Perhaps Katy Bowman said it best in her book, Move Your DNA:
“Your body is NEVER ‘out of shape’; it is always IN a shape created by how you have moved up to this very moment. It is constantly responding and shifting to a continuous stream of input provided by your external and internal environments, even if that input consists only of sitting still, for hours on end…If you want your health to change, you must change the way you move, and the way you think about movement.” ~Katy Bowman
It is commonly accepted that a person’s physicality begins to decline after a certain point in adulthood. The assumption that chronological age determines the health of your body is so pervasive that three important factors are often overlooked by both academics and laypersons alike.
Before we get into these factors, it is important to acknowledge that since the effects of age vary significantly from person to person, one’s chronological age is a poor excuse for having poor biomechanics. Similarly, using the excuse of genetics also isn’t a viable option in most cases. A better argument for the feeling of being “old” is that many mature adults have been misusing their bodies for a long time. In other words, they’ve not been doing the things that promote longevity and vibrant health.
Lifestyle choices play a major role in how we age. As adults, a multitude of “grown-up” responsibilities relating to careers and family-life soon replace the time we spent in our youths regularly challenging our bodies in healthy ways. As we’ll see below, even those of us who exercise regularly can get stuck in workout routines that don’t train all of the movements necessary to keep our bodies in balance. Too many of us never learn how to fully recover from a workout or how to rehab the little day-to-day traumas. We get stressed out, don’t eat right and try to do more and more on less and less sleep.
So rather than parroting the weak excuse that we all just grow old and die, we would do well to consider all the things that contribute to the gradual deterioration of our bodies over time. In modern society, most people tend to move less and less as time goes on. If we are to remain youthful, we need to practice habits that restore our bodies as we go.
3 Factors Affecting How Fast You Age
We could probably dig up a mountain of scientific studies showing how human physical performance declines with age. However, that would only encourage us to argue FOR our age in this discussion. With today’s technology, there is probably nothing you can do about your genetic predispositions or the number of birthdays that you’ve counted. What you CAN do is:
- Learn New Moves: Entertain the possibility that most likely you have not reached your potential in all areas of your physicality, which means you have room to grow. Even later in life, you may not have exhausted all the new things you can learn to do with your body. If you’re like most other people, your body tends to adapt positively to novel stimulus to your nervous system. Find exercises that you’ve never tried before and do them. Start small and increase the challenge incrementally over time. And remember – if you don’t believe you could ever do a new movement, you’ll certainly never be able to do it because you’ll never even try!
- Practice the skills you want to keep: Neurological efficiency and coordination tend to increase with the practice of movements. I’ve studied a lot of martial arts and other similar movement systems in my life. I’ve always been astounded as to what some of the masters of these systems can perform, even at an advanced age. It appears that somethings lost in youth can be made up for in experience.
- Youthful Attitude: A person’s attitude and mindset play an important role in the aging process. Regardless of the number of birthdays, those of us who don’t use age as an excuse tend to stay fitter and continue to learn new motor skills long into life. You don’t have to act your age 🙂
Rather than slow down, get weaker, and stiffer with age, get stronger, more agile, and supple with age. When we consider our world to be a big playground with plenty of opportunities to play and explore, it is crucial to prepare our bodies to be comfortable in that playground. Time does have an effect on our bodies and we should pay attention to the details of those changes. By learning new moves, practicing them often, and maintaining a youthful attitude we find ways to mitigate decrepitness. Perhaps we cannot be as reckless as many of us were as kids. However, every time I go to the park or the trampoline gym and find myself climbing and flipping with people 20-30 years younger than I am, I’m reminded that it’s so important to keep an open mind about what is possible, to practice, practice, practice, and to never give up!