I have set my intention to live to be 100, and to stay as healthy and as active as I can, and to keep as many marbles as possible. I know my life isn’t entirely in my own hands, but I do get a vote. Staying active is important, and I do that. Singing with other people has been shown to help create a longer, happier life, and I do that, too. Maintaining a healthy weight is important.
I’ll get back to you on that one.
A Powerful Motivator
All those things we need to do require motivation. Exercise is one of those things we need to do.
I don’t know about you, but effective motivation for me does not come from the reasonable part of me that tells me I should eat more broccoli and remember to change the furnace filters every 60 days. I have only one good habit that most people don’t have: I don’t use the phone while I’m driving. Is that because I am an utterly sensible person who knows how dangerous it can be?
It’s because the first cell phone I carried belonged to my employer at the time, the U.S. Department of Transportation, which even then was warning people about the dangers of distracted driving. Every time my cell phone rang while I was driving, I was terrified that I would be the U.S. DoT employee who got into an accident because I was on the phone. Was I terrified of the real possibility that I might kill or injure myself or someone else?
No. Not even a glimmer in my consciousness.
I was terrified of being in an accident that would cause me to be ridiculed worldwide as a total idiot and have to go into some kind of Witless Protection Program. I pulled off the road every time, and I still do.
Avoiding Humiliation / Preserving Dignity
Pat Balasco is an exercise instructor and personal trainer who specializes in older people. I take her Enhance®Fitness class at my local Y, and I was talking to her about how important it is to stay fit enough to be independent. “Yes!” she exclaimed. “And for your dignity! One client I’ve been working with for a while told me how happy she is that she can now get up off the toilet by herself. Imagine what a difference that makes.”
Well, I did imagine it. I have since imagined what it’s like to be unable to get up, maybe stuck there, terrified, calling for help. I don’t want to be there. I particularly don’t want to be there when the Emergency Squad shows up to help me off the toilet.
What Can You Do About It? Squat.
The simplest exercise to take care of that? Squats. And if you feel a little insecure, you can just practice them over a chair, or practice getting up and down without using your hands to push you. Pat’s class includes some squats: stick your butt back, make sure your knees don’t go in front of your toes. If you can’t squat all the way down and back up, do what you can. The chair is there to catch you.
Enhance®Fitness is a low-cost evidence-based group exercise program for older adults that uses simple, easy-to-learn movements that motivate individuals, particularly those with arthritis, to stay active throughout their life. They may have one at your local Y or community center. I often do more strenuous stuff, but this class helps me beat back the arthritis that keeps trying to get me, and makes me aware of how my balance is doing. It also features a happy, friendly group of regulars. Wednesday morning, a group of seniors was talking about how they’re all going to get tattoos. Whatever you may think of tattoos, it’s fun to see folks encouraging each other to try something new.
Pat, by the way, is one of the best walking advertisements for an active life you’ll ever see. She is in the same demographic as the people in her class, but she looks about a quarter-century younger.
What About the Magic 10,000 Steps?
So the latest thing, the one that has sold us Fitbits and similar doodads, is that what we really need is to make sure we take 10-thousand steps a day. That’s better than most of us do, most days, and it’s a good minimum. One important source has called it a Bare-A$$-minimum. There are some things the 10,000 steps will do for you, and some things that it won’t.
What about weight training, and other kinds of strength training? A very good idea. You’ve heard that bit of folk wisdom that a fall is the beginning of the end? It doesn’t have to be, if you have strengthened your muscles and your bones. And the women of my generation, who were told that muscles aren’t feminine, and girls should just spend their physical education times watching the boys, really need to muscle up.
Not up to this yet? Well, maybe take Seven Easy Anti-aging steps.