Here’s Why You Need To Think About Deconditioning

douggreen
douggreen
Jun 18 · 4 min read

For the second year in a row, I wound up with a serious cold in January that flattened me for 4–5 weeks. It wasn’t that I just had a cold. It was I could barely lift my head off the pillow. (As an aside, my physician says I likely had pneumonia and if it happens again to “drag my butt into her office!”)

My sense though it was a Christmas cold delivered by a team of children and grandchildren from different schools and continents who believe in hugging Papa.

  • I’ll risk the cold to focus on the love.
  • But now I understand the price that might be paid.

The Issue of Deconditioning

During a significant period in my life, I was involved in “Conditioning” and being physically fit. It’s only the last two years with being sick for a month, I’ve discovered “Deconditioning .“

And yeah, I’m starting to face the fact I’ll never play hockey for the Leafs (which may be a good thing), make the Olympics, drive for NASCAR or… Well, you get the picture I’m sure.

Consider The Following Data: Muscle Weakness & Atrophy In Seniors

This is what happens to a senior citizen who is in bed for a month with almost total inactivity. Carefully look at the time frames involved. We’re not talking months here — we’re talking weeks and even days.

  • A loss of strength 10- 20% decrease in muscle strength per week (1 1–3% per day)
  • 3–5 weeks of complete immobilization can lead to a 50% decrease in muscle strength
  • Loss of muscle mass -3% loss within thigh muscles within 7 days.
  • Loss of bone density due to increased resorption caused by the lack of weight bearing, gravity, and muscle activity on bone mass
  • Increase in resting heart rate (4 4–15 beats within the first 3 3–4 weeks then plateaus)
  • Decrease in blood volume ( 5% in 24 hours, 10% in 6 days, 20% in 14 days)
  • Body Fluids Shift 500–700cc of fluid from the lower extremities shift to the thorax (also known as central fluid shift)
  • Change in Heart Function Increased stroke volume/cardiac output/left end-diastolic volume
  • Depressed levels of aldosterone & antidiuretic hormone
  • By the 3rd day of bed rest there are reduced insulin-binding sites (net effect is decreased blood & plasma volume)
  • After 2 weeks of bed rest, it takes 2 weeks of resumed activity before the glucose response returns to normal

Deconditioning : the consequence of bed rest (pdf )By: Colleen S. Campbell MSN, AARNP — BC, CRRN — A.

From A Personal Perspective

I was down, flat on my back for all of January two years running. I wasn’t bed-ridden in the sense of the data above (I remained mobile but not much of it.) It took me several months last year and several months again this year just to become functional again. This means I’ve had first hand experience with the above results albeit not as extreme as someone who was totally bedridden.

I’m too embarrassed to discuss the personal fitness measurements of such mundane things as situps, pushups and squats. Let us say those are not my finest characteristics at the moment.

I note the only saving grace was that I had to get up for bodily functions. I wasn’t totally bedridden as I could stagger to the bathroom and back.

Working outside this year seems more challenging than last year. I expect as the spring rolls on into summer and I get back to working on the dry stone walls and other projects, I will recover a significant amount of that strength.

I’m also clear as I recover functional fitness, I have to push my body to a higher level and that’s going to take both effort and a plan. I have the plan, I’ll get back to you whether the effort shows up.

But There’s A More Important Component of This

There’s a small part of me — a small voice in my mind — saying “To hell with all that exercise. You get along just fine on most things and you never did like all that strength training stuff even when you were young and played high level sports.

“Let it go… Doug, you’ll be fine…”

And for the first time, I understand what being a senior means when it comes to illness and recovery. And of doing it again and again. Of having to drag up the motivation to recover rather than accept the status quo. Of listening to that siren song of your complaining body over and over again. Of being tired, so very tired.

Let Me Be Clear: I’ve Ignored That Voice

I’ve ignored the voice. I’ve had practice dragging my body to the next fitness level when I was younger and involved in competitive sports. I know the pain of it and I remember the effort.

I’ve seen friends who haven’t though and I now understand the decision they took and (perhaps) why they did what they did.

But just as a voice speaks when I go down stairs. I’m now aware of a second voice.

It won’t stop me either but it’s now a part of my operating system.

Final Thought On Being Young

I also understand when you’re young why it would never cross your mind to even have a voice such as this.

I didn’t and I don’t see why any other young person would either.

But sometimes it’s good to know what’s ahead around a curve so you know how to deal with it when/if it does suddenly appear in yourself or a loved one.

douggreen

Written by

douggreen

Former nurseryman, now writer and curious about what’s over the next hill and how to get there in either my Triumph Spitfire or sailboat.