A 48-year-old woman, we will call her Jeanette, is babysitting her 1-year-old grandson. He wants to play with his little Tonka trucks outside in the grass. Jeanette gets down on her hands and knees, like her grandson, and crawls around playing with the trucks. She experiences some pain in her back and knees, but mostly the feeling is discomfort. When he is finished playing, he gets up and starts heading to do something else. She realizes that she has a hard time standing back up and chasing after him. Later that day she tells her husband, “honey, I’m getting old. I had a really hard time keeping up while babysitting today.”
Meanwhile, 62-year-old Rachel is finishing up the last mile of her marathon thinking, “I’m almost there, just a little bit further! I can do this!” When she is finished, she is very tired and sore, but she is feeling great, like she has accomplished something wonderful and is ready to conquer the world… after some rest.
What is the difference between these two women? There could be medical conditions involved, but let’s say that isn’t the issue for this case. Why is 62-year-old Rachel able to run a marathon while 48-year-old Jeanette has a hard time getting down on the ground and getting back up? How are these two women different, and what can Jeanette do to feel better and healthier?
The Difference Between the Two
Jeanette has not been living an active lifestyle. She has never really been in to physical activity. She enjoys watching movies, reading, and sewing. She works full-time at a desk job where she sits at the computer all day. At this desk job, there are candy jars available for people to grab some any time. There isn’t anywhere for people to get some exercise during lunch. Everything she needs is right at her fingertips. She doesn’t even have to walk across the office to speak to her boss, she can just send him an email. Jeanette can’t remember the last time she did any strenuous activity past carrying groceries into her house. Something her family values is going out to eat at nice restaurants at least twice per week, then they come home to relax in front of the television to unwind.
On the other hand, Rachel was very involved with sports in high school and even played for fun in college. After she had her three children, she wanted to keep them outdoors as much as possible for their own mental and physical health. She took them on hikes through the woods. Her family went on many bike rides together and played sports together while they were growing up. She works full-time as a floor manager at the sporting goods store, and while she may not make a killing, she gets to stay somewhat active at work and she enjoys the people she works with. She doesn’t really watch television, and she does all of the cooking for her family, focusing on lean meats and vegetables.
Can you spot the differences? It can’t be because of age since Rachel is older than Jeanette. While each woman has children, works a full time job, and has family responsibilities, their lifestyles are very different. Jeanette lives a mostly sedentary lifestyle while Rachel values being active. While they both enjoy the lifestyle they live, Jeanette is beginning to realize that she may have to start incorporating more activity into her life or she may not be able to keep up with her grandson as he starts to get older and more mobile.
Remember, Always Train for Your Sport
I’m not saying that you have to be active all of your life or all day every day in order to stay in shape as you age. What I am saying is that in order to keep your body limber, flexible, mobile, and strong, you have to work at it. You have to train for life, just like an athlete trains for his sport. Your sport might be playing with your grandchild, working, enjoying your hobbies, or even doing your household cleaning. Whatever it is that you do in life that you need to move for, that is what you need to KEEP moving for, otherwise, you may not always be able to do those things.
If you do work at a desk job, this does make things a little more difficult. You may need to work harder than those who work a physical job just to stay active. It is a good idea to make it a habit to start getting up and maybe walk to the bathroom, walk in a circle around your desk, do some jumping jacks or birddog exercises. It isn’t as important WHAT you do as it is that you just do it. Every half hour stand up and just move for 1-5 minutes. I know you probably think that this is wasting precious time you need to get your work done, but this is actually proven to make you more productive while you are working. It is more constructive in the long run. Your brain will work better, you will be more awake, and your boss will appreciate the lack of errors in your work.
Find What Works for You
Outside of work, if exercise isn’t really your “thing”, then maybe you just haven’t found your niche yet. Maybe you enjoy cleaning the house, doing yard work, or playing with your pets. This all counts as movement that will keep your body in shape. Otherwise, if nothing seems to fit you, then just make it a habit to sit as less as possible. Place your physical activity where you can enjoy it. For example, if you enjoy watching television, try doing some body weight exercises while watching TV, like squats, split squats, push-ups, and planks. You will feel better about getting the physical activity in, and you will be able to tell a difference next time you end up in a situation where you need to be active.
It’s much like Newton’s First Law… a body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion stays in motion. Aging doesn’t have to be a painful, dreaded process. It isn’t that you can’t move or play because you’re “old,” you’re “old” because you DON’T move or play.
Hi, I’m Sharon Kuntz. I am a Personal Trainer at Thrive Fitness in Alexandria, KY. I graduated from Northern Kentucky University in May of 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. I enjoy being active outdoors, doing anything from walking to playing basketball to canoeing, and everything in between! I also enjoy reading and learning in my spare time.
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