How Your Body Actually Works: Explained Like You’re 65

Tennis 2014

Reality is that you are now armed with the wisdom of time, but equipped with an actively degenerating body. You likely now have the time to pay attention to your body, but may have less to work with than you had hoped. Your joints are probably stiffer, your spine has shrunk half an inch and your toes look like a bunch of mashed up, gnarly tree roots. Getting Old Sucks was the title of section one in my book for a reason: our bodies progressively require more and more maintenance over time just to keep them feeling okay. After sixty-five years of abusing your body, you may have resigned yourself to the idea that you can’t change now and that your aches and pains are simply a product of your age. I hope that the next few paragraphs will change your mind.

Thirty years is a long time. If you are sixty-five now, there is a reasonable chance that you will live for three more full decades with a body that is continuing to breakdown over time. Think about how much you have done since you were thirty-five, now visualize what you see yourself doing until you are ninety-five. I promise you that you will enjoy your third lap around more if don’t blame things on your age and instead work at improving things that you didn’t have time for in your second lap. You may not be able to go back and fix your gnarly toes or your rounded shoulders, but you can prevent them from getting worse and likely improve them more than you had ever thought possible. Your enjoyment in life for the next thirty years will most likely be closely correlated with your physical strength, mobility and balance in a way you have not experienced in the past sixty years.

Your body balances itself using the information gathered from three systems: your vision, your proprioception and your vestibular apparatus. Your two eyes create a three-dimensional construct of the world around you to give you depth perception and help you see where you are in relation to people and objects. Your muscles, ligaments and tendons have tiny mechanoreceptors in them that get triggered as you move and send feedback to your brain to help you sense where you are in space. Finally, your inner ear has three semi-circular canals aligned in different planes and filled with tiny floating particles that move as you move your head around. All three of these systems create the data that your brain processes instantly to keep you upright and moving.

Macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts that come with aging all hold the capacity to diminish your vision and impact your balance by providing your brain with less reliable data. Arthritic joints, poor posture and nerve irritations will contribute to your body stiffening up as you age and create a compromised proprioceptive system. Your inner ear and your upper neck can contribute to vertigo and dizziness making the world around you feel like an unsteady place. There is no shortage of things that can make your life more challenging as you get older, but you don’t have to just let them happen to you, if you acknowledge that your body officially requires more maintenance than it once did and assertively work at maintaining it, you will get much more enjoyment out of life moving forward.

The single most important thing to help your body is to keep moving. You had to figure out how to use your growing body as a child and now you have to learn to use your body as it degenerates, it is a changing landscape and if you think you can keep doing the same thing year after year, you will eventually hit a reality check. Your brain constantly changes itself, making new connections based on your experiences, but as you get older it will also start pairing away connections based on disuse, it is a plastic system that requires regular stimulation in order to work properly. Your bits and pieces are breaking down and you probably have to start using them differently in order to get the most out of them. Spending some time with a physiotherapist will help you understand how your body has compensated for some of its deficiencies and hopefully teach you how to move more efficiently.

I recommend reading this article to help you understand some of the basics of your posture, then consider working through some of the movement exercises on the video portion of this site.

My book is an excellent resource to help you understand more detail about how your body works: Click Here to learn more.

If you missed the first two articles in this series, click here for Explained Like You’re 5, or here for Explained Like You’re 35

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