A body in motion tends to stay in motionPublished 10:10am Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Column: Pothole Prairie
Take a healthy 5-year-old and stick him in a hospital room for 8 days.
Take a healthy 41-year-old and stick him in a hospital room for 11 days.
That was the case with the recent birth of Jasper and time spent in hospitals in Albert Lea and Rochester. There was an aspect of the experience I wanted to share with you.
That aspect is the experience of our bodies not being in motion.
During the time I was in hospitals, hotels and the Ronald McDonald House to look after my wife and my new son, I read a nonfiction book called “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand. It is a remarkable biography about Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, a World War II bombardier who survived a plane crash, 47 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean, brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps and the difficult adjustment of returning home to the Los Angeles area.
It’s an unforgettable book, but a corollary about body motion sticks with me. His brother, seeing young Louis’ natural running ability, coached him to be a runner. Louis resisted, but the erstwhile troublemaker craved the laudatory attention at school for being a good athlete, so he changed his tune and threw himself into being a good runner, including a summer pushing himself to his limits. There came a point where his body no longer resisted running. It wanted to run because that had become its natural state.
Wow! That is so true, I thought, even on a small scale. People just have to listen to their bodies. Here I was, someone who liked to be in motion, whether it is bike riding, disc golfing, swimming or just walking our dog. My body didn’t want to be sitting in these hospital rooms being still for the whole day. It wanted to move. That was its natural state.
In fact, since I was in my 20s, my left knee becomes sore when I don’t get enough exercise. At the same time, I’m never one to just go to a gym and pound on my body with weights or machines. I like the mental stimulation of the outdoors. It’s strange how life makes all kinds of attempts to limit our exercise time. I wish each day had 26 hours, giving everyone two more hours for exercise.
I did make an effort to get a little exercise during the time in Rochester — also to get Forrest outdoors — but I got far less than normal. I discovered not only does my knee still get sore, I have other aches and pains that make themselves known. But if I exercise regularly, those pains go away. I feel sharper, too, and more relaxed. The only kind of pain my body gives me when I do get plenty of exercise is the usual sore muscles, which is actually a good feeling.
I heard a saying about 10 years ago that sticks with me: “People spend their youth attaining wealth and spend their wealth attaining health.” In other words, they work so hard getting wealthy that they neglect their bodies. Then they have to spend the money they earned on health care costs.
And if the Blue Zones taught us in Albert Lea anything, it’s that keeping our bodies in motion is the No. 1 key to longevity. I’m not old, of course, but I know that I would like to go into my senior years having had a life of exercise, not just starting to exercise at retirement.
And if my body was yearning to move in that cramped hospital environment, just imagine Forrest. His natural state was to be active, active and even more active. He behaved really well, but there were moments he was about the bounce off the walls. Even now, with a newborn at home and Mom and Dad not getting to spend as much time with him, he wants to go to parks and be active.
That’s a sign that he is in good shape and his body is telling him to keep moving. We don’t want him to become one of those kids who would rather be on the couch than go outside.
The lesson for me and what every get-thin-fast diet out there doesn’t seem to touch on is this: The more you exercise your body, the more your body will want to exercise. The less you exercise your body, the less your body will want to exercise.
Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.