4-H youth and their livestock can help improve the way you walk - part 6

Flexible joints reduce friction and stress on our bodies as well as our livestock.

One trait that is important in selecting good livestock is how they are able to move. According to Michigan State University Extension, an animal that walks smooth and effortlessly is a good indicator of being structurally correct in its skeleton and a sign of good health and longevity.

It is also fascinating that once you learn what to look for when evaluating how animals like cattle, sheep and pigs walk, you can then also start to observe and make inferences about the way people walk. In this article we will talk about walking with less than adequate flex to your joints and what impact that may have on the human and animal body. We will primarily focus on the knee in this article. According to Kristen Price, a certified athletic trainer with Playmakers, the knee is a common target for stress and injury. “Making sure you do not lock your leg when you walk and allowing at least a little bend in your knee will help reduce extra force and stress on the knee joint itself, and the ground forces will be dissipated into the larger muscles surrounding the knee.”  

Price also noted that people often over stride, locking out the knee and ankle in a “checkmark” position. Kristen recommends shortening your stride and increasing your cadence (steps per minute) in order to decrease the stress on your joints.  

Livestock have different joints and structure (most simply being on four legs), but livestock that demonstrate greater flexibility in their pastern and knee certainly can move better and strengthen their longevity. Animals that are more rigid in their movement and don’t have as much bend in their joints can look very straight legged which often times adds force and stress to muscle, tendons and ligaments. Use your observation skills to determine if your livestock move with flexibility.

4-H members can choose to learn a lot about observation skills, making inferences, physical health and even livestock evaluation. If you are interested in learning more about these areas or other learning opportunities 4-H provides, visit MSU Extension for more information.

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