One Simple Change to Combat Midlife Pain

Have you ever just wondered if it’s inevitable? That pain that comes with aging? I mean, most of us have seen it as we were growing up. We saw our parents slow down and possibly our grandparents become almost immobile. I know I’ve already heard friends start to use the pain as an excuse for not being as active as they could. It hurts to bend over and get down of the floor. Running is no longer an option because of pain in the knees and hips. And climbing? What?!? Even I have noticed a bit more of the stiffness and dull aches creeping into my day, and I just won’t stand for it. I refuse to let the supposed pain of getting older keep me from enjoying life.

But really, is there anything that we can do to outrun this obstacle that’s bearing down on us? To help understand, let’s take a quick look at why we experience more pain and less mobility as we get older.


The Science

Here’s what we know. As we get older, most of us experience a physiological change in the tissues of our bodies. The muscles fibers shrink and reduce, which means that we don’t have as much “oomph” behind our movements. The synovial fluid in our joints decreases which means that they aren’t as lubricated and there’s more friction when we do move (move frictions = more pain and inflammation) and our bones often become more brittle and are more prone to breaking. Also, this shrinking of the muscles and reduced mobility of the joints means that we don’t have as much range of motions of the joints, and then when we try to stretch out limits of this range of motion, it hurts. It hurts and we get hurt.

Boy Beth, you’re a deliverer of positivity today, right? I know. This news isn’t something that makes you want to keep reading, but I’ve also left a HUGE factor out. More than half of all these changes in our bodies is caused by lack of movement and our daily lifestyle habits, and both of these are things we can change. We have the ability to change our own destiny and continue playing well into our golden years if we choose to. Go back to that word - CHOOSE. This is the important lesson. We can prevent a lot of the pain, but we also have to put in the work. No amount of special supplements or creams are going to make these changes. The way to make these changes is simply to start moving your body more, and by this I don’t mean exercise more or do special correctives (although these can help to make your movement better), I mean to literally move more - get out of our chairs and ask out bodies to live a more dynamic life. One that’s full of a moving in all directions and planes. And it’s easier than you think.


Moving More

The first step to combat the midlife pain is to simply move more. If your initial thought is along the lines of “But, I already move a lot! I workout 30-60 minutes most days, and sometimes get a walk or yoga class in”, then that’s a great start but it’s not enough. I want you instead to look at the other hours of your day. What are you doing when you’re not working out or sleeping? Do you go to work and sit behind a computer most of the day, or spend the day sitting and watching your kids play? Where are you sitting? In a chair? Maybe you have a standing desk. How often are you changing position? How often are you moving your hips below chair height, or reaching your arms above shoulder height? How often are you looking up and around, instead of straightforward?

If you’re like most of us, not a lot. Even if we’re not working an office job, most of us are living life in a movement bubble between sitting at chair height (90° of hip flexion) and standing (0° of hip flexion) and moving our shoulders between about 0° to 60° of shoulder flexion and extension.


Range of Motion of the Hip


Range of Motion of the Shoulder

We rarely move outside of the ranges, and in the case of the shoulder, we don’t really practice moving our arms outside of flexion and extension much. We can start by doing more here. You can start by bringing more floor-sitting into your day. If you can get on the floor, then start by simply lowering your seat. If you’re worried about the biomechanics of working at a desk with the seat too low, then change the desk height as well. I use a laptop which means that I can bring it anywhere. I can make a desk out of anything - right now I typing sitting on a cushion with my laptop on an ottoman. If you’re working and this isn’t an option, then find other times during the day when it is. Sit on the group to eat lunch, or when you get home at night. My husband and I use our nightly TV time to get on the floor and do some correctives. Doesn't change the experience for me at all.

Then start reaching and squatting. Rearrange your cupboards so that the items that you use most require you to reach high for them or squat low. Reach for things with the non-dominant hand. Twist the opposite way when wiping when you use the toilet. Look up, down, and around. Get creative in finding more ways to move all of you throughout the day.

Movement is truly the fountain of youth, and the more sources that you drink from, meaning the more ways that you find to move your body, the longer you’ll be able to engage in your adventure and play without pain.

What Does This Do?

By moving more and in more unique ways, it tells our body that we still need out tissues. It wakes up the sleep muscles that have been dormant and lets our brain know that we still need that muscle tissue and to not break it down. It signals the tissues in the joints to continue making synovial fluid because we still need it. And it brings loads to the bones, which are required to continue making bone cells. In fact, these dynamic and various loads are what signals our brains to continue repairing and regenerating cells that keep the pain at bay. Movement is truly the fountain of youth, and the more sources that you drink from, meaning the more ways that you find to move your body, the longer you’ll be able to engage in your adventure and play without pain.

If you’re already feeling the onset of this midlife pain, there’s still hope. This same movement can help reverse the damage that our sedentary lives have caused. Pair it with some corrective exercises that can slip into your day, and you might find that you’re moving even better than before. If you’re looking for a good set of exercises to get started, then check out my FREE Daily RE-Boot download.


Some Final Inspiration

I was fortunate to grow up with parents and grandparents that continued to move and forge their adventures well into their Golden Years. My grandmother died at 91, and until that last year she got up each morning and did her circa World War II morning calisthenics routine, road her bike to get her mail, and took a daily walk to feed the fish in her pond. My dad is now 76 years old. He still hikes the hills of Oklahoma with friends and is a part of a 70+ bike club. Each year he does a birthday headstand, and even though he’s retired, his life is far from still. My oldest brother is in his mid-50s but still competes in some of the toughest cycling races around.

I’ve also had examples of a more sedentary life from family members, and I choose an active one. I want to be like my grandmother and still actively pursuing my goals when I hit 80.

What questions do you have for me? Shoot me an email and I’ll help you out. Better yet, feel free to schedule a FREE 20-minute phone call with me and we’ll talk about your dreams and goals, and what’s holding you back. We’ll get a plan together that gets you moving more and moving well.

References (shoulder ROM) (hip ROM)

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