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Use It or Lose It

by Paula C. Henderson 2 years ago in aging
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Your biggest enemy might be you.

Use It or Lose It
Photo by andrew dinh on Unsplash


We have all heard this saying, right? The truth is it really is true! The biggest attributor to people becoming immobile is that they stop moving in the same way that they did when they were younger.

Remember when you were younger and you regularly got down on the floor and back up? All by yourself? As we get older, many people stop doing that. You don’t have to be a gymnast to make it part of your daily routine to get down on the floor and get yourself back up without using an aid such as another person or a chair.

I remember my mother, as she aged, would get down on the floor every day, lie flat, and then get back up without the help of the chair or sofa. She would do this several times throughout the day. She also made it a point to regular do floor exercises like stretches and just volunteered to sit on the floor at family get together’s where there wasn’t enough seating. I can remember her mother, my grandmother, almost scolding my 55 year old mother to “get off the floor, you’re too old to be sitting on the floor”. My grandmother who had become so immobile that she had to have people waiting on her. Not for any medical reasons but because she decided back in her forties that she was too old to be getting down on the floor any longer.

I've known several people, in there fifties and sixties who appear to be stuck in their chair for the most part. They say its just too difficult to walk. When I ask what is causing that they say oh, there's nothing wrong with me according to the doctor, I'm just old. People in their fifties and sixties should still be able to walk around just fine, many still work a full time job and care for grandchildren. Age alone will not cause you to become immobile.

When you stop moving in certain ways your body takes the hint that you no longer wish to move that way not to mention the fact that you lose the muscle tone to be able to move in that particular way.

My mother was a great example to me to keep on moving in all of the ways my body was originally able to move. Stretching first thing in the morning the way a child does: the whole body all at once; stretching your arms straight out to the ceiling while simultaneously stretching your legs out before you even get out of bed.

Climbing up and down step stools and at least small ladders. Getting up and down onto the floor by myself. When is the last time you rolled? Rolled across the floor? Rolled down a hill? Or rolled across your bed from one side to the other? This is a full body motion that I continue to do as I age. It keeps me limber.

I remember a few years ago a friend was in a car accident and although the vehicle was totaled she was barely injured. The doctors said it was because she was fit and healthy. Fit and healthy people not only sustain less injuries while doing daily tasks, but when they injure themselves, they heal much faster. Falling in your home doesn't have to mean a hip replacement.

This is a key motivator for me to keep moving and practice an all around healthy lifestyle that includes a good sleep routine, not smoking, no unnecessary medications, incorporating activities in my life that make me feel happy, a healthy non-processed food diet, deliberate exercise and daily movement.

There are things I have incorporated into my daily routine that are passive. When cooking something on the stove that I need to stay close by while cooking I will take that opportunity to do toe touches or arm exercises rather than stand there and stare at it until time to stir it again. I make sure to place some of the items I use often on the top shelf so that I have to reach for it and others on the lower shelves so that I have to squat down to get to those items. Don’t make everything so “convenient” in other words.

Another trick is to stop being so efficient. If I have the time, I will leave the load of towels in the dryer and take just one out at a time. Fold that one towel. Walk all the way to the bathroom to put it away and then walk all the way back to the dryer for the next towel. Repeat. Rather than removing all of the towels and standing in one place, or worse, sitting, while folding them all and being so efficient.

I also purposely have yard work that forces me to get outside. I have a tree that creates an enormous amount of leaves in the fall but this forces me to get out and rake and bag the leaves.

I have a treadmill and have designated specific shows that I only watch while on the treadmill. Even if you love to walk outside in your neighborhood a treadmill is a great piece of equipment. On days where the weather is not suitable for walking outside you have no excuse!

Feeling happy is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Laughing and just feeling happy goes a long way to keeping you motivated to making healthy choices for yourself. What makes me happy is spending time with my daughter whenever I can, volunteering, watching comedies that make me laugh, going to music concerts, hiking on outdoor trails when I can, dancing and caring for my pets.

Make a list if you need to. Start small; but start. You don’t have to be able to walk 30 minutes to start. Just start with what you can do and build on that. When I bought my very first treadmill I could only walk five minutes. So that's what I did. Within a few weeks I was walking 20 minutes, and so on. You too will soon find yourself feeling more, Zen, shall we say?

Paula C. Henderson


About the author

Paula C. Henderson

Paula is a freelance writer, healthy food advocate, mom and cookbook author.

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