When I was little, in the 1950’s, my Grandma (around age 65 at that time) had lots of favorite sayings. One of them was ‘The more you do, the more you can do’. She was right. She knew way back then, before all the scientific studies were done, that staying active helps keep our bodies and minds working well.
Grandma and Grandpa worked hard on the farm all their lives and they didn’t slow down when they got older. He baled hay and hoisted it up to the barn loft. She planted and tended her 2 acre garden. They walked every day and continued to do the chores they had always done.
Health professionals have changed their tune.
It used to be that after a major medical incident, you were encouraged or required to rest – usually in bed. Now, health professionals feel that the body heals faster if you are up and around as soon as possible.
When I was born, Mom was confined to the hospital for two weeks after my birth. She gave birth naturally. When I had my sons, the doctor kept me in the hospital for a week. When my son had his children, his wife was in the hospital for two days. Bed rest is not the answer.
That is why, when my spouse had his heart attack in 1999, the surgeon stented him and the nurses had him up walking around the next day and home in 3 days.
Nursing homes I visited in my childhood had large rooms with many beds – all filled with old people snoring or staring discontentedly at the ceiling. There were no exercise programs, no activity centers or planned excursions for them. Today, seniors are encouraged to stay engaged and active (both physically and mentally).
A body at rest tends to stay at rest.
Sometimes we feel like we should give ourselves and ‘out’ on exercising as we age. Maybe our knee feels like it will give way; perhaps our back hurts when we awake. These things do happen to many of us. I know, they happened and are happening to me.
Although our bodies do begin to deteriorate as we age, we shouldn’t use it as an excuse to drop out. Yet many of us do. If it hurts to do something, we tend to not want to go ahead with it.
I have developed osteoarthritis, as many people over 50 do. With it, comes pain and stiffness every morning as well as more easily incurred damage (causing new pain) even when doing what seem like normal everyday type activities.
Right now, I am nursing a lower back ache caused by …. wait for it …. standing for more hours than usual to fix Easter dinner! But, I’m forcing myself to exercise each morning and walk each day as I think that is the way to gain back mobility the back pain would otherwise cause me to lose. Because of the damage to my body from the degeneration, it takes me longer to recover from every day activities (like weeding, polishing the silver or raking the leaves).
As you age, you may find that you need more warm up time, that you might need to ease into activities and moves you haven’t done in a while, and that you do indeed have to work through the pain.
People, yes even you 20 year olds, get in the habit of doing certain things at certain times of the day. If you are in the habit of sitting your entire lunch hour – get out and walk, or go to the gym. If you are in the habit of laying on the couch watching TV at night, pop up and do some sit ups or arm curls.
Don’t give in to inertia. Don’t let your body stay at rest.
Studies show the benefits of staying active.
The National Health Institutes article on the health benefits of exercise says:
“studies show that “taking it easy” is risky. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they’ve aged. It’s usually because they’re not active.”
The first study found that women who exercised more in mid-life (50’s and 60’s) had fewer health issues when they reached their 70’s. The study found that:
“…those who had higher levels of physical activity at the beginning of the study were less likely to have chronic diseases, heart surgery or any physical, cognitive or mental impairments.”
The next study found that women age 65 – 75 who did resistance training twice a week for a year had significant improvements in scores on tests measuring requiring mental focus and in conflict resolution.
Next, a German study found that moderate or high physical activity (the test ran for two years) may be associated with a lower the risk of the development of cognitive impairment in older adults (over 55).
Also of interest to me, as I used to have osteoporosis, was the study that showed that women 65+ had lowered risk of falling and increased bone density in their hips and spine.
So, no matter what your age, don’t let inertia lead you to premature aging, health issues or death. Get up and MOVE!
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional. Pain can be a sign that you need medical attention. Consult your health professional before starting any new health or exercise regimen.