Global Seniors Caucus Vice Chair

  • published Exercise and Aging- Part Two in Opinions 2022-03-22 03:58:14 -0400

    Exercise and Aging- Part Two

    Last month I suggested that regular exercise is a key aspect of managing one’s aging — that it reduces the health risks that accompany aging and that it allows for a more engaged and rewarding life. I also promised to provide you with a recipe for developing a productive and sustainable pattern of exercise.

    “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” When Theodore Roosevelt said those words, he was not talking about engaging in physical exercise, but if we look at his life, he would likely have agreed with that interpretation. And he would be right in all three regards: engaging in regular physical exercise is hard work; it is work worth doing; and if we have the chance to do it, life has given us a prize.

    How can you get started?

    It will depend on your circumstances, but let me lay out a suggested approach, with the understanding that you will adapt it to fit your situation.

    • Start with a 40-minute workout, consisting of four minutes of brisk walking, followed by a minute of jogging, and continue to alternate between the walking and the jogging. Do this four times per week. 
    • In one to two weeks, increase the jogging to two minutes (i.e. 4 minutes of walking; 2 minutes jogging; etc.). Then after another week, reduce the walking to three minutes.
    • Continue over the next month to replace walking with jogging until you are jogging four minutes andwalking one minute; and maintain that ratio going forward.

    You may think that replacing all the walking with jogging should be the goal, but the short walking breaks protect against injuries and allow you to maintain a better level of effort during the jogging.

    Also, after one to two months, increase one weekly workout to 60 minutes.  Having one longer (and hence harder) workout each week will assure that your fitness level keeps improving.

    Try to do all your workouts at the same one or two places.  It could be in a park, at a running track or even around your block, but my recommendation is to look for a location where you can go “out and back” — twenty minutes in one direction and then return. I find it much easier to sustain “going forward” than having to run the same lap over and over or than having to make numerous turns. In addition, the “out and back” situation makes very visible your increased fitness, as you can see that your twenty minutes of exercise keeps taking you a farther and farther distance. 

    Lastly, let’s talk about boredom.  Some people find the chance to get outdoors and maybe in a peaceful part of nature to be anything but boring.  But you and I are probably not those people.  For us, it is great if we can find an exercise partner.  If not, listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts add a pleasant element to the exercise.  And the frequent changes between walking and jogging can break up the sameness of the exercise.  But let’s not kid ourselves too much.  If we are doing it right, it’s work.  But it is rewarding work.  And, at the ultimate goal of 3 workouts of 40 minutes and one of 60 minutes each week, that is just three hours per week.  It doesn’t have to be fun; we can do that much work each week because it’s worth it.

  • published Exercise and Aging in Opinions 2022-02-25 12:31:31 -0500

    Exercise and Aging

    How are you Feeling Today?  As we enter YEAR THREE of the pandemic, we have to ask ourselves - am I moving enough? Am I making excuses to stay in, not walk, not stay mobile? 

    To repurpose an old joke, most of us are not at all afraid of regular exercise. We can sit on the couch and watch someone else exercise with no discomfort at all! 

    However, when it comes to doing the exercise ourselves, it tends to get buried beneath higher priorities for most of us. Nonetheless, we are not doing ourselves any favors by skimping on our levels of exercise, especially as we age. And most of us are aware of that fact.

    I think that if we were on the Family Feud game show and the question was, “What should a person do to reduce the risk or ameliorate the effects of such chronic diseases as arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease?”, many of us would correctly guess that the top two answers are: (1) Engage in regular exercise; and (2) Maintain a healthy weight. However, knowing those answers and achieving those goals are two different things.

    I am going to focus on the question of regular exercise. Let me start by acknowledging three things: (1) regular exercise will need to take different forms for different people; (2) changing one’s routine and daily patterns to add sustained regular exercise is daunting to consider and difficult to do; and (3) there little if any positive reinforcement for weeks or even months. Nonetheless, over time it will reward you in ways that you might not have anticipated. 

    If your exercise program is built around regular walking and jogging, it will have the well-known benefits of reducing the risk and severity of many chronic diseases and reducing excess pounds. But it will also have a positive effect on a person’s daily life. Specifically, a person who regularly jogs or walks continuously for 30-40 minutes is likely to maintain a good level of mobility. This is particularly important for older people, because a loss of mobility is directly related to the loss of one’s independence and the abandonment of desired activities and interactions with friends. In short, a loss of mobility shrinks a person’s world. The effect of suitable regular exercise in terms of continued mobility is a hugely valuable benefit.

    The second collateral benefit to regular sustained exercise is the person’s own perceptions of him- or herself. For example, suppose you are visiting Iceland and someone recommends that you see its largest waterfall, Dettifoss. It is located nearby, but it is a one kilometer walk away from the nearest road. Do you decide whether to visit Dettifoss by answering the question “How interested am I in seeing another waterfall?” or by answering the question “Will walking one kilometer each way be too hard?”? You can see that the person who asks the first question has a very different and more positive sense of self than the person who asks the second question. Having confidence in one’s physical capability instead of having concerns about one’s physical restrictions produces a very different sense of self. 

    Let us suppose that I have convinced you to start or increase your exercise program. How can you do that? I will lay out the steps for creating and carrying out a program tailored to your situation—in the next newsletter. Stay well until then!

    A lovely rendition of La Bamba to get you moving from Playing For Change | Song Around the World.  (Courtesy of Irene Chriss)