February 1, 2020
In this newsletter . . .
We have one of those big, 65-inch TVs, and watching sports feels like you’re on the field of play. The crisp picture and sound draw you right into the action. So we love the giant screen — but also recognize how seductive it is.
Add big screen TVs to smartphones, i-pads, computers, and other techie items, and there’s little reason to leave one’s chair, unless it’s to move to an even more comfortable sofa. Yet we know full well that human biological history argues against such slouch. For good health, humans have got to move. Every day. If we don’t, trouble sets in: heart problems, diabetes, cancers, etc. You know the list.
By the time we reach our senior years even the most fit of us may have acquired at least one or two chronic physical annoyances. Maybe it's a trick knee, a tennis elbow or bad back. Danger: These can become excuses to retire to the couch. Don’t let them. Unless your physician, for a valid reason, tells you not to exercise at all — keep moving.
Just be smart in your approach.
Until almost 60, I still did some martial arts. But as the years added up, I'd often wake in the morning still tired following a workout the day before. Worse, I'd occasionally make a quick twist or turn, feel a pinch in my spine, and I was in for several days of backache.
I denied the truth for a while, but finally gave in to the fact that it was time to face some unpleasant realities about aging. Quick stop-start activities, such as martial arts, and another old favorite, handball, no longer made sense for me. I bowed out, though I wasn't quite ready for the rocking chair.
Instead, I practiced Qigong (pronounced chee-kung) for a while and learned new stretching and relaxation techniques. Then after years of absence, I went back to weight training. I approached it cautiously. If I found a particular exercise aggravated something (I'm not talking about normal, mild muscle soreness), I stayed away from that movement.
Later, I was able to lead cardio-kickboxing classes. They were solid workouts (known around the gym as “butt-kickers”), but without actual contact kicking, punching and grappling that is the core of typical martial arts training.
As I reached 70, the pace of the kickboxing classes became more than I could realistically handle. I missed the fun but it was time once again to recognize my limitations. Once again, I backed off a little.
Today, I’m 83. I exercise six or seven days per week. Fortunately, the habit is ingrained. But over the past couple of years I phased out kettlebells in favor of resistance bands. For cardio I take daily, brisk walks with my dog. In the summer, I do a pool workouts or swim laps. I no longer run or jog.
The gradual paring down approach has worked for me, and it can work for almost anyone as the years add up. Keep moving. But whatever your age or fitness level, be smart about it. Put solid effort into your activities, but beware of youthful foolishness. Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) was right: "A man’s got to know his limitations." A woman does too.
Moderation is not a bad word.
Senior Exercise Central
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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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