Opinion: stay moving and stay well

Opinion: stay moving and stay well

by Eleanor van der Hoest.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950)

Are you beginning to find everyday movements a challenge?  Or are you starting to get little signs that all is not well in the body?  I believe we need a rethink about our bodies, our health and the way we age.  Let’s not wait till we become frail and eventually need help with the essentials of life!  

There is a lot we can do to stay well and moving, and contrary to popular belief it need not be painful or exhausting.  In fact the gentle way is more productive, since – as elsewhere – force produces resistance.   We just need to carry on doing ordinary and varied movements.   When we stop moving, it’s not just that the muscles get ‘rusty’, the brain’s connection to that part becomes fuzzy.  

This is where play and dance are such a gift.  Both allow us to explore and experiment with many different movements that flow naturally, without concern about others’ opinions.  Why do we think we have to stop doing things children do when we become adults? Experience joy in movement which at the same time keeps the brain active and alert.  Notice what feels good and do it more.  A simple example is swinging the lower legs – when did you last do this?  It can be a great relief for stiff knees – it’s movement without effort, thanks to gravity.

One of my favourites is twirling long ribbons, which counts as both dance and play.  Some of you may have seen me doing this in Riverside Park, Southampton.  It’s a delight!  Seeing the wonderful shapes and colours is a motivation in itself, and it makes me move more expansively than otherwise.  While my attention is on the ribbons, I am also activating my brain, my joints, my muscles, my balance, and it’s so easy to do. You can buy these “gymnastic ribbons” in Make it Magic, the party shop in Shirley, Southampton.

Let’s think about walking – so fundamental and mostly taken for granted until trouble arrives.  It’s not true that walking inevitably gets harder and more tiring as we age.   Being able to walk with ease for hours is miraculous and only works the whole body, gravity and momentum are involved.  Giving a thought to how we walk can greatly improve our chances of keeping it up for years to come.  Here’s an idea: With your head nice and level, think of the rest of your body suspended from your head.  Just thinking this may change the way everything in the body lines up to make moving more efficient.  

What we do today set us in good stead for long-lasting quality of life, and help relieve the burden on health and care services tomorrow.


About me: I love dancing, singing, twirling ribbons and playing the recorder.  I offer personalised and varied sessions to help keep people moving with ease.  I give tutoring in computer skills for personal empowerment.  I work in the Southampton area. You can contact me via Ways to Move, 07952 314768.