Judson Haims: Deconditioning — A little daily action goes a long way | AspenTimes.com

Judson Haims: Deconditioning — A little daily action goes a long way

Judson Haims
Visiting Angels
Judson Haims
Courtesy photo

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article titled “How do you live as you age”? The article addressed the concept of aging and finding meaning and purpose in every day.  It must have struck a sensitive chord among readers as many called and wrote to ask questions and share their personal stories.

Finding meaning and purpose in every day is personal, different and unique to each one of us. However, as we age, our social roles often change and people begin to feel a diminished sense of purpose and meaning. This does not have to happen. We do not have to succumb to the perceptions and beliefs of a society that place such high value on youth and looking young.

Make no mistake about it, our personal views that we value and hold dear contribute to our health, longevity and resilience.  

Over the past 13 years, we have cared for a variety of clients within our mountain communities. Some young and others older. Some require assistance after hospital visits or surgical procedures while others need a little help living an independent life at home. One thing I have noticed and come to admire is that of our clients in their 80s, 90s and even the 100s, despite their health conditions, almost all have a very positive view of their life.

I believe that there may be two group types of older people. One group seems like a happier cohort of people who overcome adversity with a positive attitude and a smile, always view the glass as half full, maintain an active lifestyle and embrace family and friends. The other group is not so positive in the face of adversity. I also have noticed they frequently had not placed a high value on physical activity nor the foods they chose to eat.

While some within this second group are unconcerned about being unhappy, unmotivated, inactive and unsocial as they age, others within this group have found ways to reinvent themselves. They have motivated themselves to be as physically active as they can, they have modified their diet and taken interest in nutrition, and they have made an effort to get out of their homes and spend time with others.

Deconditioning can be turned around

As Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Nobody want to be infirmed. Almost everyone would like to be healthy, happy and active — particularly as we age. However, life sometimes throws us a curve ball and for whatever reason, we become deconditioned.

Deconditioning is often described as the mental, physical and social consequences that results from a period of inactivity and being sedentary. Deconditioning can occur by events not of our own doing, like an injury or medical ailment, but it can also occur because of the choices we make. When we choose to be sedentary and live an inactive lifestyle, eat poorly and not find purpose and value in how we spend our days, we should not be surprised that detrimental changes in our muscles, heart, lungs and mind occur.

There is a direct correlation between physical and emotional health. Inactivity, isolation and spending excessive time in front of the screen lend to personality disorders, depressive disorders and deconditioning. I see it play out too frequently. While it sounds straightforward and logical, it can be challenging to motivate and take control of our life. However, we can choose to realize our errors and change for the better.

In many ways, the COVID epidemic exacerbated people’s isolation, socialization, and deconditioning. Hopefully, the worst of COVID is behind us and it is now time to get out — out of yourself, outside and out of the funk of sitting around.

If we desire a happier and better quality of life, we must embrace exercise and conditioning. A pill cannot solve this. If we do not use it, we lose it. This not only pertains to our physicality, but also our mental health.

Should you choose to be happier, healthier and ultimately live a better quality of life, here are some helpful tips:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes proteins, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Stay hydrated but avoid sodas. (Drinking coffee throughout the day doesn’t count)
  • Develop a daily exercise program that is manageable and sustainable
  • Spend time with friends and family

Mae West was right, “Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart.” Do what you can to get out of your own way. Even a little daily action goes a long way bettering a quality of life.

For the past couple of months, Judson Haims, the owner of Visiting Angels, has sat with physical therapists Doug Emerson and Elie Sabins to learn about how new pain research is being integrated into the physical therapy practices at Howard Head Sports Medicine.

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