Physical Infirmity – Aging or Neglect?

Five years ago, before I really started investing my time on improving my fitness, I often thought that getting old is going to be intolerable.

I already suffered from chronic tension headaches and constant pains and aches in my shoulders, neck and low back. I got up in the morning in pain and I went back to sleep the same way. I simply couldn’t imagine how I could still be working at age 50.

I’m often reminded of that time in my life when I see people in their 60’s or 70’s struggling to get up from a couch, usually loudly bemoaning their age.

If I hadn’t started investing my time on improving my fitness, it’s very likely that I would’ve been one of the people bemoaning my age and infirmity in 30 years of time or likely earlier. But luckily I did – and because I did – I don’t believe that much of the infirmity that is associated with aging has anything to do with aging.

It has a lot to do with neglecting your body.

It’s simply not possible to have a sedentary job and spend your free time sitting on a couch for decades and still expect to feel good and able in your 60’s. Living an independent life well into old age will also be a (pipe) dream. How do you suppose to be able to take care of yourself if you don’t have enough strength in your leg and thigh muscles in order to get up from the couch?

You either use it or lose it and you certainly can’t buy a pill that solves the problem.

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I had to re-learn this lesson quite recently. 🙂

For some reason, perhaps because of holding my mouse arm in a slightly elevated position for a long time and/or because of some inappropriate upper body exercises in my training program, my neck and shoulder problems returned with a vengeance.

After suffering fro a while I had to admit that I had actually started neglecting my body again. I know from experience what works for my body – doing Feldenkrais lessons regularly – but I had stopped doing them because I was so busy. I guess I was assuming that I can get away with it. No such luck!

So I started doing my Feldenkrais again. I was still mumbling to myself though how unfair it is that I have to work so hard to keep myself painless and reasonably fit. I already do three regular strength training sessions a week and aim for at least 9000 steps a day, so I probably invest at least one hour a day to keep myself fit.  How am supposed to be able increase the time from there?

Luckily I stopped to ponder what would be the consequence if I stopped doing everything I do to keep myself fit. I acknowledged that I would literally suffer the consequences in my body, so I meekly laid myself down on the floor and started doing Feldenkrais.

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So now I have this life sentence of serving my body for the rest of my life – day in day out. 🙂  At least the investment pays off:  I’m almost painless already and the time I’ve used to improve my physical fitness (strength training, good diet and everything else I do) actually pays off royally.

These days I mostly feel really good and very “capable in my body”. And I know that if I continue doing what I do now, I’m probably fitter at age 50 (barring accidents and illness) than I was at age 20. How cool is that?

What do you think? Please leave a comment below!

Comments

  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! I’m glad you’re almost painless now. A lot of that improvement probably has to do with you being stronger and your muscles holding your spine and other bones up more firmly.

    I do agree that bad aging has mostly to do with body neglect. I don’t exactly agree with the term “life sentence” in that, yes, it is a lifelong endeavor, but no, it isn’t a punishment as “sentence” would suggest. I really enjoy my fit/healthy lifestyle, which I feel made my life much more exciting. And though many overweight people could never imagine this, it is much more fun to be able to do cool things at the gym than overeating desserts and burgers. I feel much more lively and dynamic in everything I do.

    Feeling great without worrying about relying on medications is awesome! I know quite a few people in their 70’s, 80’s, and a few in their 90’s who are very fit people. Trust me, they are much happier than their elderly friends who let themselves slowly turn into collapsing amoeba. It’s our daily choice what we turn out to be.

    🙂 Marion

  2. Satu says:

    Life sentence was perhaps a bad choice of word, I don’t really regret the work I put into taking care of myself and how good I’m feeling right now. 🙂 Besides, we are all serving the same life sentence whether we want it or not…
    Love the phrase “collapsing amoeba” 🙂

  3. Aimee says:

    Bearing witness nearly every night at work of how lack of care affects people as they age makes me strive even more for a consistently healthy lifestyle. I feel like a much younger person at 39 than I did at even 19. I am infinitely healthier and more active. I realized a few years ago that I could not go more than one day without exercise before I was tempted to sit it out for days to months. Weight loss aside I needed that physical activity to feel good mentally and physically. I want to live a long time now because there is so much I want to accomplish and experience.

    I’m so happy to hear you are nearly pain free. My heart goes out to anyone struggling with chronic pain. You are a shining example that pain can be conquered with hard work and dedication. I personally think it’s awesome that some of us are feeling more youthful as we age.

    • Satu says:

      Hi Aimee! Yes, it’s curious that I also feel mentally younger at age 45 than at age 20. Youth is wasted on the young.
      I seem to need to relearn the lesson regularly – you can’t just stock up with exercise and Feldenkrais and expect the effect last very long… 🙂

  4. Linda says:

    Hi Satu,
    I found your blog through Marion’s and I love what you talk about. Consider me one of your groupies (I mean followers). I am happy to hear that you are closer to a pain-free life. I understand this completely.

    • Satu says:

      Hi Linda! I’m glad you like what you see. Now I got to check your blog… 🙂

  5. Great post Satu. I’m reminded of how ‘agile’ my body felt when I was doing stacks of exercise. My old apartment had three levels so I was constantly going up and down stairs. Although I was sometimes sore (from a workout) I never felt old / stiff etc.

    I notice that – now I’m not exercising as much (though it’s improving again) – I’m actually feeling stiffer. I’ve also mentioned feeling fragile rather than agile.

    I love how much you get out of Feldenkrais. I wouldn’t mind revisiting yoga or pilates I must admit. For the stretch and suppleness it gives you!

    Deb

  6. Lori says:

    Great post! I sometimes think of eating right and exercise as a prescription for health and if I stop taking my prescriptions, then my heath can suffer.

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