Getting older has pros and cons. I certainly value the wisdom I’ve gained from my years, but keeping pairs of cheaters strategically located everywhere is sometimes amusing but more often annoying. I deeply appreciate my body and all that it has carried me through, even as I realize the differences in how it responds to and recovers from the demands I place on it.
I have always strongly rejected the pervasive (and I think profoundly damaging) idea that aging is a predictable decline in both movement and quality of life. Aging is inevitable of course, but how we age is largely dependent on our choices.
People regularly tell me aging has caused their loss of mobility, strength, cognitive ability, and independence. I won’t argue that time changes things. But this unchallenged assumption of causation downplays the profound influence we have over our life experience.
Movement is as fundamental to life as breathing. These are the signs of life we look for first, and it turns out these fundamentals are also what keep us strong, resilient, and vital throughout our lives.
Once we have the basics down – progressing from our cute, wildly erratic infant squirminess to progressively organized rolling, crawling, standing, walking, running, jumping – we then spend our earliest years practicing these movements, with little consideration for our natural ability to do them. All that movement develops coordination, balance, and strength and prompts growth, brain development, sound sleep (aka recovery), immunity and overall health.
And then we grow up. And we get busy. Add careers, commutes, and kids. Too much to do in our days. At some point the patterns of our life create strain and pain. The back aches, the joints are stiff, the muscles don’t work quite the same way and that common thought crosses your mind; “I’m getting old.” STOP.
Should we really be buying into the idea that our bodies fall apart just because they get older? And to avoid more damage we should do even less? The consequences of not moving include muscle tension (stiffness), joint pain, decreased range of motion, less balance, lower body awareness and more. Quality of life suffers tremendously when you’re chronically uncomfortable.
The Good News: movement is as consequential to the process at this stage as it was when our age was a single digit. Any form of movement and exercise simultaneously works muscles and joints, sharpens coordination and balance, and improves overall function of your body. Why? Because movement is our natural state.
If you want to age gracefully, not moving is NOT the answer. Too frequent, high-stress training is not the necessary approach. Smart, thoughtful movement is. The up-front work of ensuring proper form will pay much higher dividends than just grinding it out. Injury-free longevity comes through creating a balanced, sustainable approach. Attend to the aches and pains with movement as your medicine, done correctly and at the right dose.
First move well. Then move often. Then add load. Because “We don’t quit playing because we grow old. We grow old because we quit playing.” (Oscar Wilde)