The Lewis Carroll parody below was inspired by a 77 year old acquaintance. She was boasting about doing star jumps at her Fitness class but said they were killing her knees. Quite.
But mainly, I wrote it as a tribute to the principal of Sheffield School of Physiotherapy circa 1953, Anna Randall. Always primly erect herself, she gave a surprised class of new students her advice on taking care of yourself:
‘Never stand if you can sit. Never sit if you can lie down.’
Here is one of her students taking the advice in Singapore airport 64 yrs later…
With apologies to Lewis Carroll
‘You are old Grandma Williams,‘ the young one said,
‘But your hair has not yet gone white
and yet you repeatedly stay in your bed.
Do you think at your age that is right?’
‘In my youth,’ Grandma Williams told her grandson
‘lying in was a weekend delight
so now that the working is finished and gone
morning tea, book in bed are my rite.’
‘As I said Grandma Williams,’ the youngster went on,
‘At your age you should not really be lazing.
I know you have told me your knees are half gone –
so surely it’s time to get moving?’
‘As a physio,’ GW continued her tale,
‘you know that your knees do get damage:
with weight bearing, jumping and jogging they fail.
And bed avoids that kind of carnage!
‘But surely,’ the young man asked his grandmother,
‘lying still is not the right answer –
you must surely be active one way or another.
You aren’t ill, you haven’t got cancer!’
‘I know all of that,’ said Grandma now grinning,
‘I doubt I’m in danger of dying.
The past was the era for striving and winning
and now it’s my time for just lying.’
‘There is much in my life that I wish to prolong
and I am quite sure I know what I’m needing:
while keeping my joints loose and muscles quite strong
I lie down and get on with my reading.’
‘You don’t need the gym and a class to keep fit
so long as you know what you’re doing.
Daily test every joint and make your muscles twitch
and check there’s no action you’re losing.’
‘Grandma, my dear,’ the young man insisted,
‘strength and load are surely still needed:
a machine with some weights and actions resisted?
Without them your bones get depleted!’
‘Of course,’ Grandma said, ‘I don’t disagree.
Push-ups and sit-ups I do in my bed,
self-resist body weight and then more tea.
A stretch band can get me quite red!’
‘Ok,’ said the youth beginning to sigh,
‘though posture and balance you cannot deny
are not getting tested the longer you lie?
Weight bearing does matter, you wouldn’t decry?’
‘Indeed not’, said Grandma quite firmly,
‘Dance and walking is life’s great delight –
and for balance the best is Tai Chi.
Plus when walking, try tackling some height.’
‘This way,’ Grandma Williams says very strongly,
‘you can keep really fit and quite lithe.
But don’t strain old joints or use them all wrongly,
just enjoy a great life being blithe.
PS. In Ikaria, a Greek island, people are noted for their long lives. They eat simple, mostly plant-based food, sleep late and nap in the afternoon (a nap three days a week results in a 37% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease), walk the many hills, drink herbal teas rich in antioxidants, enjoy sex and red wine and are engaged in the community and see a convivial meaning to life.
It seems my lifestyle is on the right track … I may yet make 100!
(This was originally written as a guest blog for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy blog site. )