November Daily Blog 19: knees, lifestyle choices, mental well-being

Walking in the weekend sunshine was very enjoyable but by the time I dropped back down the ridge to the house on Sunday afternoon I was struggling with my damaged knee ligament and knew I had done it no favours.  It had been stressed more than I expected clambering around off the path down by the waterfalls on Saturday and, had I been sensible, I would have resisted the temptation to go out on Sunday.   As it is, the healing process is almost back to square one.  But not quite.

Earlier in the week I had walked to my local pub to meet a friend for a pint and had become aware that the natural pronation of my ankle (tendency to turn over inwards each step) seemed to be more pronounced and was irritating my damaged knee.  When I examined the walking shoes I was wearing, a cheap pair I have had  for a long time and keep for urban wear, it was clear that the heels were very worn down on the inside and increasing the tendency to tilt the ankle inwards.  I reckoned that that was making the knee worse as it put increased pressure on it so when I arrived home I took the shoes off at the gate and tossed them into the rubbish bin to be collected next morning.  Hence the trip to Cardiff to buy a replacement pair.

I arrived home from the walk on Sunday in time to clean up and make the evening service in church and was very conscious of pain in the knee the whole time.  Afterwards I chatted to a guy who is a physio and he said that the cause of the problem could have been the shoes, a gradual deterioration rather than one traumatic incident.  He also hammered  home what I had been told previously that I should avoid walking on uneven surfaces until it has cleared up.  More fool me for not heeding the advice first time round.

But it set me thinking, how typical it is that we ignore what we know is good for us, not just in respect of minor injuries but in terms of lifestyle choices which we know are likely to affect our health.  The obvious example is smoking, not, I hasten to add, that I ever have, but millions do.  The evidence is now regarded as irrefutable that smoking increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer, is a risk factor for heart disease and causes emphysema and other bronchial complaints.  Not only does it shorten life but it reduces quality of life prematurely.   So why do people do it?   Is it some sort of nihilism?

Yet most of us do things which to a greater or lesser extent are potentially deleterious to our health and well being.  I remember chatting to a guy while resting in my kayak in an eddy at the National Whitewater Centre at Holme Pierpoint who very gloomily told me that my two major sports at that time, white water canoeing and rock climbing, made it likely that I would develop arthritis in my hands.  Did I stop doing either?  A few years later I reduced the amount I was doing not out of concern for my health but because I took up paragliding and had less time.

So why do we make these decisions to carry on with what we know is potentially harmful?  I reckon that it’s to do with enjoyment and that in turn is to do with mental well-being.  If I did nothing but look after the house and garden, meet up with friends for meal or a drink, become a mountain voyeur, it would be like having part of me amputated.

The urge to do these things is there but I suppose I must admit that at times it makes sense to lay-off for while.  Therefore, for the next week my blog posts will be from the safety of the house and garden.  And level footpaths.

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