My one-year-old constantly seeks physical challenges in the strength and coordination arena. That’s how kids overcome gravity to sit, crawl and stand. They challenge themselves to the point of collapsing, stumbling and falling over and over. Kids push themselves to the brink. When I lift weights, our one-year-old joins in. But whereas I use a dumbbell that is about 20 percent of my body weight, he takes one that is a third of his and hoists it over his head with both arms. Luckily, he has me to grab the weight from his hands as he careens backwards. The challenge he pursues makes him stronger and more coordinated. If you challenge yourself the same way, by moving against significant resistance, you also become stronger, and your musculoskeletal system resembles a much younger person. Your muscles are bigger and stronger, your body is leaner and your bones maintain their density.
The lesson here? Do activities that are not easy for you. Go a little faster than what is comfortable. Force your muscles to overcome significant resistance. Try some activities that test your coordination and that require your practice, such as dance, martial arts, aerobics, or a new sport. Simply challenge yourself.
Play like a kid. Children's natural play involves movement. At lunch yesterday, our four-year-old daughter was pretending she was a dog. She wanted me to hold pieces of food high above her head, and she had to jump to get it. Wouldn’t we all be in much better shape if we played this game? At a recent track meet for our 13-year-old son, I sent the five other kids to a nearby field to play. Within two minutes, they were playing freeze tag and having a much better time than the competitors or the onlookers. I decided to join in and had a blast. About 20 minutes later, others who had been watching us decided to participate. It was an exhilarating, youthful experience.
The lesson here? Play. Play with your kids, your dog and your spouse.
To stay young, look to the young and pattern your movement habits after theirs. Embrace every opportunity for movement, seek out and participate in activities that challenge you physically and engage in physical play. You’ll not only feel younger in spirit, but your body will also feel, look and be younger.
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