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Frailty Confronted


Frailty. The condition of being weak or delicate. Nobody thinks about this in their 20's and 30's. We barely think about it in our 40s except that we see our parents becoming frailer. In our 50s, we start noticing more frailty as we know people our parents' age who are in their 70s and 80s and look kind of frail. Then we hit our 60s and even 70s and notice we are frailer but would never admit we are weak. However, now people in their 40s may look at us and think we are frail. It doesn't have to be.


Rarely do we think of ourselves as frail until we are asked to do something that could result in injury that we would have done in our 20s without hesitation. We chalk it up to the aging process and wisdom. We can convince ourselves that someone in their 60s cannot do those things anymore. We have seen a pattern of life in our culture where older people are supposed to retire and tinker in the garage, where things are safer. The adventure of the aged is a cruise on a ship that holds 4000 people. We have watched our culture create "homes" for old folks. I propose we change the culture!


It starts with us taking charge of our bodies. Frailty is not built into our system. At least when it comes to becoming old and unable to do things. We don't have to become someone who can't get around well anymore. I am nearly shouting these words inside my soul as I write because we have been lulled into a trance that accepts weakness beginning in our 40s when we go "over the hill." It is nonsense! I know the Bible verses that talk about how frail our life is, and I wholeheartedly agree. Those verses speak about life and death, not bone, muscle, and tissue weakness. The fact that Caleb told Joshua that he was still as strong as he was when he spied out the land, and he was 85 when he said that, is impressive! Why not live like that?

First, we have to change our mindset. Then we change our lives. I may be hit by a bus before I reach 70, but that bus will hit a guy who is strong and able. How do we keep our strength? How do we keep our agility? How do we keep our balance and all the other things that will fade if we let them? It is simple. Force your body to stay strong, quick, balanced, and in shape.

The body is a fantastic creation and supremely adaptive to stimuli. You take control of your future by seizing your present. It doesn't matter where your starting line is. Just get going. In future blogs, I will outline how to keep all those things that will create a frailty-free zone in our body, but for now, you have to see the promise of movement. While it is true you need good nutrition, the thing you have to do is move. If you want to stay quick on your feet, then you need to practice being quick with your feet. If you want to be strong in your muscles, you must give your muscles enough stimulation to signal the wonderful Cytokine 10 and other chemicals to strengthen your muscles. If you want to have outstanding balance, then you have to practice balancing. You have to do all of these things often. Your proprioceptive ability (balancing, moving quickly, and purposefully) is founded on repeatedly making your body do what you want it to do. It is not complicated.


Maybe you think that you aren't that bad off right now. We tend to overestimate (at least the men reading this) ourselves until improvement becomes more difficult. I propose that we get in shape young and stay in shape until we die. I perform assessments with my clients that give us a starting place. They find out if they have the strength, balance, and other physical assets to have a great life. Try these two simple exercises to see how you do.


#1 sit on the floor – then get up. Try not to use your hands or kneel as you get up. For every point of contact, you get one point. Ask your kids to do it, or grands, and see if they can do it without touching anything. Go from butt to feet in one movement. If you need two points of contact, you need to improve. For example, if you put your hand on the ground and don't touch any other part of your body except your feet to the ground, that is one point. If you use one hand and then kneel on one knee, that is two points. If you use two hands and a knee, that is three points, and so on. One point is acceptable. Two or more points mean you need to work at it.


#2 Play hopscotch – Remember hopping on one foot 3 times, then 2 feet, then 1, then 2, then 1? Remember you have to keep your feet in the squares. Can you do it? If so, that is decent. The challenge is picking something up in the first 2 square box and finishing the course. You need to work on it if you can't do that while balancing on one foot.


I am not trying to discourage anyone. I am trying to shake us up to the reality that we do NOT have to get frail. You can strengthen yourself. You can have outstanding balance and agility. You can do the things you did when you were in your thirties. Maybe you can't jump as high, lift as much, or run as fast, but you can still jump, lift, and run! You have greatness in you. You may not be able to join the NFL as a 60-year-old, but you can adventure, work, and take care of things like a boss if you work it.

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