Researchers at Harvard University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that even light physical activity increases longevity, and more so than previously believed. Of course ramping up your workouts a bit may pay even greater dividends. Still, they cited such small things like “walking the dog” or “vacuuming the carpet” as having a positive effect on your health and well-being.
So it seems that nearly any movement at all that interrupts a sedentary lifestyle of staring into an electronic device and/or couch slouching produces healthier outcomes. Any movement at all. In Living the Fitness Lifestyle (sorry, the book is no longer available), I wrote that just owning a pet benefits us in ways we may not even realize. But little did I know that walking a dog — or even vacuuming the carpet — would someday enter into serious fitness research.
I know next to nothing about vacuum cleaners. But dogs are another matter. It seems I’ve always owned
one. When my dog Steve passed, in 1999, I discovered another best friend we named Tyra. Both Steve and Tyra were high-energy animals and we ran or hiked together daily and each dog became my constant companion. Tyra was an Australian Cattle Dog mix, and her veterinarian once remarked, “Cattle Dog owners are usually in good shape. Their dogs keep them that way.”
Now in my mid-80s, I no longer run or jog, and even my walking is not nearly as robust as it used to be. But I still get out there. Every day. Even if it's a saunter, which it often is.
My walking/hiking companion now is Emma, a hard-to-imagine mixed-breed of mostly German Shepard and Chihuahua, plus a few other breeds in smaller percentages. She’s a strange combination, but she’s a blessing.
If you hate cardio machines but need a nudge to get yourself outside regularly for jogging/running or nice walks, becoming a dog owner might be just the ticket. Rescue shelters and humane societies have wonderful animals looking for lifetime homes. Why not consider it? Your new best friend can add fun — and maybe years — to your life.
Of course for a balanced fitness lifestyle you must add some resistance training and flexibility movements to the mix. Walking a dog (or vacuuming the carpet) shouldn’t comprise a total fitness program.
Without weights or bodyweight exercises or bands, and some form of stretching, muscles wilt and bodies stiffen. You don’t have to emulate all the feats of Jack LaLanne to add zest to your years. But he sure did set a good example.
For some further thoughts on cardio choices, go here.
Total fitness beginners, please start here.
Stay healthy. Stay fit.
Senior Exercise Central
My Photographs: Subscribers ask when the newsletter photo at the top and my website pictures were taken. As I write this, I’m 85 years old. The photos were taken when I was a mere 70. Though I remain active, I am no longer nearly as muscular as I was 15 years ago. —LF
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The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to subscribers. The purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.
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