Being Active Doesn’t Hurt Us
Unlike non-living material, living material–the tissues of the body–gets stronger with use and weaker with disuse. For a pair of pants it’s the opposite. The more you wear them the bigger the holes get.
But for tendons, ligaments, fascia and muscles, if you leave them sitting around without ever putting them under some stress they’ll get weaker.
I know you’ve heard that before, in expressions like, “use it or lose it”. But, given how often one hears variations on
the idea that someone has worn themselves down or “blown out” some part of the body by living too hard, I think it could stand a bit of highlighting.
One way people do actually do damage through use, is by not using a body part and then suddenly using it a lot. What ‘a lot’ is depends on how much or how little stress the area was used to. So, you could actually say this is a disuse injury rather than an overuse injury. It wouldn’t have happened if the loads weren’t so erratic.
Another way that people are damaged through use is aging. Aging doesn’t mean that the previously stated rule of using your body more to make it more injury proof changes when you cross some line. We need exercise and physical stress as much as ever,
It’s just that we’re mortal. It’s kind of a mystery why that is, but it seems like a good strategy for the planet and the larger community. It’s just a bit of a disappointment for us…depending on how you look at it.
As you age your body will accumulate some damage just through the process of spending time on the planet being alive. And so we move closer to death. As far as I know, there is nothing we can do about that.
But in the meantime we can stay in the most alive state available to us. And we can deliberately cultivate our own resilience through the consistent application of stresses and loads to our living material.
We can start today from wherever we’re starting at, and begin to move up against the limit of what we can handle. Each time we do that we move that limit just a little bit. Expanding our capacity, increasing our resilience and making ourselves injury proof. (We do, however, need to do this with a huge dose of kindness and self-love. This is an important point that I’m not emphasizing enough in this article.)
This resilience is a good state to be in.
One reason it’s a good state is because we never know what’s coming so it makes us more ready to handle the unexpected. The other reason it’s a good state is because, in order to show up the most and do the most good, we want to have the greatest capacity we can have.
As our capacity increases, we increase the amount of energy there is to do good in the world, either directly, through our own efforts, or indirectly by taking the load off of those around us.