Stimulus and Response


As a teacher, I am hyper aware of science lessons I think every person should know – the things that make us intelligent consumers and voters, scientifically literate regarding popular media, and help us maintain healthy lifestyles.


I was reminded of one of these life lessons through my own family this week.


I realized this lesson most completely when I was taking, then later co-teaching various undergraduate and graduate biology courses at University of Oregon.  The summative lesson: Body cells and tissues grow, develop, and reproduce following stimulus.  No stimulus?  Cells may enter a dormant state or die, and tissues can reduce in sensitivity and density.


That’s all very vague for the non-scientist, so here is one way it applies to my family:


Max (pictured above), like most growing kids, wants to be taller.  He eats and sleeps pretty well, so what else can we do?  Exercise.  Bones are a constantly changing tissue, made up of hundreds of cells that are regularly dividing, developing, and being destroyed.  For bone tissue to grow, just like for muscle to develop, there needs to be enough force on them for the body to perceive a need to rebuild them, removing any old cells, then adding layers of cells.  This is why body builders work to their limits – they ultimately want to damage their muscles so their bodies will generate more muscle tissue, and they’ll have more muscle fiber to work for them later.  A tennis star may notice longer bones on his dominant arm, but (thankfully) for most of us, we have enough balance in our impact that we grow a little stronger and our bones grow a little longer or denser from our work.  We’re all aware of what happens when exercise is omitted from one’s lifestyle – besides potential weight gain and increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, bone and muscle density decrease, and injury beyond disease (including breaks and strains) become more likely. 


Prevention of disease or injury doesn’t mean anything to our 5-year-old, but getting taller does.  So we get outside for hikes, bike rides, and more every week, knowing that Max will wear himself down for nap and bedtime, have a great time, and those pants he is wearing will start to look more and more like pedal pushers.


Enjoy an outing today with your family.  If you cannot make it to one of our free events this week, plan your own, visiting to find the perfect location for you!  Looking for a friend to hike with?  Join our Facebook community and invite others to join your hike (!


-Debbie, Max, and little Holly

Share Button