthy aging. https://www.nestlehealthscience.com/health-management/aging/maintaining-mobility-as-part-of-healthy-aging

Oregon State University. (n.d.). 9.5 Types of body movements. https://open.oregonstate.education/aandp/chapter/9-5-types-of-body-movements/

Physiopedia. (2021). Synovial joints. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Synovial_Joints

Rosales, C. & Uribe-Querol, E. (2017). Phagocytosis: A fundamental process in immunity. BioMed Research International, 2017(9042851). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5485277/

Salzer, J.L. & Zalc, B. (2016). Myelination. Current Biology, 26(20), R971-R975. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.07.074

Tagawa, R., Watanabe, D., Ito, K., Otsuyama, T., Nakayama, K., Sanbongi, C., & Miyachi, M. (2022). Synergistic effects of increased total protein intake and strength training on muscle strength: A dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Sports Medicine—Open, 8(110). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-022-00508-w

Willingham, T.B., McCully, K., & Backus, D. (2023). Skeletal muscle dysfunction in people with multiple sclerosis: A physiological target for improving physical function and mobility. Archives of Physical and Mental Rehabilitation, 104(4), 694-706. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2022.10.009 



Date 5/10/2023

Seminal Wellness Team

Date 5/10/2023

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