Exercise: The Fun and Invigorating way of Growing Old
Have you seen a senior citizen doing tai chi looking grouchy and grumpy at the same time?
Or crying while he’s brisk walking; or bitching about life while putting his loving touch to his flower garden?
I am sure not. It’s like salt sprinkled on the icing of a yummy hazelnut chocolate cake.
It’s because exercise, or any physical activity, has the transforming power of making a lethargic and boring day to a sweat-drenched and invigorating one.
Take it from runner Monte Davis in his book, The Joy of Running, “It’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time.”
Make Exercise Fun:
There are days when getting up from bed is like dragging an oil tanker across a pond, and the temptation to skip my early morning walk or tennis, feels like a slab of lead over my entire body.
But once I get over the struggle, the result is always ecstatic; almost magical – from lazy and sluggish senior, to one extremely energized, ready to take on another day.
The average age of the guys I play tennis with is 54. The oldest is 70 something while I am at the upper end of the average at 68.
At the break of dawn, we are already at the tennis court, lunging, humping, jumping, as we hit that 2.7in furry, yellow ball over a 3.5in net to the other side.
We are at it, not only to enjoy winning (or humbled in defeat), but to have fun. We never think of the exercise part of the game. That is a given. But the fun from all the ribbing we throw at each other is priceless.
We are in it not for the exercise, but from the fun of togetherness.
And that’s how you should treat exercise. Getting fit or living long are natural consequences of the fun you get from the physical activity.
Which is probably why a lot of seniors don’t exercise at all. They are missing the bigger picture of getting physical – the fun part.
For example a survey done on 2,558 Singapore seniors showed that, though nine in ten are strong enough to live alone but a whopping 52% don’t exercise at all.
No reason was given for this alarming figure but if I take it from my coffee buddies, almost as old as the guys I play tennis with, they don’t exercise because:
1. They are already old:
Exercise has no age limit. There may be some routines that are age-dependent, but no health manual says you can’t exercise upon reaching a certain age.
On the contrary, being old is the perfect time to exercise to maintain your sense of balance, muscle mass, and overall physical, emotional and psychological well-being.
You are never too old to have fun.
2. They want to save their strength:
Ironically, research shows that people who regularly exercise are stronger than people who don’t.
Exercise works up the muscles of your arms and legs, your heart, respiratory system and your brain muscles.
On days I don’t play tennis, I take a 20min walk, and 10mins of strength exercises for the more vigorous ball game.
3. They might fall down and break a leg or something:
Regular exercise up muscles in the legs and arms, improves stamina, and balance.
Sure you will fall. We all do. But your bones and muscles will be strong enough to absorb the impact, than if you don’t exercise at all
I’ve twisted my ankle so many times for reaching a low ball, but was back in the court after a couple of weeks rest.
It’s better to face the risk falling, than the certainty of having type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart and brain health problems of a sedentary lifestyle.
And there is so much fun, too.
4. They don’t have the time:
This is the most commonly used alibi by sedentary people.
If you really want to, there is time for everything.
Waking up 30mins earlier will give you the time. Thirty minutes after office hours will give you the time. And 10mins of brisk walking around the office is enough time.
Oh yes, when you feel something isn’t right with your system, you would cancel an entire day’s appointments to see your doctor. Isn’t it ironic?
Find the time for an exercise before you run out of time.
5. They have physical disabilities:
Oscar Pistorius ran in the 2012 Olympics on artificial legs. And there are now international sporting events for people with disabilities, the paraplegics.
If they can you can. But you have to overcome your major disability – your unwillingness to do it.
I have osteoarthritis in both my knees that hurts like hell when I go up or down staircases. I cannot stand for long periods of time. But I can still run, though with a slight limp.
So I don’t let it stop morning rituals because the consequences are more serious if I do.
Nobody ever said that it is easy to exercise. It requires discipline and commitment; a routine which a lot of seniors consider a prison with invisible walls. But we love to play games, we love sports, and we love to have fun.
It’s just a matter of looking at it from a different perspective, from a different angle.
And you must.
Regular exercise helps boost your energy, it allows you to be independent, and can reverse some of the symptoms of aging. It is good for your body, mind, mood and memory.
Go with Your Boots On:
I am sure you want to enjoy your retirement life. You want to live a little longer if you can.
You want to savor good food, and good relationships. You want to travel now that you have the time.
You want to have good health and enjoy life for as long as you can.
Unfortunately they don’t come free. Nothing in life comes free. We have to sweat out a little bit to get what we want.
Those things you want to savor while you can are all within reach. But you have to get your butt off that sofa, put on your sneakers and your sweat shirt and start working for them.
We all die someday. But I you must go, better go with your boots on.