The Truth about Aging and MobilityJun 10, 2021
How often have you noticed creaky knees, an aching back, or a sore hip and thought: “Ugh. I’m getting so old!”
I’ve said it (usually when I notice the gray hairs that are creeping up on my visible hairline) more and more lately, and notice just how often I hear it in my work and my social circles.
I won’t get into age-shaming and just how damn normal (and wonderful!) those gray hairs and softening skin are … today I’ll stick with a soapbox about how we equate age with aches, pains, lack of mobility and a decrease in movement.
TRUE STORY: I have a 76 year old client who is more mobile, active and pain free than some of the 40-50 year-olds I know and see weekly. Not because she’s doing anything particularly radical or engaging in crazy anti-aging regimens… but because she keeps her brain ACTIVE, well fed and challenged on a daily basis!
What we consider aging (getting stiff and slow) - to be blunt - is often more about a lack of novelty and stimulus, than about deterioration. We get into our patterns of movement, we settle into our behavior patterns and our brains stop creating new pathways and comfort with things “out of the ordinary.”
If you’ve been following our blogs for a while, you know that “out of the ordinary” (when you’re not used to it) is a huge source of THREAT. And what does threat cause? PAIN. (LEARN MORE ABOUT THE LANGUAGE OF PAIN HERE)
Your brain’s way of saying “I don’t know how to do that” is to send pain, stiffness or immobility to your body.
Our brains need novel, appropriately challenging activation to maintain ‘real estate’ in the part of the brain that houses movement patterns. Don’t get around to that on a regular basis? That part of the brain will start sending out danger signals (sore knee...sore hip… sore back…) to keep you in your safe routine.
Literally : if you don’t move it… you lose it!
So what is the best way to stay young? Move your body in all the ways!
Here are some of the things we love teaching our aging clients:
(which is all of them. Yes. You too. You’re aging. Sorry.)
- Non-linear movements (circles and figure 8’s, for example)
- Non-traditional movements (anything you did as a kid! skipping, balancing, safe climbing)
- Moving in ways that are unrestricted (see also: not gym machines. We love kettlebells, dumbbells, weighted balls, and bodyweight for resistance!)
- Moving in environments that provide variety and novelty (go outside, to a new place… anywhere that has a lot of information to process visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically)
- Moving all joints in all directions (we sort of covered this under non-linear, but think about they ways you don’t usually move!)
What does that look like in daily life?
Move in ways that engage all your sensory systems (seeing, feeling, smelling!) and get out of your normal routine and comfort zone to do it!
- Go to a new park
- Walk barefoot in your backyard
- Play tennis (gently … even <gasp> just for fun!)
- Grow things in your yard or at a community space
- Take a dance class
- Take a yoga or tai chi class
- …. I could go on!
Bodies age. They change shape, and make-up and size and energy level. That is a beautiful thing to embrace and honor. AND. It doesn’t mean you have to hurt, feel stiff or give up moving and living in wonderful ways.
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