As we become adults and take on more responsibilities, the amount of time spent being physically active naturally decreases. We must carve out time to exercise, and then must choose how to maximize that time. We all deserve to continue to participate in the activities we love. There’s a smart way to keep your joints, muscles, and most importantly nerves, in the game.
In our youth we didn’t have to think much about warming up or cooling down. A physically active lifestyle keeps muscles loose, joints lubricated and nerve communication at a ten. Going for long runs, playing tennis with friends for hours, or hopping into a pickup basketball game was never a worry.
As adults, most of us have now spent years (for some decades) commuting, sitting, studying, and working at desks. Muscles and joints get tight if they’re not used. In addition, the communication between our brains and our muscles takes a serious hit. We’ve all experienced “thinking” we can go out and play ball like we used to, but noticing very quickly that it’s not how it used to be.
If we want to enjoy our favorite activities, we must dedicate our exercise time wisely. We can keep our bodies fresh and injury free well into our later years with an intelligent and varied approach. If you have suffered an injury already that affects the way you move, these principles will become even more important. Here’s they key variables to focus on:
- Exercise in all Three Planes of Motion: Our world is very one-dimensional (front/back). All of our favorite sports and activities demand we move in all three planes of motion. Sagittal is forward and backwards movement (anterior/posterior). Frontal plane is side to side (right and left lateral). The Transverse plane is rotation (internal and external). Our muscles and joints work together as an integrated system to produce and control motion in all three planes. If you’re not using all three, start doing so safely.
- Integrate Movements: Isolating exercises have a purpose in rehab and strength training, but we all know that movement is integrated. This is especially true for sports and activities! Hiking up a hill, hitting a golf ball, or reaching for a tennis backhand all require amazing coordination of muscles, joints, and nerve communication. Choose exercises that resemble what you want to do.
- Changing Speeds: Your exercise choices don’t have to all be at one speed. There will be times you will have to speed things up or dramatically slow them down. The body’s nervous system needs to stay fresh with this one. If you haven’t reached top speed in a long time, integrate it back a little by little. Coming to a dramatic stop in sports puts a lot of demand on the muscles and joints. Make sure you’re ready.
- Range of Motion: Similar to speed, a lot of us get comfortable with one range of motion. When you are walking or hiking, sometimes a long stride is necessary. If you are hitting a tennis ball, sometimes you really have to reach for it. Practice carefully extending yourself while exercising. Try to lunge, squat, or reach a few extra inches in a controlled format. Change the heights and angulations that you move to. Try to mimic the activities you love!
If you watch any child move, you will see that they get all of these variables in all day long. As adults, most of us have to plan how to get these movements back into our routine. If you have concerns regarding an injury or condition you are dealing with, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional to find the right combinations for you.