Movement: use it or lose it

Our bodies have joints and muscles for a reason.  We are meant to move.   We only have to look at the young people in our lives to know that we were made for movement.  I have three young grandchildren.  They are on the move ALL.THE.TIME.     We seniors often muse aloud, ‘wish we had that much energy.’

‘The Cleveland Clinic looked at more than 122,000 patients for 23 years and found a strong correlation between higher physical activity and longer life. Time may be tight, but ignoring our body’s need for movement is a foolish scheduling strategy.  If we don’t make exercise a priority, we actually lose time and efficiency in the long run.’  (  12/13-19/18)

No one wants this.  We look in the mirror and see the remnants of our prime.  We carry more weight, have more wrinkles, and resort to the hairdresser in search of youthful locks.  We hear ‘snap, crackle and pop’ when we rise from a seated position, or need help getting up off the floor.  We need to move, and we can move.   The trend for us here in the US is a 20% decline in physical movement over the past two generations.  Our fellows in the UK have had a 30% decline in the same time fame.  In China, their population has had  50% decline in physical activity in just one generation.

Why is this happening?   I would conjecture that it is a lack of motivation.  It is also a lack of understanding of inertia.  The definition of inertia: a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.   Most of us adults are busy adulting.  We are mostly in sedentary jobs, which exact long hours in a seated position at a desk/computer/table/workbench….    Because we are sitting (not in motion), we have a tendency to lose the ability to be in motion.

Consider the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands   Simply put, whatever normal, consistent demands we put on the body, becomes the body’s norm.  I can certainly attest to this.  Last year I started going to the gym regularly.  Everyone whom I knew that worked out as a general routine touted the emotional benefits of regular workouts.   I can’t say that I have found this to be true.  I go because I need to, not because I enjoy it.   I would much rather sit at home with a nice cup of coffee and a newspaper or a good book and enjoy myself that way.  However, I have found that the benefit of going to the gym regularly has resulted in greater strength and stamina.   I have found that when I miss a few weeks due to family illness, travel, or other scheduling constraints, I find that I have lost the momentum I had gained, and my body does not rise to the occasion as it once did.  That being said, once I resume the commitment, the ensuing trips to the gym yield increasing stamina and flexibility.  So, while I am not motivated to go to the gym because of the emotional euphoria I hear so much about, I am motivated by the increased strength and suppleness I enjoy immediately after working out.  I distinctly remember being  pregnant in my late twenties, and having no problem rising from a seated position on the floor.   I have noticed that now that I am in my ‘60s, my body requires much more effort, and the grace of doing what I once did is sorely lacking.  This is my motivation.

Maybe you are like me, and do not enjoy going to the gym.  There are other ways to get your body moving:  dancing, walking, gardening, playing with the grandchildren.  As long as you are moving, you will be regaining your strength and agility of former years.  I have a friend in her seventies who still enjoys in-line skating.  Because she took up this sport as a young woman, and never discarded it, she is as agile as any 20 year old.   You would never know to look at her that she is in her seventies.

The bottom line…. Use it or lose it.  Be inspired by the memory of your younger self.  You can redeem the years, and your health will thank you for it.

Until next time,

Dr. Polly