Your body is part of who you are; it belongs to you. You are responsible for it. Your mother helped you build it, but it’s your job to grow it. You get to grow your body by moving, seeing, eating, breathing, talking, laughing, touching, smelling, crying, running and jumping. You get to experience it for about ninety years, that’s almost 33,000 days of doing stuff. Every time you do something, your body learns. Every time you try, your body remembers. The more you try, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more fun your body becomes. It can learn to run faster, sing better and think deeper when given time and practice.
Some people’s bodies’ will learn faster than others and some people’s bodies’ will be bigger than others. Some will seem smarter and some will seem stronger, but your body is yours and you are responsible to help it learn. You can learn from watching, and listening, and reading, but nothing is better than actually doing. You can learn anything you want, you just have to try and try and try, most of the time you won’t be very good at it, but each time you try your body will get a little bit better because it loves to learn.
What you do with your body will affect how it feels, inside and out. On the outside you have skin, a big waterproof suit that keeps all your guts and muscles and nerves on the inside while allowing you to feel everything on the outside. Skin lets you feel what’s sharp and what’s dull, what’s hot and what’s cold; it is your body’s connection to the world. When you are young your skin is tight and smooth, but as you get older it gets stretched out and wrinkly.
Under your skin you have a built-in coat called fat to help keep you warm and store energy in your body. Fat is a slippery, jelly-like tissue that jiggles under your skin and wraps around your muscles and organs. Some people have lots of fat, while others have hardly any. We are all different and we are all learning how much is too much and how much is too little for our own bodies.
Our bodies love to move, they can wiggle, dance, run and jump because they have over 600 muscles working together to help you explore the world. These muscles help hold your body up against gravity, bend your arms, chew your food and even smile. Your muscles can stretch or contract depending on what information your body and your brain give them. Every muscle in your body is connected to your spinal cord and brain through a complex network of nerves that quickly send information up and down to help you know where you are in space, what you are feeling and how it might need to adjust to keep you safe.
Your nerves give your muscles the energy they need to contract and your skin the ability to sense hot and cold or sharp and dull. Nerves are an extension of your brain and connect all of your organs throughout your body. You have organs to help you breathe, organs to pump blood around your body, organs to help you turn food into energy and most importantly organs to help you think and learn. You started as one single cell in your mother’s belly and grew into a thinking, breathing person with a body of your own.
Humans think more than any animal on Earth. We are very smart as a species. We have invented rocket ships, cell phones, and the internet to allow us to explore and connect with each other by thinking and learning, but sometimes we think too much. Sometimes we think about things that make us worry. Sometimes bad things happen that make us sad. Sometimes life gets so busy that we feel stress. These emotions are part of what make us human, but they also can affect how our bodies work.
Happiness, sadness, anger, fear and anxiety are all types of stress that your body has to process every day, your brain will help you think about them, but your whole body experiences them. If you are sad, you might feel a heaviness over your heart. If you are nervous, you might feel butterflies in your stomach. If you are angry, you might feel a tightness in your guts. What you think will affect how your body feels and over time can create tension in your muscles and the tissues around your organs. Stressful events can make your body tighten up and limit how it moves and sometimes create pain. It is important to pay attention to how your body is feeling when you are happy and when you are sad because your body is part of who you are and you need to take care of it.
Eating food is part of taking care of your body. The type and amount of food you eat will also affect how you feel. Your body has an amazing twisty-turny tube with a bunch of gates that connect your mouth to your bum. This long tube is amazingly designed to turn the food you eat into energy for your body to burn and then to get rid of all the stuff it doesn’t need. Our bodies can turn plants, meats, grains and sugars into energy to keep us alive and moving. Some people’s bodies are very sensitive to some foods or even allergic so it is important to think about how what we put into our bodies will affect how we feel. Too much sugar tastes really good to eat, but can make your body feel sick if you have it all the time. Eating healthy foods and paying attention to how your body feels are important to make sure you can move and feel well for most of your 33,000 days on Earth!
Your blood carries oxygen and special chemicals to all the tissues of your body to help keep you healthy and repair anything that is damaged. Your body has an amazing network of tiny little tubes called veins and arteries that carry the special red liquid everywhere it needs to be. Your heart is a big muscle in the center of your chest that pumps your blood however fast your body needs it. When you run, your body needs more oxygen so you breathe faster and your heart beats stronger and more times per minute. If you put your ear on your friend’s chest you will hear it thumping. When you stop running, your body will slowly relax your heart and lungs back to a normal rate.
You and your body have your own type of normal. You see, feel and hear things every day in a way that you become used to, but sometimes things that are not normal happen to you. Sometimes you get really scared and you will feel your body tighten up and your heart start beating really strongly. Sometimes you might fall and cut your knee, sprain your ankle or even break your arm and start feeling pain that is not normal. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and needs your attention, it can be very uncomfortable but don’t worry because your body is really good at fixing itself. Cuts and bruises will heal in a week or two and broken bones may take about six weeks. Doctors and physiotherapists are trained to help get your body feeling better and back to the normal you are used to.
You are an emotional but strong person with a body that is going to tell the story of how you use it. If you pay attention to it, teach it, feed it well and ask for help when you need it, your body will be healthy, happy and almost invincible. Learn about yourself and the people around you every day by being physical and asking questions. Your body is yours and you are in control of how it feels every day.
Check back tomorrow for my next post How Your Body Actually Works: Explained Like You Are 35
If you haven’t read my book yet- Click Here: Why Things Hurt: Life Lessons from an Injury Prone Physical Therapist
Click Here to read How Your Body Actually Works: Explained Like You’re 35
Click Here to read How Your Body Actually Works: Explained Like You’re 65
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Brent Stevenson, Physiotherapist