health or respectability?
Growing old, I'm often told, isn't easy.
In my line of work, this revelation is usually spoken by a client with a nagging, tweaked, or strained something-or-other (and it doesn't seem to matter which age they are...!)
Though I am starting to experience this a little myself, I'm still not convinced that breakdown is inevitable - at least not at the rate which we seem to be witnessing.
Those who know me know I've been getting involved with 'restorative exercise' - restorative in the sense of restoring our bodies to a closer state to what they might have been had we been living in greater interaction with the natural world.
It's not an easy ship to turn around and while the body may be ingrained in its habits of adaptation, its more the mind that puts up the first resistance.
Back here, I wrote about the reluctance of adults to give themselves over to play.*
There must be something to that, judging from the immense popularity of adult coloring books. And, the fact that we have to distinguish them as 'adult' - as well as reference the scientific research justifying their therapeutic application for stress and depression - suggests that we need permission to something otherwise deemed as childish and time-wasting.
Comedian Demetri Martin made a similar observation:
"When I was a kid, I could climb trees. That was a thing I could do, but I can't do anymore. I lost that privilege. You know, if I go down a street and I see a bunch of kids in trees, I'm like, 'Oh, they're having fun.' But if I go down the same street and there's adults in all the trees... I'm like, 'I need to get in into a !&$%#@ NOW! Something bad is happening on this street...!'
That's how you know if you're a grown-up. If someone sees you in a tree, and they're like, 'Get help!'"
No justifiable reason for any self-respecting adult to be in a tree. Or is there?
MovNat.com recently shared this interesting article about how tree climbing (and other 'natural' movement) just may make you smarter and improve working memory (as well as how this doesn't quite work as well with yoga...) It's a good read, and includes a video of Mrs. MovNat performing some of the activities this informal study was based on.
Now, I imagine some of you are saying, even if you wanted to get in a tree, you couldn't - not to mention execute a growing number of other activities exiled to gathering dust.
I hear ya, though I am trying to reclaim some of those abilities.
I have to wonder, though. Is it always about 'can't'? Or is it, 'afraid to try', or 'afraid to make an ass of myself and end up going viral on YouTube'?
I also wonder at which point in our lives did we decide - before 'no longer able' happened - that we were no longer willing? Or, no longer encountered the opportunity?
Where did we stop using it and start losing it?
When did you climb your Very Last tree, and why was it the last? Or pull off your last cartwheel? Or get down on the floor and back up again without the support of hands, furniture and old people sounds? (I used to attempt a headstand every so often, just to make sure I still had it in me. I admit, it's been a while...)
Was it due to injury, fear? Or a choice to conform - consciously or unconsciously?
The thing is, it's not just important to do these things for their own sake.
But if we do need some justification, how about this:
There are specific loads that our body parts need to function optimally - to support our structure, our organs and our life processes - loads which just so happen to be perfectly provided by engaging with a natural environment.
The muscular strength and functionality that is lost in the process of NOT doing these things is at the root of what we're coming to accept as an inevitable part of aging (and the age gets earlier with each generation).
Pelvic floor dysfunction, spine, hip and knee degeneration, arthritis, diabetes, even certain types of cancers ... there is growing evidence that our minimally-active lifestyles are having the same disastrous effect on our cells that a diet of processed, lifeless food has.
Am I suggesting that you run out and do a cartwheel right now? Unless you've pulled one off (successfully) in the last week or so, no, please don't. I don't think my liability insurance will cover that.
But for those who are truly seeking to not only stave off the slippery slope of degeneration, but actually reclaim some lost territory, I would say, let's support each other in becoming again as little children. The outdoors, the grass, the trees, the playground, the floor, the coloring books aren't just for kids anymore (if they're even still for the kids... ).
If wearing your FitBit gives you permission to get on the swingset if you felt so inclined ('It's all good, folks, she's 'working out'...!) then by all means!
If you want to teeter along the curb edge or a low wall while you walk to refresh your balance skills, go ahead! Maybe it'll give other adults the freedom to lighten up and give in to what their bodies are starving for - even if just to see if they still can.
And send me pics! I promise I won't post them on YouTube!
*Looking back at that article, I admit that I'm harping on the same point. But it's a good one, and I think that hearing it a few times until we get it may make a huge difference in our health.