Every day our bodies are changing. This is unpreventable. Possibly for the better, possibly for the worse. The good news is, we have a large amount of control over which of the two it’s going to be. The bad news? Anytime we assume indifference to this process, the change will be for the worse.
Our bodies are built to keep us capable of handling whatever our surroundings regularly ask of them. And just as you may cancel a cable channel you don’t watch anymore, our bodies will regularly disassemble our capability systems that we do not use anymore.
Why this is scary for young people:
When we are in our twenties, thirties, and perhaps even older (if we’re lucky), exercise can seem like extra credit. Something we can do if we want to look our best when we’re poolside, or to help us run a road race. But even in our twenties, our bodies are already taking stock of what we’re not making use of. And the free pass we receive in our late teens, built in to our genes to allow us to be as fit (and thus most likely to stay alive, reproduce, and pass on our genetic information) a version of ourselves as we can be, is already starting to expire.
Your body has been taking note that you’ve started opting for fifty plus hours of time in a seated position between work and tv each week, and you don’t really ask it to stay mobile anymore, or to produce powerful motions. Your body has observed that you really don’t need it to find it’s balance in a hurry very often, you try to stick to flat surfaces and only carry light, balanced loads. Your body is beginning to realize that you don’t really need it to do much of anything physically demanding anymore. And your body is relieved. Because finally, it’s starting to realize that it doesn’t need to worry much about keeping most of your lean muscle tissue anymore. You’ve shown it that there’s really not much need for it to maintain those neuromuscular pathways responsible for your ability to react and move quickly. And so, it complies. Like a parent throwing out your old VHS collection you left at home. “But mom! Don’t throw away my VHS of Ghostbusters, I love that movie!” “Now, Ben, you’ve haven’t even played a VHS in over 10 years, much less this one. I’m tossing it!"
Exercise is, from a functional standpoint, us showing our body what we want it to be able to do. Maybe it’s something we’ve never been able to do before, and maybe it’s something that we can do right now and want to keep it that way. We are presenting our argument to our bodies as to why it is important we maintain our current capabilities and/or improve them. And we must make a strong argument. If we work out, and our current abilities are not fully challenged, then we will not fully keep all of our abilities. If we workout and we do not show our bodies that they are incapable of easily completing the tasks our environment asks of them (cue challenging exercises), then our bodies, convinced it’s current state is sufficient, will not even consider changing. If we don’t regularly demand our bodies be mobile, then they will be stiff. If we do not regularly demand our bodies be quick, then they will grow slow, etc.
The point I am trying to make is that exercise is not for just those interested in challenging themselves or improving something they would like to work on. Exercise is just as vital for those that don’t want to change anything. Because every day, if the body is not moving in a positive direction, it almost certainly will be moving the opposite.