Playing to Your (Dis)Abilities: Aging and Exercise

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Are you forgetful, weaker than you’d like to be, less able to multi-task? Hey, that’s Boomer life for you – after all these decades, at least we’re still alive! Here are some hints for turning the vagaries of aging into something positive: exercise.

     

    As the years pile up and our bodies break down, we gradually accept that we’ll never be as strong, agile, and tireless – physically, or mentally – as we were at age 25. 

     

    And that’s OK; nothing lasts forever, right? Not even youth, much as we’d like it to. But the infirmities of old(er) age don’t have to be totally negative. If you approach them as a given, then make them work for you, suddenly all of those things that have been bugging you about getting older don’t seem quite so bothersome. 

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    Why did I walk into this room?

    We’ve all been there. You stop whatever you’re doing (reading, folding laundry, watering the plants) and purposefully walk into the kitchen – only to realize you have no clue why you’re there. What prompted that deliberate voyage? [Palm to forehead.]

     

    Rather than beat yourself up for being a space cadet, consider this simply another part of your exercise plan. Walking is good! So what if you took an extra trip? Go on back to what you were doing, and eventually you’ll remember you wanted a cup of coffee. Or needed to write down fabric softener on the laundry list.

     

    Bonus points for forgetting why you went upstairs to the bedroom – climbing is even better!

     

    It’s inefficient to make so many trips!

    The back of the car is full of grocery bags. You’re standing there, making a mental plan for picking up as many sacks as you can, in order to avoid multiple trips.

     

    Stop right there. If you have to figure out how to carry a bunch of bags, you’re trying to carry too many. Rather than broken eggs in a dropped bag (or broken you when you trip over the doormat because you can’t see where you’re going), carry only one large or two small bags at a time – just enough to fill your arms, no more.

     

    Yes, you’re having to make multiple trips. So what? Are the efficiency police waiting to arrest you? All those “extra” steps add up and become… exercise!  

     

    Why do my hips and knees feel so bad when I jog?

    My oncologist, whom I still visit despite my cancer having been in remission for years, says that most people who jog on the street after age 50 are probably doing more harm to their bodies than good.

     

    Aging hips, knees, and ankles are less able to take the jarring of running on hard surfaces. Plus, our reactions have slowed just enough that we might not successfully dodge that car whose driver is texting – nor regain our balance when we hit a hidden patch of ice.

     

    How about giving yourself a break (metaphorically speaking)? If you really like jogging and want to keep it up, try a treadmill. The running surface is more forgiving, and you don’t need to worry about traffic or weather. 

     

    And if jogging has simply become too much for you (as it recently has for me), slow to a very brisk walk. Aerobically speaking, you get just as much benefit from walking as you do from jogging – so long as you walk the same distance you usually jog. 

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    Wish I could juggle tasks like I used to…

    Time was, you’d go grocery shopping, stop by the post office and Walgreen’s, plus remember to load the overdue library books into the car and throw the dry cleaning into the backseat as well.  

     

    Now, if you can do a single task – go to the garden center, remember a dentist appointment – without messing up, you consider the day a success!

     

    Loss of short-term memory plagues all of us Boomers, to one degree or another. If you’re a woman past menopause, blame it on lack of hormones; but whatever the cause (and despite the “memory aids” you see advertised), deteriorating memory is simply a fact of over-60 life.

     

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m all in favor of crosswords, Sudoku, and fish oil; I’m just saying you may be able to slow (but you probably won’t stop) memory loss, of one degree or another.

     

    Step #1: Don’t beat yourself up. It’s not useful, nor warranted.

     

    Step #2: The more active you are as you age, the better off you’ll be, both physically and mentally. Just as it’s good to make multiple trips from car to kitchen with the groceries, it’s OK to get up and out of the house several times to accomplish the everyday tasks we all handle.

     

    Make your sole focus bringing those books back to the library. Spend some time there; talk to the library ladies. Social interaction is important as you age, particularly if you live alone.

     

    After lunch, go pick up your prescriptions at the drugstore. The walk from house to car and car to pharmacy (especially if you park farther away from the door) is absolutely good for you.

     

    Do your grocery shopping in the evening. It’s way less crowded than late afternoon; and you’re less likely to encounter those understandably impatient young moms trying to push past you in the produce aisle.

     

    OK, maybe your car’s burning a bit more gas. But if you can afford them, those “extra” trips all involve walking, reaching, carrying… exercise.

     

     

     

     

     

Published On: September 08, 2014