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Expect the unexpected

I ran across an article on a very reputable medical website and it talked about what we can expect as we age.

Every human body system was briefly discussed along with what we can do in order to prepare for and mitigate problems within those systems as we happily grow into our elderly years.

Common expectation is that the “Golden Years” are more like the “Rusty Years,” and in many ways, as the body ages, there are changes that align with this perception. The article feeds in nicely to our strong desire to squeeze as many healthy days as we can out of the vessels that we live in for decades.

From information on the cardiovascular system citing the propensity for blood vessels to stiffen and cardiac muscle to adjust to these changes to age-related changes in the digestive system, many tips were given to live healthier and happier.

The one common theme that benefits all human systems including bones, muscles, and joints and cognitive systems and the skin, is the recommendation to include physical activity in your daily routine.

Studies were cited that support exercise as a way to fight back against the “expected” consequences of aging.

If you’ve read my articles, you won’t be surprised by my effervescent concurrence with this assertion.

Regular exercise is so very important not only to muscles but every system in the human body.

In past columns, I’ve written about these very benefits, but within this column, I want to address the common phrase “expect the unexpected,” credited in modern times to Irish poet, Oscar Wilde.

You see, in my world, the world of a physical therapist who preaches the ability to improve your functional ability at any age, I want you to expect the unexpected.

My goal is for you to think about what is historically “unexpected” when you get older.

Things like being able to walk around the community without the fear of falling, being able to get up and down from the floor so you can play games with your grandchildren, and even as much as being able to participate in activities such as golf or tennis or gardening into your octogenarian eras and beyond.

These are the activities that I want you to “expect.”

The fact is that most people believe that once they hit a certain age, they are too old to improve balance, strength or endurance. Too often, we’ve been unconsciously trained by social norms to equate frailty and immobility with the number of times we’ve gone around the sun.

Big mistake.

So, as July comes in and the sun is shining, take advantage of getting outside to go for walks. Adding just 20 minutes of daily walking has been proven to improve health.

The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Be sure to be mindful of shortness of breath, or increased heart rate, and definitely drink plenty of water.

Whatever your life is like, add some movement … movement is medicine. Stand up as many times as you can every hour.

If you can safely do so, walk up and down your steps an extra two times every day. Stand to do a crossword puzzle. Or, grab some soup cans and lift them above your head. Do something to feed your body’s need to move. Your body is thirsty for movement every single day.

Listen to your body and be safe and if you have any doubt, please consult with your physician or a physical therapist. It may not be easy, but, as you make it a habit, your body will thank you in many “unexpected” ways.

Joel J. Digris is a Schuylkill County resident with a master’s degree in physical therapy. He is currently employed by Achieva Rehabilitation as an outpatient provider of physical therapy and serves residents in their homes in Carbon, Schuylkill, and Luzerne counties.