Can you then move it for over a mile?
Does that conjure up an image of one of these super fit old agers the media love?
Yes of course, it does. But it shouldn’t.
What do we mean by this word ‘fit”?
We seem to have got ourselves into a nonsensical world with this idea of fitness
It has got itself attached to strange meanings.
Does having a super six pack does mean you are ‘fit’?
Is Andy Murray ‘unfit’ now he can’t play at Wimbledon?
Does being able to run a marathon mean you are ‘fit’?
If you have a new hip and can walk on crutches, are you ‘fit’ to go home?
The word FIT is seriously misused and misunderstood. It has become entangled with body shape, various hobbies and the competitiveness of many sports.
We need to disentangle the idea of fitness. It needs to be much clearer what we mean by it.
At every age we all need to know how you answer the question “Am I fit?” “Is she/he, my partner, my child fit?”
And feel confident about “What do we have to do to be fit?”
The current interest in fitness has produced a cult of personal trainers and media pieces that seem to be aimed at getting everyone into the Olympics or a Circus.
There is absolutely no requirement that to be fit you have to run a marathon, walk 10,000 steps or be able to do 50 press-ups.
Or to tie yourself in knots. Who actuallly needs to be able to do that!
We need to get rid of the nonsense that major gym sessions, super sweaty workouts and extreme sports are essential to normal fitness. They are not. They are hobbies.
The real question is “Fit for What? “
“What level of fitness do I need to live my life well?”
“Am I basically healthy? Am I able to do the things I need to do to survive and live happily for my stage of life?”
And of course
“Am I doing what is necessary to ensure I stay healthy and live on to a great old age”
Plus: “Do I have a reserve of fitness to draw upon if needed? For illness, accident, hobbies, emergencies?”
You might like to ask too: “Do I really have any need to do this? “ or whatever the media are currently touting as an old person staying young in their unthinkingly ageist way.
We are not talking here about, diet, weight, BP, smoking, drugs, alcohol etc. But about the kind of fitness we associate with muscles, joints and movement. And not forgetting that your heart is a muscle!
Strength, stamina, normal flexibility and balance are your core needs. Not handstands! Not marathons.
Back to the beginning:
Fitness at 83. Fit for what?
Basic Physical Needs: be able to get myself upright and to the edge of a bed. Then, lift my 11 stone body to a standing position and be able to move it around safely. Certainly enough to do whatever necessary to keep myself functioning. Toilet, get dressed, find food.
Enjoying Life is an essential need. How you do it is a personal choice. I do not have active hobbies. I dont like sports, nor do I go to the gym. But many older people do. So they need a level of fitness to be able to keep on doing what they wish as long as they can.
I dont need that. My enjoyment in life comes from family and friends, reading, writing, and being curious. Discovering something new and of interest is one of my biggest joys in life. TV and Being able to walk a few miles makes many more things possible. The pleasure of parks and countryside, travel, history, galleries, theatre and cinema are true delights. And being able to dance!
Resilience , Stamina, Future? Well, no doubt 83 is on a downward slope. Muscle strength can disappear rapidly and so does flexibility. Both need constant watching. A constant fight to get them back if you let them slip. Therefore I always try to stay ahead, build up a reserve. Walking 1 mile is essential, so I regularly push myself to 4 or 5. Similarly all I need to lift to get out of a chair is my body weight. But I want a reserve for shopping, suitcase or rucksack and maybe a toddler. So always do that bit more that’s you need now.
Check every joint for normal flexibility every morning. Stretch them all and if they slip bully them kindly but firmly for a day or so until they get back to full range. Especially hips knees and shoulders. Rolling and twisting is great for spines.Simple Yoga is excellent. If you dont know what normal ranges joints should have or how to stretch them see the Physio at your GP practice. NOT a fitness or Yoga fanatic.
Practice balancing and wobbling on one leg. Walk on tip toe around the house. Do Tai Chi type exercises. And dance! Anyhow you like, favourite music, sing along, dance with yourself, skip around. Enjoy.
Strengthen muscles: Make them work against some kind of resistance. Anything! Lifting my body weight up from a chair 30 times twice a day is my regular. Arms crossed. You can do push ups on chair arms too. Use any kind of weight to lift : books, tins of beans..so long as it is hard work and done til you are tired. Lifting small children counts! Those elastic exercise bands are great too. And if you are sitting or lying, just keep flexing muscles against each other. Hard contractions held for a count of 10.
Develop a prompting routine. Balance exercises ever time you put the kettle or microwave on, whilst it heats. Strengthening and stretching whenever the TV ads come on.
Always an active spell every day. Get a bit out if breath. Give your heart and lungs a work out. Walk fast, swim fast, cycle, dance with energy or make love… Play is wonderful exercise, balls are great. Grandchildren, dogs, throw, catch, bend, fun in fresh air or those old wall games we played. Ideal. And of course gardening, housework,……
I so agree with you as I strongly believe that we do need to take some responsibility for our ageing and we can do that every day by doing some kind of exercise (e.g. walking) plus exercises (e.g. chair lifts using body weight). This is so important and can easily be done outside the gym environment. However there’s nothing like Pilates taught by a competent Pilates expert for those core muscles. I go twice a week and hope to keep that up for decades (aged 72 at the moment) Great and sensible post – thank you!
Sensible advice, Joyce. We do need to work out what we want to be fit for and go after that. I really love swimming, and if I do it regularly it helps keep me fit for all the other things I want to do. Thanks for the tip about a prompting routine for exercises that can be done during the day.
I think it’s key that one enjoys whatever exercise we choose. That is not to say that some days one just cannot be arsed but if one makes oneself get off said arse one usually feels better. I think the ‘listen to your body’ is sometimes used by my little 70yr-old body as an excuse to bale out. It’s a bit of a lazy arse. The truth is I have never come back from a run thinking, “oh I wish I hadn’t gone for that run”.
I have always thought that I hate the gym having tried to keep up weekly sessions in the past and become so bored. But now I’m enjoying it as if the weather is nasty I can use the treadmill and listen to a good podcast, then do some weights and then if it’s a Thursday finish off the morning at my brilliant Hatha Yoga class (not very chanty or other such stuff). The other members are mixed ages,about my age or older, some young, a few men, some recovering from hip ops. We are lucky to have a very well-qualified, patient, careful teacher. We all go for coffee afterwards, it’s great. Then home for a shower. I have never enjoyed the gym like this… and it’s a council facility too.
Yes, great advice Joyce. I often tell the cashier at a supermarket that lifting/carrying a full shopping bag keeps my body strong. Ok, I don’t shift 40kg bags of grain or fertilizer around any more, something I’m glad to give up, but let’s not go overboard and not lift anything heavier than a finger☺
I so agree with all you say, Joyce. I have just joined the septuagenarian club which has put me into a minor panic about the slippery slope, but thankfully I have always been an active type. I’m aware these days that one has to “run to stay still”, so I’ve upped the ante, and most definitely feel the better for it. I live in a rural area so going to the gym involves a 10 mile round trip, but lovely country walks are there for the taking!