It’s no secret that as we age, our bodies change. Gravity starts to take its toll on us, life catches up and suddenly you don’t move around half as good as you used to. Of course everybody has seen those 80 somethings that walk around slouched over with a spine that looks like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Well, these people didn’t just wake up one day and couldn’t stand up straight. No, this process started early, very early, and without proper maintenance most people will end up looking just like this. The good news is, this doesn’t have to be you. You can combat these issues with a little preventative maintenance, and the earlier you get started, the better.
Sitting for long periods of time over and over again is one of the worst overall things that a human can do to their body. Tight hips, bad lumbar spine and hunched shoulders are all products of sitting and slouching. So, although this seems simple, sitting and slouching, in my opinion, are major players in the cause of the aches and pains that develop as we get older. Then there is life in general. Of course you can’t predict life, so who knows when you’ll tear your ACL playing sports, or when you’ll fall off your roof and crush some vertebrae, or separate your shoulder rolling over a four wheeler. These are all instances in life that we cannot, for the most part, control. Traumatic injuries can cause you to have pain throughout your life, even when surgical interventions have taken place. But the pain doesn’t have to be so severe, it doesn’t have to be debilitating. You see injuries cause your body to compensate, because subconsciously your body wants to avoid pain at all costs. As your body compensates, it starts creating faulty movement patterns which, in turn, lead to misalignment and generally issues with other joints or muscles. This can be a slippery slope to more problems down the road, so it is better to take care of them now then pay for it later. Here are a few useful tools that anybody can get started with today to help begin your preventative maintenance against hunchbackitis:
1) Self Myo-Fascial Release – This is just fancy talk for self massage. I recommend a foam roller and lacrosse ball to be able to do this dirty work. The foam roller can be used for your hip flexors and extensors
and your thoracic spine as well as quad, hamstring and calf muscles. The lacrosse ball can be used for your lower trap/rhomboid area and pecs. If you don’t have a lacrosse ball, a tennis ball will do or golf ball will do.
2) Static Stretching – Yes, good ol’ static stretching is back again. Don’t need anything fancy though, but at the same time don’t just bend over and touch your toes in the morning. Always remember, you CAN have too much of a good thing. Static stretching has been the topic of many hot debates over the past 10 years. For general purposes, a little each day will go a long way.
3) Dynamic Stretching – This simply means stretching in motion. I’m going to include things like crawling and rolling in here. Sounds silly, sure, but have you tried rolling lately? Go ahead, lye down on your belly and roll over just using your right arm….I’ll wait. Not so easy right? These are simple, basic human movements that we did as babies but for some reason can’t do as adults. Practice rolling with individual limbs and crawling in every direction, I promise you’ll be happy.
4) Strength/Power Training – You are constantly battling the aging process, whether you recognize this or not. A few important parts of this process that are routinely overlooked are muscle atrophy and loss of strength and power. Naturally as you get older, your body will leach muscle off of you and you will slowly loss strength and power over time. That is, of course, unless you take medicine for this. And a great medicine for this process is weight training (you like what I did there?). Do not take for granted the advantages of weight training.
Utilizing these tools will go a long way slowing down the aging process. Don’t listen to your doctor when he tells you all you need to do is walk and that you’re healthy as long as you’re breathing. Battling the life cycle is a constant battle that cannot be taken care of in a couple of months. You are never finished with your fitness goals. Your body is constantly changing and you need to do what you can to keep it from taking a downward turn.