Fear got me exercising; thinking of my family, and wanting to get the best Return on Exercise, keeps me going
You can beat frailty and live longer better — and independently
I’m 72 this year and your story resonates with me as I get similar attention — and I have similar motivation. It’s fantastic to see you promoting the cause of we oldies being fit.
I’ve observed the same problem of my generation not exercising and experienced the same interactions at the gym where people approach me to ask how I keep so fit.
People simply don’t know what to do
I now believe most don’t exercise because they simply don’t know what to do. Or, they’ve tried a routine in the past and it hasn’t been motivating enough for them to keep it up.
When I started at the gym I also had no idea how to exercise or use the equipment, or which classes might be most helpful. It took me several years to work out the proper exercises and what is most important as we grow older.
There is also an issue with the young instructors at the gym giving people over 50 programs which are not beneficial. I see these people mindlessly sitting on gym machines, wishing that they were somewhere else. Unless you are in rehabilitation gym machines are the antithesis of what we need, see my post: Will you choose to live 5 years longer or to look good in a t-shirt but can’t do up your shoelaces?
When I’m out and about and see people much younger than me starting to slump and shuffle I’m disappointed, for them. This is easy to prevent, and a lot harder to reverse after the fact. No doubt you feel the same way.
I now know that we can maintain remarkable posture, strength and balance by adding the proper exercise into our routines. Conversely, those capabilities atrophy quickly without regular attention.
Fear is a motivator
For most people, it takes enough fear to make them think seriously about exercising, as it did me.
I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2000. After I few months of denial, I woke up one morning with a realisation that I was going to die a painful death unless I did something about it, and now! Moreover, this meant me actually doing that something by moving my body.
This sounds painfully obvious, but it seems to be common that we invent reasons why we don’t have to “do the thing” for ourselves by our own effort. It is bizarre to name something so “obvious” as a realisation — but I also had the “realisation” that the only person who could do something for me was me.
There was no pill, no magic medicine, no way to offset it through insurance, no emotional support pets — nothing. I had to personally move my body — exercise it.
In retrospect, the fear was a blessing.
Becoming fit and healthy has changed my life. I can say the same for cancer, which I’ve had twice, and that fear also changed my life for the better — not physically but emotionally. That’s why I now believe that fear and stress are an essential part of the human journey.
Your choice — think of your family
I’m still working, which is due to me being fit and capable but which also means I have to make space to fit exercise into a fulltime working schedule.
What I am saying is that there is no excuse not to exercise if you are 50 or 60 and working. It’s a choice to set a priority.
Think of your family, they’d like to see you here with them, and healthy, for as long as possible. On those days when you might want to skip the gym, think of your family, and think of how good you feel when you finish your exercise.
That’s what I do.
Think of your future — living longer better — independently
Statistics from the US and from Australia are remarkably similar — the major cause of Emergency Admissions for over-65s is falling over. If bones are broken (especially the hip) life expectancy drops by five years.
But in fact, the consequences of suffering such an injury are far worse than just dying 5 years earlier. You will lose your capability to live independently for longer.
That is, you will have to be in care for longer, and you will die younger.
Exercise reduces the risk of both falling and injuring yourself and dying younger, and of being taken out of your home and put into care. How much is that worth to you?
By the way, although using gym machines will make you less frail — as a third-best choice — they will not improve your balance, flexibility, coordination, and your neuromuscular activation. The machines will make all those functionalities worse. This means that you are more likely to fall over than if you did exercises that require your whole mind and body to interact.
Think Return On Exercise ROE
My point is this. For those of you who are investing in exercise — and my respect to you for doing so — would you prefer to get the maximum return for the time and effort that you are putting in? I certainly want the maximum return — I call this Return On Exercise (ROE).
You can do this by getting into the swing of real exercise with Bodypump classes, bodyweight exercises, TRX exercises, rowing, free-standing weight exercises, swiss ball routines, and a whole lot of great cable-machine exercises — even boxing classes although they’d be my last choice.
Real exercises also benefit your brain, in fact they stimulate neurogenesis — the regeneration of brain cells.
This is exactly what we need as we age — we don’t need to look like a bodybuilder. You can safely ignore all the linkbait about being “ripped after 50” and doing cross-fit.
You are not going to look like this from the best “after 50” exercises
But you can look like this
You might be a little overweight and unfit, as I was 20 years ago, but you can change dramatically. I even hated running, but two years ago I took up trail running, and I do a quite good time — under 5min/km. You can too.
The energy to play soccer with your grandkids
Something else that you can look forward to by being fit is having the energy to run and play with your grandkids. They puff you out quickly anyway, but when you’re fit you can go a lot longer and have a lot more fun.
I have grandkids, and I have a 9-year-old daughter; she asked me to train her for the school cross-country. Without my fitness I could not have done it — I wrote a post about fun exercises in the park with your grandkids (and your kids if you are 50 instead of my age) — Fun training challenges to do with your kids in the park, here’s six you can do today.
It’s also about your weight Jake
Finally, good exercise and good nutrition go hand in hand. You cannot get the best out of either without each being in balance.
In her article, Helen mentioned what the doctor said to her about the need to exercise daily.
My doctor once told me that “most people over 60 have not seen their toes in 10 years”. That’s a big danger sign for developing diabetes, and believe me (I’m diabetic) you do not want to get diabetes.
Your first task is to get your waistline to be less than half of your height.
My absolute number one recommendation to you is to stop adding sugar.
Added sugar is an unfortunate habit, it is addictive, and it is poison for your body. In terms of adding to your waistline and the risk of developing diabetes, added sugar is a definite part of the problem. For example — Over 50? Exercising cannot undo the damage of added sugar unless you plan running 52km a week
After the shock of me being told I had diabetes, my first resolution was to eat 20% less and to exercise 20% more. I had no idea what this meant in any detail at all. But this is the mentality which will get you thinking about a new set of habits.
If you cut out added sugar you will be off to a good start.
If nothing else, you can reduce your portion sizes, and start walking more. This post will give you some ways to get a lot of benefit from just walking: How to keep your weight off with daily walks — 5 fun level-ups that everyone can do
Getting fit as you get older isn’t necessarily fun, but it does add new zest to your life. When you have a strong posture and feel coordinated and balanced it gives you more confidence. This is most pronounced when you meet your friends who have let themselves go.
Our bodies are built for moving, and you can get back a lot of what you have lost by not having been active. It’s never too late. Good luck.
These posts will help you:
- The secret in ditching your boxing class friends and improving your Return on Exercise (RoE)
- Discover why “Fit After 50” is not the same as when you are younger
- How about a new year’s weight-loss resolution that you will keep — picking up the pace with walking
- How to stay in your own home for longer living independently, starting now — do this challenge test
- Ditch the leg-days chest-days and do real days if you want to live longer better
- Aching joints? My knee woke me up every night but now I may have found a cure
- The secret to finding your personal best diet is not what dieticians tell you
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