Physical activity movementCebu Daily News
WHEN was the last time you went out to play? A lot of people find this question to be a little ridiculous, but I do think it is worth pondering. When we were kids we run, jump, climb and scramble effortlessly and joyously and pretty much all the time. Who among us doesn’t remember how alive we felt when we played hide and seek, racing each other in the playground, wrestling each other or ran all-out until we feel into the grass, gasping for air?
When we were children our bodies were primed to move. Every ligament, tendon, and muscle is
supple and receptive. Then we age and our desire to move like this may diminish. But our body’s ability necessarily have to! We health professionals who specialize in movement and fitness are learning that it’s not our bodies that compel us to slow down or stop enjoying what we used to do. Rather it’s our conscious connection to our bodies that diminishes. And that’s a big part of what makes us “feel old” when we don’t have to at all!
The implications of this fact are profound: It is common wisdom that movement is medicine.
Everyone knows that exercise is crucial to supporting good health. Even doctors of medicine know this. But there are doctors, who are supposed to be role models for their patients, who do not practice what they preach. They advise their patients to exexercise but they don’t exercise at all. They themselves are not physically fit!
What most of us don’t know, however, is that movement is also the key to minimizing or even eliminating many of the physical ailments associated with aging.
I’ve been in natural physical therapy for 18 years and worked in fitness for 32 years and I’m still in awe when I see how beautiful the human body is when it’s in motion. When I see a child skipping, an older man walking with dignity and ease, or a young mother balancing a child on one hip and a bag of groceries on the other, I marvel it how strong, supple, and versatile our bodies are. Think about it. We are, in essence, nothing more than bone, blind, and muscle. Why are our bodies capable of doing so many things? It is a question that I continue to enjoy exploring.
But our bodies are certainly are not invincible. Many of us live with some sort of pain or discomfort. Some just feel it from time to time and others have chronic pain that they wake up to every morning and take to bed with them at night. I’ve encountered a good number of people who experience
almost nonstop discomfort that they have already believed it is just the way it is. I help them discover that there’s hope and find a pain-free lifestyle. Oour joints and muscles are fragile in some ways, but they are also highly receptive and resilient to repair. Though serious injuries may need intensive medical intervention, many times people experience substantial healing and recovery if they just have a willingness to think about movement differently and movement is what our bodies are meant to do.
I also work with elderly people, many of whom were not in good physical condition. Their muscles are in the state of deterioration due to lack of exercise and movement. Some of my clients are very slow in walking because of the weakening of their muscles. Sometimes, I wondered where the mobile elderly people were. Is the immobility of all these people an inevitable fact of aging? Are there other ways to fight aging and gain back the strength they used to have?
NOT JUST FOR THE MACHO
Muscle is, quite literally worth its weight in gold. When they are strong, well nourished and used regularly, our muscles are what power us through life. Yes, throughout our life. They lift us and propel us forward. Muscles are what allow us to be more than just an inert bag of bones and what that wobbles across the floor.
It’s been estimated that the average adult loses 1/2 pound of muscles each year. This isn’t because our bodies are designed to shed this tissue but it’s because we don’t move enough to maintain our muscle mass. If you’ve ever broken a bone you know how weak and atrophied the limb around a fracture looks after the cast is removed: this is due to disuse of the muscles in that limb. You also know that resuming the routine task of daily life will begin to plump up those frozen muscles again. The great thing about muscle; which is living, breathing tissue, is that it is highly regenerative. Muscles need to be used on a regular basis. That’s why movement and muscle go hand in hand. Many of us complain when we are reminded to do some physical activity believing we are meant to hit the gym everyday and that somehow fail if we don’t. But did you know that every time you purposely move your body you are doing something good for your body. In other words don’t underestimate the physical benefits you get when you do some physical activity like even a simple 15-20 minutes of brisk walking. When you engage in a task like this, you’re active and your body will thank you.
I always find it helpful to remind my clients especially the most busy ones that they can break down the 30-minute goal into smaller, easier chunks of time and it will just as beneficial. Even walking briskly to and from work for 15 minutes each way counts, as does riding a stationary bike for 10 minutes three times a day. The point is to strive for conscious activity for a half hour every day. If you do this, the benefits will be immeasurable.
For many of us, especially as we age, adopting a more formal form of activity like engaging in an exercise plan can be quite beneficial and at times, it can be literally life-saving. And I know, because I’ve devoted my life to designing programs specifically for people who haven’t been able to be as physically active as they would like.
One of the goals in writing this column is to show people that activity and exercise must go hand in hand. One is not necessarily more beneficial than the other. Ideally, we had all engage in both forms of movement, knowing that every day activity, coupled with appropriate types of structured exercise, will bring us to optimal health and keep us in our prime for life.
More from this Column:
- Turn stress into strength
- Six-pack midsection
- Six-pack midsection (First of two parts)
- The benefits of walking
- Lower back pain