By Melodie de Jager.
For you, and me gravity prevents us from floating off into space, keeps us firmly held on the earth, and weighs a number of kilograms. That means that when you are in an area where there is less gravity, you will weigh less, effortlessly!
That may sound like the place to be, but we need gravity, and we are generally well-adapted to gravity. Our muscles are designed to resist gravity and maintain our posture. Gravity influences the circulation of fluids in our bodies to prevent fluid retention in legs and ankles, nasal congestion, and excess flatulence that may disturb sleep. Gravity is also associated with the production of red blood cells and the strengthening of the immune system.
Because gravity is everywhere on earth, it is easy to take its role for granted. It is only when astronauts are in space, where there is very little gravity that we really learn about the gifts of gravity. In weightlessness, astronauts, who are far fitter than the average adult, seem to rapidly age; their muscles, bones, and overall health degenerate to levels usually seen in elderly people.
The unexpected similarities between the health dangers as a result of weightlessness in space and chronic diseases associated with aging may not be due to aging, but rather highlight a different truth. There are many senior adults who are as fit as a fiddle and continue to move with confidence and agility and do not suffer any age-related illnesses. The negative side effects of weightlessness might rather point to a different culprit – a sedentary lifestyle irrespective of age.
Excessive sitting, like extended weightlessness in space, removes the body from its natural condition of constantly moving to resist gravity. Gravity makes the moon, planets, and stars move in a specific way. Gravity makes the roots of plants go down and stems up. Gravity makes you and me also move in a specific way that can easily be seen when you look at a new-born baby.
A baby starts as a floppy baby and develops into a standing, walking, and talking toddler. From the moment a baby puts its feet firmly on the ground, the baby has a physical starting point from where to move.
Gravity urges you to lie down. To stand you do need to fight gravity, and develop muscle tone and stabilizers. Stabilizers provide a stable basis from which to challenge gravity’s direction and acceleration and develop maps in your brain needed for control, balance, and coordination.
Continuous low-intensity everyday activities form the foundation of a healthy, active body.
When you stand up or sit down as slowly as you possibly can, it gives you a greater anti-aging G-value. Dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, pruning, planting, weeding and mowing, carrying your grocery bags to the kitchen, and taking the garbage bin out are all great anti-gravity and anti-aging activities.
Sitting up (rather than slumping) and walking tall are very effective anti-gravity and immune boosting activities. Aspire to stand up without leaning on anything. If at first you may need to use furniture for support. Once standing up without support is mastered, do it very slowly to perfect it.
The beauty of developing anti-gravity habits goes hand in hand with two unexpected benefits: you feel better, and your memory and thinking improve.
Neurologist Oleg Efimiv says gravity meets cognition via the soles of your feet and the balance system in your neck and ears. Isolation may often be due to physical instability rather than a person’s emotional and mental state. It is once you move with greater independence that you have the energy and confidence to leave the safety of your room and socialise with greater joy.
Come join us in Stellenbosch on 15 and 16 February 2023, and remember how to move as nature intended.
This workshop will benefit you and the parents of the seniors in your care!