Staying Active – Aging, Joint Pain
Staying Active while Aging
The Sphinx asked this riddle: What animal walks on 4 legs in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and 3 in the evening? The answer has to do what something you MUST keep to keep active as you age.
Answer: Man. He crawls on all fours in the morning of his life, two legs in the afternoon, and with a cane in the evening of his life.
Balance is how a body, young or old, keeps from falling down. However, the human frame is NOT well designed to stand on 2 legs. Try and stand a child’s doll on 2 legs. If the doll is proportioned as a person is, it will be hard to balance and not very stable. Put the doll on its hands and knees and it becomes very stable. Add a cane to the doll and it is again fairly stable (Who knows, perhaps one day the toy makers will sell a geriatric Barbie with a cane).
Our balance is an amazing ballet of our muscles, joints, nerves, senses and brain working in split second harmony. Watch a toddler just learning to walk. The child will stand teetering to and fro, with legs far apart, creating a wide base upon which to balance. Then comes weeks of trying, falling, and trying again. As balance improves, the legs come closer together. With time, exercised muscles strengthen, reflexes are learned, and the child learns to walk.
For most of our lives we walk on 2 legs, balancing effortlessly and thoughtlessly. We take for granted the muscular effort it takes to balance our bodies as we walk and run. Then, when our bodies break down and biomechanical problems (arthritis, back pain, etc) accumulate, or when our balance deteriorates, we find that using a cane makes it “easier to get around”.
Joint Pain and stiffness can be reduced with activity.
There is a rule of motion: “Use it or lose it”. The best way to keep the body working well is to use it in the way we want to use it. Just as we exercise a muscle to strengthen it, we can strengthen our sense of balance.
Try this Test: Stand balanced on one foot and count to 10. Then stand on the other foot. You should be able to balance on the first try for AT LEAST 10 seconds. Now try it again, with your eyes closed. If you cannot keep your balance, or if one side is much better than the other, your sense of balance needs work.
A beginning exercise is to keep practicing standing on one foot. Other exercises using an exercise ball or other special equipment helps to stimulate the bodies balance system. Another easy way to stimulate the balance system is walking. Walking is an ideal exercise for the human frame. The incidence of injury is minimal, and the benefits are significant.
Your body is designed to remain active as you age.
People’s bodies are designed to walk. Unfortunately, many people spend much (if not most) of their lives sitting. We drive to work – sitting. We work at a computer – sitting. We go to lunch- sitting, and then we sit to drive home, sit on the couch and read or watch TV. The result is a body conditioned to sitting.
Sitting uses some muscles too much and other muscles too little. The overused muscles become too tight, the underused ones too weak, and the joints become stiff from inactivity. Years of inactivity result in weakening of the body, and balance gets worse.
The solution is, at some point, begin a regular anti aging posture exercise program and make it a LifeHabit. Making a lifestyle change is difficult, but it is worth it.