As a physical therapist, I have a lot of experience in helping clients reach their optimal physical health. It may consist of regaining strength and function after an injury, or, addressing physical limitations brought on by weakness or muscle imbalances. I am always thinking about someone’s strength, function, mobility, endurance, range of motion and balance. Everyone has different areas that may need improving on.
After a few years, I noticed a large divide in these areas between some of my clients. I have one group that genuinely do not push their bodies to their full physical potential. This group has individuals of all ages, all sizes, with or without pain and, are of both genders. They can generally be lumped into one category titled ‘inactive’ or ‘sedentary’. I often wonder why these clients are not physically active because I know they are capable of doing so much more. When I started asking them why they were not active, I quickly learned the list of responses was long and diverse.
The typical answers were, “I don’t have time,” “It’s too expensive to join a gym,” “It makes my pain worse,” “I’m too tired,” and my favourite one, “I don’t like to sweat.”
Then I have my opposite group of clients who are the ‘active’, ‘athletic’ or ‘manual labor’ types. This group is a whole different ballgame, pushing their bodies to the limits, and often on a daily basis. They explore their physical abilities, use them to their advantage and, often strive to achieve more strength and endurance.
My best example of this is my brother, Moses. He has been an athlete his whole life and is now also a Fire Fighter and Crossfit Instructor. I can honestly say, since he has been consistently lifting weights (which have been getting much heavier each year), his confidence has also grown exponentially. I always thought my brother was confident, and now I noticed his self worth started to soar. His actions, words, lifestyle and behaviours all radiated positive self worth and confidence. Everyone around him could see how lifting weights truly enriched all aspects of his life.
I still think he’s a little crazy when he lifts more than 200 lbs over his head, but hey, this is the same guy who uses that same skill at work to carry someone out of a burning building. Bottom line is, he knows what his body is capable of, and he pushes the limits both physically and mentally in his daily practice routines.
I have to admit, I am somewhere in the middle. I love to exercise and see what my body can do, especially when practicing a challenging yoga pose. However, some weeks I can also get off track and look more like a couch potato. I am definitely not as dedicated to my physical activities as my brother is.
I can tell you first hand, I don’t feel as great when I am not active. Most of my clients would agree that when the body is sluggish, so is the mind. Then my mood changes, even my food choices change and I am far less healthy and productive. If I’ve noticed this in myself, I’m sure many of you have experienced it too!
There are tons of benefits to regular exercise – especially strength/resistance training. I encourage all of my inactive clients to get moving and see what their bodies are capable of. When you push your body you learn a lot about yourself. You can do it, or you can’t, and that keeps you honest with yourself. For example, you can lift that suitcase into the car, or you can’t. It is pretty black or white and you have to face your strengths and limitations face on.
Being able to physically do more also opens opportunities. You can get your hands dirty and be more involved. Maybe it’s doing more group or community activities, helping your neighbour carry in their groceries, or being able to play on the floor with your grandchild.
Bottom line is, you need your strength. Unfortunately, as we get older it’s harder to preserve that strength. So I encourage you to start today. See what your body can do for you! Don’t forget to start small. Maybe see how long you can walk or run, or get down on the floor and try that push-up. You will be the first to notice how increasing your physical activity will transform other aspects of your life.
Beth Hollis, BHSc., MPT, CKTP