Know Your Body: Skill #1 for Building Confidence in Your Health as You Age


A
common theme I’ve noted in my work as a physical therapist is a loss of
confidence in all areas of life that usually accompanies a decline in physical
function, particularly in adults over the age of 60.

Once
it happens, it leads to a long road rebuilding this confidence and often leaves
those it happens to never getting back to the place they were before.

And
it makes so much sense. A loss of physical abilities leads to difficulty
leaving home, participating in much-loved activities, and creating a dependency
on others for survival. This quickly leads to a feeling of isolation,
depression, and loneliness which further perpetuates the cycle of decline.

So,
armed with this information, how can you prevent the loss of confidence in your
future?

On
one hand, it’s not entirely possible to prevent every medical event. Even
those who make all the right lifestyle choices can still end up with a chronic
condition. 

On the other hand, however, we can all choose how we will react to and live with a chronic condition. And those who start with a good set of lifestyle habits often find they can live a fulfilled life despite their circumstances.

One
difference I’ve picked up on is adults who age well generally have a strong
sense of body awareness. They’ve cultivated the habit of tuning into their
body, can pick up on subtle signs of change, and are proactive in taking action
to prevent decline before it happens.

You
can develop this same body awareness through learning physical literacy
and a basic set of physical skills.
Let’s talk about where you should start.

Physical
literacy is the basic knowledge and understanding of what movements your body
is capable of.

Each
and every one of us has access to a given set of movements in order to
experience our world in a meaningful way. For example, the ability to get on and off the floor not
only keeps you physically strong but also gives a different perspective to view
the world.

All
human adults should also be able to hold a deep squat, stand on one leg comfortably,
and reach their arms up overhead. Without the ability to perform each of these
simple movements, we can’t experience our world to the fullest.

The
loss of these skills often begins at a younger age (in some cases even as young
as your 20s or 30s!), but the manifestation of the loss of small things doesn’t
become a big deal until we age and experience some kind of medical event. 

Seemingly
overnight, physical skills that once came naturally to us suddenly disappear,
limiting our mobility. Unfortunately, when this happens our interaction with
our environment becomes limited and by proxy, we lose a lot of mental
stimulation along with the loss of physical strength.

Do
you need to be a medical professional to have an understanding of how the human
body works?

Certainly
not. Each and every one of us should have a handle on the most basic
terminology of our physical health and how a loss of mobility can impact our
health in a variety of ways.

For
example, even a slight loss of walking speed can be a strong early predictor
for risk of dementia, functional decline, frailty, or even death.

Grip
strength is strongly correlated with a higher risk of heart conditions. Having
this knowledge gives you the ability to assess your own movement and physical
ability as vital signs.

So how do you start to build physical literacy and a basic set of skills?

A great starting point is to develop a strong mind-body connection.

As stated
above, a commonality of adults who age well is they’ve all taken the time to
develop body awareness.

They
catch on to changes in their physical health and have systems in place to
circumvent medical events. And even if it can’t be prevented, these individuals
also tend to recover much better than those who don’t have a good awareness of
their health.

Ask
yourself a lot of questions about how you are feeling before you make any
changes to help you identify the areas in need of work.

Then
start to implement small changes and continue this process of self-assessment.

And
really, that is all there is to developing body awareness. Simple in theory, a
little more difficult in practice, but once you adopt this habit it will become
second nature and drastically improve how you age! Watch your confidence soar
as you refine this skill over time.

What
can you do today to become more conscious about your physical state? Can you
recognize the subtle signs of arising physical issues? What experiences can you
share about being mindful of your body? Please use the comments below.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor to get specific medical advice for your situation.

Let’s Have a Conversation!



LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here