Does your Body Feel Old/Fragile?
I find myself thinking about aging a lot. What accelerates it? Slows it down? How can I do it gracefully? How can I help other people delay its effects? As a physical therapist, I have patients tell me all the time that there is no point in exercising because they are old, or that their body doesn't and won't ever work well because they are old.
Nothing could be further from the truth! I invite those that are like-minded to take a look at these seniors in China, for example.
Okay, I know that not every senior citizen cares to be able to perform calisthenic exercises on adult sized jungle gyms (man what I would give to have a giant set of monkey bars.....). Maybe the most important movement to them is being able to comfortably get to and from the ground, to play with their grandkids. What the video does is serve to illustrate that moving well in the later years of life isn't an impossibility.
However, the people in the video didn't attain those levels of grace and fitness on a whim. What you watched was the fruit of many years dedicated to movement. Practicing antifragility if you will.
I came across the concept of aiming to become antifragile in a book by the same name (written by Nassim N. Taleb).
The topics of the book vary widely, but what really resonated with me was the application of the concept to the human body. Essentially, it highlights the fact that if applied in an appropriate dose, the human body actually BENEFITS from stress. Whereas something that is fragile, breaks under stress. For example: Load a ceramic cup with a 50lb weight, it breaks. Load muscles and they adapt and get stronger.
However, there does need to be a balance. Muscles, and any other biological tissues, require recovery periods to make adaptations. Any doctor will tell you that exercise and movement is great for the human body, but fewer doctors will be able to prescribe an appropriate dosage. Too much stress and you risk an injury, too little and you risk stagnation or even regression of function (adaptation is a two way street).
So, if your body is feeling like it's at the fragile end of the spectrum, it may be time to add [the right] stress into your life. If you haven't had any consistent movement practice in a long time, it's never too late to start. Your ceiling might be at a different height than someone with years of practice, but I hesitate to even say your ceiling would be lower.
Given the appropriate dose of movement (stress), the human body never hesitates to amaze me. The capacity for the human body to adapt, no matter your age, injury history, or movement experience, can be quite phenomenal.
If you don't know where to get started, I can help you.
Rest assured that I will work within the limits of your goals and capabilities in order to help you better understand your body. Whether its too much of a certain type of stress, or not enough of another. I'll work with your unique scenario to make sure you develop a better relationship with movement.
In an interview for my first job as a PT, I was asked what I thought the single best exercise was for a patient. My answer: the one they perform consistently. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that running, biking, or weightlifting are the only options to develop a healthier and more agile, antifragile body.
If you're a fan of any of those, then great! Stick with them. If they're not your cup of tea, find something you enjoy - dance, walk, climb, swim, take a martial arts class, bowl, do gymnastics, roller blade, play tennis, ice skate, do Tai Chi, practice yoga, anything - and stick with it.
Your body will thank you.
As always, thanks for reading.
Dr. Piotr Solowiej PT, DPT