Atrophy or Healthy; Your Choices and Your Actions

Bill Svobada

  • If you do not exercise, then your body will atrophy. Your bones will lose strength. Your muscles will lose strength. Your heart will lose strength. Less blood will flow to your brain and you will lose some mental agility. When you lose muscle strength in the core of your body you will lose some of your ability to balance yourself. If you don’t exercise for a long period of time, tasks will become harder to do and some tasks you used to do will become impossible. You can’t lift it, climb it or carry it. It is too much for you. You are not strong enough, don’t have enough breath, lose your grip, feel sluggish most of the time, don’t like what you see in the mirror and have a nagging feeling of guilt that follows you wherever you go.
  • Over a long period of inactivity and poor diet you can be on the life threatening combination of a withering body and increasing weight. Without exercise your bones get weaker, muscles get weaker, the heart gets weaker and they all must support an ever increasing body mass. You are like an old car that is not maintained. The tires are nearly flat, the oil is low, it has inferior gas, the springs and shocks are shot, it has never been lubricated but it must keep hauling more people, heavier luggage and a pile of boxes of heavy material on the roof. Eventually, that car is going to break down in a drastic way. The same is true for you if you eat non-nutritious foods and don’t maintain your body by following a reasonable program of exercise.
  • I love to watch little kids in the park. They will spontaneously burst into a run. They instinctively run, jump, climb, slide, and create all kinds of other things to do that involve moving their bodies. During all this movement, they always seem to be smiling and laughing. What happens as they grow? They go to school where they sit most of the time. Many schools have no recesses or organized programs involving physical activity. However, most schools have sports programs where a few people play and most watch. Kids go home and do homework, watch television, play highly addicting video games, text, talk on the phone and often snack on junk foods. When families do things together it is often watching movies, sporting events, television or having family get-togethers where copious amounts of food (usually not healthy) and beverages (usually empty calories). The schools, families and our society in general do not foster physical activity. If you are going to be more like the kids in the park, you will have to be “different” from the vast majority of Americans today.
  • People often tell me that they are too old to start exercising. There are many scientific studies that show that people in their 90’s have gained measurable health benefits by starting and following a program of exercise. Chronological age is no excuse for not exercising.
  • Walking and its variations like running, hiking, climbing and anything where you move your body in its upright position puts stress on your bones and makes them stronger. The same is true of any resistance exercise that puts pressure on your bones. Muscles, bones and brains all need to be used in a variety of ways.
  • Guys, don’t overdo it. The biggest muscles don’t mean don’t mean the best health. I am sure there is a point of diminishing returns in muscle building. I have observed men who can hardly walk because their legs are so overly muscled. I have seen men who don’t seem to be able to put their arms down to their sides because their shoulders and upper arms were so oversized. I have seen other over-muscled men who were unable to properly play a sport because their huge muscles didn’t allow them to move with freedom and flexibility. I am also suspicious of all the potions that you guys take before, during and after your workouts. Do you know what is in that stuff? Finally, my informal poll of the ladies indicates that huge muscles are not girl magnets. I know you guys probably won’t stop your body building because, being guys, you think bigger is always better. We guys think that if a few drops of cologne is good, then a quarter-cup has got to be better.
  • If you go to a gym or other public place to work out, wash your hands when you enter so you don’t bring any in and wash when you leave so you don’t take any out. Remember that all that equipment is touched by a lot of people and there are a lot of them who are less than sanitary in their habits.
  • Listen to your body. Your body talks to you all the time. If you have a pain, it is your body telling you that something is wrong. Whether the pain is a headache, sting, throb, ache, pounding sensation, stabbing pain, dull pain or ” worst pain you ever experienced;” it is your body trying to tell you something. It is usually signaling you that you need to stop what you are doing and find out what is wrong. That pain might be a signal that you have strained, pulled, torn or separated a muscle or done some other damage to your body. You should stop and find out what it is. You should not “bravely/stupidly” work through it or play through it and possibly make the strain into a tear. Your body will tell you that it is not macho to be stupid. I know, I personally heard mine tell me that. I haven’t found females trying to be “macho” in this way but it applies to us all. Equally bad is the person who has the pain but takes a “pain killer” to mask the pain but doesn’t try to find the cause. If you won’t or can’t get medical help at finding the cause, then treat yourself using the RICE method. RICE is an acronym that stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. I mentioned headaches above. I do not get headaches since I follow the nutrition and exercise programs I am advocating.
  • Get in the habit of using every opportunity possible to exercise your body. Of course you can join a gym and have a trainer design an exercise plan for you. You can read books and magazines on the subject, join clubs, watch videos and all sorts of other ways to develop more formal, structured types of exercise programs. But what about all the other everyday, informal opportunities for exercise that add up over time? Here are some ideas that I have done:

  • Walk whenever you can such as to the mailbox, to a nearby store or in the airport.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. I try to get hotel room on floors 4-7 so I can use the stairs for moderate exercise.
  • Play family games that involve exercise and go hiking as a family.
  • At the office go talk directly to a colleague instead of emailing, texting or phoning.
  • Take a walk for a break from your deskwork at least every hour or so.
  • Use your creativity to come up with novel ways to move your body as a normal activity.

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