Physical Resilience


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We know that mental resilience is our mind’s ability to adapt and recover when dealing with adversity, but it’s also important to explore how physical resilience impacts us, and why it’s important. Physical resilience is our body’s ability to adapt to various changes and demands, while maintaining our stamina and strength. In fact, it’s even a bit more than that – it’s also our ability to grow or excel when facing stressors. In other words, there’s some truth to the adage “no pain, no gain” – we come out of those really tough times a little bit better for it.

We know that physical activity is essential for our overall well-being, longevity, and that it helps us reduce stress and maintain our weight, yet there are often roadblocks that we have to overcome that call for our physical resilience to kick into high gear. Being able to recover quickly and effectively from those setbacks is essential for many reasons. It’s not just about missed time from work, family, or other obligations, but our overall health and quality of life. Physical resilience is cultivated through endurance exercise, flexibility, balance and resistance training – and simply getting out and being active. Further, healthy eating is a key factor in promoting physical resilience for all ages and circumstances. Our bodies need nutrition, not only as fuel to keep us moving, but for long-term health. Limiting the not-so-good-for-us items (we all know what those are) and loading up on the really-good-for-us ones will certainly make a substantial difference in our energy levels and wellness.

Everyday health and wellness

Even the routine tasks and activities we do can involve all kinds of physical demands that we typically don’t give much thought to. Pushing a vacuum, hauling groceries, or shoveling snow are examples of activities that require some physicality. Factor in some stress, fatigue, or other interference, and suddenly we need a good amount physical resilience to get the job done. As parents or caregivers of others, we are often dependent on our physical resilience to get us through so much of our daily lives; it’s not always an option to stay in bed when we’re sick or in pain. It’s important to consider what our course of action entails when we do experience aches, injuries, illnesses or other health concerns – finding a balance for self-care is essential. I’m personally a proponent of making positive changes that allow our bodies to heal themselves. Healthy eating, rest, stretching, and physiotherapy are examples of ways to help us heal.

Workplace physical demands

For many of us, our jobs involve physical demands that can certainly take their toll; shifts or long hours, working outdoors, repetitive tasks, heavy-lifting, fast-paced environments, sitting at a computer…the list goes on. All of these require varying levels of physical resilience not just so that we can get through the day and collect our paycheques, but also so that we can feel that the work we do is valuable. It’s important to keep an eye on signs of fatigue and change up our environment and work conditions as needed so that our quality of life is not negatively impacted.

Sports & fitness

Being involved in sports and fitness is fun, social, inspiring, challenging, and for the most part – really good for us! As you likely already know, I enjoy all levels of physical exercise, from an evening jog to more extreme physical endeavours such as mountaineering and white-water kayaking. Indeed, some of these activities have involved life-threatening situations where mental and physical resilience were the saving graces to get me safely through it all. Occasionally, despite my best efforts and preparations, I’ll get an injury or problem that slows me down or even stops me in my tracks for a while. This is not at all uncommon for many people, whether they are active or not. What’s important is to recognize the triggers, listen to our bodies, seek the appropriate treatments and most certainly allow time for sufficient rest and recovery. Then, let’s get back out there and reap the benefits of being physically active!

Aging

In older adults, physical resilience is just as important, if not more so – because our muscle mass, bone density and other parts of our bodies deteriorate as we age. That’s why it’s essential to keep moving and stay as active as possible so that everyday activities don’t become a burden, or worse, cause falls and injuries that are very difficult to recover from. It’s also commonplace as we age to have more serious health problems and surgeries, which most definitely require us to really push through those times in order to regain our strength and get back to living our lives. Sure, we’re entitled to a fair amount of ‘taking it easy’ after we retire, but we still need to challenge ourselves to stay active and enjoy aging – successfully.

We’re tougher than we think

Finally, we need to consider the mind-body connection to our physical resilience beyond our medical, physical or nutritional needs. There are social, psychological and even spiritual factors that regularly impact our physical resilience. Maybe a friendly bet, or our super competitiveness got us through a physically draining event, or perhaps it was our personal commitment to a cause. We humans are complicated – to get through those tough physical or strenuous times, physically resilient people possess self-regulation, adaptability, positivity, and control. It’s not always about peak performance or competition, it’s simply the importance of challenging ourselves physically whenever possible; it’s simply exhilarating to do something you just didn’t know you could.

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”— Plato