Our bodies are a testament to adaptability. Our structures seem solid, but in reality, they are so much more plastic and changeable that we imagine. Did you know that the cells in your body are completely regenerated in about 5 – 7 years? You are quite literally a different person today than you were 7 years ago. How those cells regenerate will depend on many different factors: nutrition, environmental influences, movement and overall fitness, emotions, mindset, and countless other things. Your body is constantly shifting and changing whether you notice or acknowledge it or not!
If change is the only real constant in our lives, then the only real way to ensure longevity is to make sure your body has the capacity to adapt as it needs to. And that involves making sure that all of your body’s systems are being supported for optimum function.
What does that mean? In terms of nutrition, it means eating clean – cutting out the crap and feeding your body what it needs to thrive. You do what you can to minimize toxic influences in your environment. You work on your fitness, because you know a strong moving body is good for your health overall. So, you work out hard. You push yourself, you test your limits. You focus… and you get it done. You’re diligent.
But let me ask you this – is the kind of workout you do always within your comfort zone? Is it too familiar? Does your work out take you through the same kind of range of motion most of the time? Are you loading your body in a similar way all the time? Are your progressions from low to high intensity generally about the same? You want to be able to do well what you do often, and that takes practice, but if you want to stay healthy, variety is essential.
Think about it this way. Let’s say you are running 3x a week and hitting the gym 2-3x a week too. You’ve got the cardio and the strength training covered, right? You’re doing what the experts will tell you supports good health. Movement mastery is important: doing really, really well what you do often. But participating in a variety of physical activities that challenge your body in different ways is important for long term health.
Our brains organize movement into patterns. Without having to make conscious decisions about what muscles you’re moving, and when, your body is able to execute the motions you want. Over time, With practice and repetition, those patterns become deeply ingrained in our brain-body map. The pattern becomes like a well-worn path. The bones, muscles, nerves, fascial tissues, blood vessels and other structures within that pathway are turned on, lubricated, oxygenated and activated. This is all good!
But imagine if that particular pattern is the one you use all the time, or even most of the time. Not only is that pathway subject to the stress of over-use, there may be other pathways in the body that are neglected and underused. Muscles, fascia, bones that aren’t being used well and to capacity. Over time imbalances may creep up, creating stress and strain in places that you don’t expect.
Your body will change and adapt to all kinds of things over the course of your life. When specific patterns are dominant, the body adapts relative to those dominant patterns. When the balance is skewed, our brains and bodies compensate however they have to in order to get back to something that feels like balance. The body is so good at doing this, that you likely won’t even notice it happening. You won’t notice until the accumulated effects of all that compensation begin to put undue stress on joints, structure and internal systems. Gradually, your body begins to function less efficiently. And over the course of a lifetime, that will affect the ease with which you move now and even more into your elder years.Why not give it the BEST chance for adapting well? Create a really well balanced foundation, so that adaptation supports optimum function, rather than detracting from it.
The good news is though, that all you have to do is mix it up! If you’ve inadvertently fallen into a workout routine that doesn’t vary much – try new things! If you’re into cross fit, try an aerial yoga class! If you’re into Pilates, try something that asks you for speed and agility. If walking is all you can manage right now, vary the terrain, your speed, use walking poles or even wear a backpack with some weight inside. Walk backwards for a while. The key is to move in as complete a range of motion as you can, loading your body in as many different ways as you can. Light loads, heavy loads, big range, different tempos, different intensities. Do the things that are comfortable. Make sure that the movements of your life are supported. But then – the sky’s the limit. Find a different kind of fun or a brand new challenge!
Move. Play. Explore. Adventure. Mix it up. Do the things that you’re comfortable with, and that support your life – sure! But throw in some other stuff too. Not only will you renew your enjoyment of physical activity and play, you’ll be improving the likelihood that you’ll be able to move freely and easily into old age.
How do you mix things up? What do you love to do that adds a little variety to your physical conditioning or to your play time? Variety is the spice of life – leave a comment below and let us know ways that you’ve found to spice up your physical activity!