Aging Well: Stay Active to Stay Young
Derek Mikulski, BS, CSCS, CPT - September 15, 2017
Let’s try a simple test. Reach both arms straight over your head and point your index fingers toward one another. Now, without looking up, try to touch the tips of your index fingers together directly overhead. Can’t quite get it? It’s okay, most people can’t do it on their first try, but they can get close.
How do you know where your arms, hands, and fingers are, even when you can’t see them? Body awareness. In this case, the sensory receptors (also known as proprioceptors) in your skin, muscles, and joint capsules were communicating with your brain to tell you where your limbs were, even though you couldn’t see them.
This crucial sense is necessary for many of the basic activities and tasks that each of us performs on a daily basis. And while our body awareness is slowly diminishing as we age, all hope is not lost.
That’s because there’s a second contributor to our body awareness ability — and this one’s actually under our control.
Move It or Lose It
Lack of movement throughout your life is just as bad as, if not worse than, the physical aging process on your body’s internal balance and health systems. Living a life without exercise or physical activity can, simply put, speed up the aging process.
Look at the chart above. Notice how from birth (the big red dot) as we age, our body awareness abilities are actually increasing (think going from crawling to walking to running as a child). This happens all the way until the age of around 16-18, when we are done growing through puberty and enter adulthood. Then, things start to go downhill, first slowly and then faster as we age.
But here’s the good news. Notice the people who follow the path on the red line. They have exercised their entire lives, ate well, and have generally taken good care of themselves. Those on the yellow line decided to ignore exercise and eat poorly. The result? Even though these two groups of people are the same age, one of them is living a fulfilling life while the other has limited functionality.
We can choose to exercise, or we can choose to surrender our body’s mobility.
Movement is Medicine
So we know that movement keeps your body awareness systems activated, your muscles strong, and your mind sound. It can also keep you free from disease, disability, and ailments, and allows you to do what you love. It truly is a medicine.
But what types of movement should we be doing? Are there certain exercises that are better than others when it comes to turning back the hands of time in regard to our balance and body awareness?
The ActivMotion Bar® was a training tool developed to address these exact needs. ActivMotion Bars are hollow and partially filled with ball bearings that shift during movement. This shifting weight allows you to feel and hear your imbalances as you try to keep the bar stable, training your senses and body awareness.
The 4.5lb ActivMotion Bar, the shortest and lightest weight of all ActivMotion Bars, is the easiest to control but still provides a great workout that builds balance, core strength and stability, and body awareness. It’s an ideal tool for active aging exercise and for anyone looking to focus on their proprioception abilities.
Most importantly, the shifting weight more closely imitates the tasks we are faced with in our daily lives. Its dynamic, constant state of motion means that we are always trying to maintain stability; unlike the static, repetitive movements performed with traditional exercise equipment. The ActivMotion Bar is more representative of real life activities such as gardening, tennis, and playing with children, and helps us prepare our body for doing what we love.
The video below features four exercises performed with the ActivMotion Bar. The moves are specifically focused on the development of proprioception and body awareness. Each can be adapted in different ways to allow for varying degrees of challenge.
Age is But a Number
While there’s probably no such thing as a fountain of youth, that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to fight Father Time. As they say, age is merely a number. Stay young by staying active; focus on your proprioception abilities with exercises that challenge your body awareness, core strength, and balance. It’s never too late to start, and your future self will thank you.
About the Author
Derek Mikulski, BS, CSCS, CPT, is the creator of the ActivMotion Bar. He holds degrees in exercise physiology and health promotion, and also has fitness certifications from NASM, NSCA and NPTI. He launched ActivMotion in 2013, aspiring to build a stronger world through innovation grounded in sound fitness and training theory.
Derek Mikulski, BS, CSCS, CPT
Derek Mikulski is an NASM and NPTI Certified Personal Trainer. He also is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA and holds a B.S. in health education and exercise physiology from Central Michigan University.