Mobility, not only muscle building and cardio-vascular capacity.
Being in shape means being able to do whatever you want.
As you grow older, this is not always possible: on a physical level, you restrict movement and you do not have as much stamina. There is a vicious circle here: as joints get stiffer, you move less, so they get stiffer still. Articulations and joints have no blood vessels in them: only through movement can the body fluids nourish and maintain the different parts of a joint.
Since you must move, the question is how to do so in spite of the stiffness. Exercise, as it is normally performed, involves much effort and may even be painful. But it has an anesthetic effect: you become oblivious to the discomfort and you run a risk.
Pain is one of the ways your body has of telling you that something is being damaged. So, you must avoid pain, yet you must continue to move. The solution is to move with such lightness that you clearly feel how you should go about it. Any unnecessary effort will mask that sense and prevent you from moving safely.
This may seem complicated which is why it has to become instinctive.
Watch a cat: there is a quiet, effortless grace to its
movements, an impression of efficiency and power. A cat does not
have to think or put effort into being cat. It stays fit, just by
going about its daily activities. In the process of becoming
human, we appear to have lost the ability to stay fit with out
exercise. So, try it: for a short while, imagine yourself to be
like the cat. Get into it, feel light and graceful yet efficient.
Don't rush, don't strain, but continue to be active: move about
and do things. Make it fun. Notice when you use unnecessary
effort and organize your actions so that there is no struggle.
Spend one hour like this and you will be amazed at how much you will have accomplished. Also you will probably feel alert... and more alive. You may also find that you are tired: it is not easy to pay attention to detail through ordinary activity. Such a shift in behaviour is not possible if you have to think about it all the time. The only way, is to let it become instinctive. Here is the real challenge.
An elegant solution: The Feldenkrais Method. Not only do you learn how to function better on a mechanical, body level, there is a change in attitude such that improvement continues beyond any technique. It is like learning how to ride a bicycle, once you have it, you can't un-learn, you can only improve. For years these techniques have been used by performers and athletes. The focus is on mobility and not perspiration, on enjoyment, not workout. The "teacher" leads the "students" through gentle though unusual movement sequences that involve the whole body. As you start using long forgotten muscles and muscle combinations, you discover new ways of moving that are easier and more comfortable. In the shift from straining to learning, you feel more relaxed, you become aware of what you are doing and find that you are able to recognize and avoid the habits that lead to many familiar aches and pains.
So however you do it, learn to keep moving, and have it be
light and pleasant. This is essential to your staying in shape.
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