We’ve all seen it. The Facebook post or video clip of an 80-something-year-old deadlifting or squatting her bodyweight. While so many people see this person as an exception to what the human body was meant to do past a certain age, I see it as a challenge to us all.
“I think I’m just getting too old” is probably the number one line I hear in my practice. It usually comes on the heels of listing a litany of symptoms. I used to let this talk slide, until I realized just how much “feeling too old” was interfering with people’s healing.
To me, too old means this. When you don’t move optimally, treat yourself with love and challenge yourself to grow emotionally and when you push through injuries or don’t fully recovery from accidents, injuries and surgeries, your body will slowly begin to adapt to avoid further pain and vulnerability.
Adapting might look like shifting your weight away from an injury, arthritis or limited flexibility. Range of motion in your joints decreases because you lack the stability necessary for your body to control movement in large ranges of motion. This may feel like stiffness, tight muscles, cramping or even a frozen shoulder.
Your body was made to adapt to the environment it’s in and to the past injuries, repetitive positions, sports you’ve played and even how you feel about yourself. These are all reflected in posture and how you carry yourself.
The good news is that these factors are fluid, meaning that with the right inputs, you can take steps to improve them. You can teach your body healthy movement, as opposed to unhealthy compensation patterns that result in a smaller menu of movement options and can increase the potential for further injury.
When you see your body as constantly adapting, it’s much easier to see why we need to keep providing the body with healthy inputs. A healthy input looks like learning how to hip hinge and squat before loading these movements with weight.
It means that following childbirth or abdominal surgery, that you learn how to breathe properly and activate the pelvic floor, things the body often needs to be coached through in order to achieve correct core activation.
It means teaching a foot and ankle to properly bear load again after a twist or sprain. And it means beginning to acknowledge and process painful emotions that keep you stuck in unhealthy relationships or unhealthy behaviors like overeating or binging on sugar.
The body is incredibly resilient and will often break down long before you feel any pain. Pain is often the last sign that the wheels are falling off. That’s why it’s so important to begin now. Not to let years of unhealthy adaptations pile up, which slowly limit the availability of healthy movement.
If you’re 20 or 80, it’s never too late to begin moving in the right direction. Just keep moving.