It used to be that doctors recommended rest for all kinds of conditions. Child birth. Stay in bed for a week. Major surgery. Don’t even think of getting up and moving. Feeling stressed? The Victorians went to the beach and put their feet up for weeks at a time. But no longer. Now, medical research has found that there is hardly anything that is wrong with you that exercise won’t help.
Skiing in the park
It is very easy for me to put off exercise. The carpet has cat hair that needs vacuuming. Moldy leftovers have invaded the fridge. Or, I admit it, I just want to finish the level 5 Sudoku.
My husband doesn’t have this problem. He goes to the gym and uses the weight machines. He has a standing date to play racquetball with friends. He rides his bicycle for errands, to his substitute teaching jobs, or just a few miles for the heck of it.
Why can he get regular exercise and I can’t? My natural tendency is to get a bit irritated at him for putting himself first instead of helping with the chores. But a couple of months ago I decided to try to learn from him instead. After all, he does help out – just after he’s exercised.
As I thought about it, I realized, that is the difference. Just as in saving money, it helps to pay yourself first. Bill places a top priority on exercising and because he exercises regularly he has more energy to tackle the chores after he is finished.
So last November, I decided to change the priority. I would make my to do list and move exercise to the number one spot. I had some motivating factors. We’re going on a cross-country ski vacation in February and I want to be in shape. My bone density test showed some osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis. My doctor encouraged me to work with weights. I want to continue to be active as I age. Exercise seems to be the factor that I can control.
How’s it going? Better. I was doing a great job of using my free weights and going for brisk 3 mile walks until the Christmas season hit. Then preparing for company seemed to push exercise down the priority list. I picked it back up in January and the unusual (for us) snow fall meant that I had chances to get out and cross-country ski. I haven’t completely changed but I’m doing better. Most weeks I lift weights twice and go for at least 3 brisk walks or similar outings.
How about you? Where does exercise come in your priority list? Do you have some tricks to get yourself to exercise?
We’ve floated the Kaw River with a strong head wind. We’ve floated the Kaw in the rain. But a week ago we floated the Kaw with blue skies, 80 degree temperatures, lunch served on the bank and all kinds of fun and interesting people. And while I much prefer gentle water on a blue skied September day, each time I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. There is something in my body chemistry that feels in sync when I’m outdoors doing something physical.
Kaw River Flotilla
These kinds of activities require a certain level of fitness. Until a couple of years ago, I felt that I was actually getting stronger every year. I was a scrawny teen ager in an era that provided few athletic opportunities for girls. Beginning in college, I decided to be more active. I became involved in sports (swimming and a pitiful attempt at softball) and outdoor activities. I did gain strength and found myself able to ride further and paddle longer as time went on. Like many people, I gained a pound every year or two but I started so underweight that at first it seemed like a good thing. Those pounds helped to increase my endurance rather than slowing me down.
Unfortunately you can’t gain a pound a year for decades without becoming a bit chubby. As my weight crept up and my body aged, it has become more difficult to pop into a kayak and begin paddling. In the last couple of years, squatting – to get into a kayak, take a book off a low shelf (I’m a librarian), get into a tent, reach some cobwebs in a corner – has become increasingly difficult. I’m not overweight based on the charts, but I’m just a few pounds short of it. I decided it was time to do something about it. I want to keep kayaking for quite awhile longer.
So the end of July, I joined weight-watchers online and began exercising regularly – again.
One way to encourage yourself to stick with an exercise plan is to have a fun goal to reach for. Mine is cross country skiing in Yellowstone National Park. Years ago some friends did this for their honeymoon. I’ve wanted to go ever since. This February we are planning to go and I want to be fit enough to enjoy the trip.
The result so far:
- Down 3 ½ pounds since mid-July. Not much, but I’m moving in the right direction. My goal is only 10 pounds loss so this is good progress.
- Some form of aerobic exercise at least three days a week.
- Weights at least twice a week. Got to keep those bones strong.
- I’ve added some flexibility exercises as well. I want to be able to look over my shoulder.
How are you handling fitness and exercise? What do you do to remain strong and fit? Do you have any great stories to tell about what has motivated you to begin and stick with a fitness regime? What programs have worked for you?
Some web links about exercise for those middle-aged and older:
An article from Time Magazine: Exercise to Protect Aging Bodies — and Brains.
Who would have thought of linking weight loss to de-cluttering? Here’s an article on just that from AARP. While you are there, you can read some of their other material on exercise and fitness.
The National Institute on Aging has some great resources on exercise and activity. NIH also has stories of older adults (60’s through 90’s) who remain fit.
The author of Strong Women Stay Young – a great book for women ages 40 and older beginning a weight program – has a website, Strong Women with more exercises.
And to motivate you, the Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) Program has many enticing active adventures. Search on activity levels 5,6, and 7 to find hiking, biking, and other active vacations.