You’ve heard it before . . . The effects of stress in the body are cumulative. But what does that really mean?
Let’s start with life is stress, begins at conception and ends when you die. As you grow, you accumulate stress, but not too much . . . babies and kids are fairly resilient due to not having accumulated lots of stress in their young lives. Once you hit puberty, stress starts to accumulate more quickly – maybe you remember when it was no longer as easy to put your foot in (or near) your mouth. Pretty soon, we’re grown and off to college, then work, marriage, kids, buying houses, etc. Now you’re into your twenties, and wouldn’t think of trying some of the body positions you did when you were, say, 5 or 6. Why not? Is it because you feel you’re too mature to try? Or is it because those positions are no longer comfortable (but perhaps not impossible) to achieve? Chances are, you’ve already lost some of the range of motion you had as a child, although you’re probably not aware of it.
Life goes on. In your thirties, even more stress has accumulated, and you’ve lost even more range of motion. But, again, you probably aren’t very aware of it . . . yet. By the time you’re in your 40’s, you begin to realize that you’re not as flexible as you used to be. Maybe you chalk it up to your desk job, or getting older. But, the truth is, that had you continued to use your body like you did as a child, and managed your stress (which now includes physical, mental and emotional stress – not just life stress) to minimize the long-terms affects in your body, you should be as flexible (mentally, emotionally and physically) as you were in your late teens or early twenties.
Hard to swallow, isn’t it? And, just exactly what does this have to do with exercise?
Exercise is a double edged sword. Do it correctly, and the benefits are unlimited. Do it incorrectly, and sh## can hit the fan. In my line of work I get to see a lot of people who are exercising incorrectly, either due to bad advice, or due to not understanding what’s involved. For instance, one my older clients has been fighting a musculoskeletal imbalance caused from sitting too much. Part of the problem is in the quads – the rectus femoris muscle, which also acts as a hip flexor. So, my client decides (on her own) to strengthen her quads by going up and down the stairs in her house. Oops! Why? Because every time you lift your legs, you are activating the hip flexors, and going up and down stairs puts lots of strain on the shortened hip flexors and overworked quads.
Have you done something like this? Tried a new weight machine at the gym that didn’t work out so well? Maybe you didn’t understand why . . . you just realized that perhaps that machine wasn’t the right one for you. Maybe it wasn’t the machine at all – perhaps (a) you weren’t physically fit enough for the manner in which you used the machine, or (b) you exacerbated an existing musculoskeletal imbalance you were not even aware of. Food for thought . . .
Exercise has become a double-edged sword. Before you decide to up your exercise game, it’s a good idea to get balanced before you start.