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Reasons to Exercise Now, Not Later

It was early on Sunday morning, 7AM or so. Having just finished my 45-minute, at-home, exercise routine, I was perusing The New York Times with my second cup of coffee.

In the Review section was an essay about the contributor's experience with his corner smoke shop, a place he had become more familiar with recently due to accidentally allowing his New Yorker subscription to lapse and now purchasing it each week at the store.

”Here’s another thing about Ali’s shop: There’s no haggling here. This may seem obvious, but apparently it’s not. I went in last Friday night to buy my New Yorker and saw an imposingly built young man try to haggle over the price of a single cigarillo.

“He fished in his pockets and spilled pennies on the counter. “C’mon, man!”

“You might have thought he’d insulted Ali’s grandmother. Ali sent that young man on his way.

“What, they think I’m going to bargain with them just because I have an accent?” he said to no one in particular, in his best indignant voice. Then he laughed. I did, too.”

I know that guy, Ali. Well, not Ali himself but a man just like him ran the bodega on my corner in Manhattan (probably every other bodega too) and I miss him.

The writer asked Ali why, no matter what he purchases, the price always comes out even to the dollar. Ali smiled. “I round it off. Less change; it’s good.”

My guy did that too and you won't get an argument from me about it.

There's more and it's a good story but you'll need to read the rest of it yourself because what I really came here to write about today is the importance of exercise even when we are old – maybe even moreso than when we were young.

(Actually, you should exercise all your life but here we are at this blog long past the young part and old is what we're stuck with.)

The writer of the smoke shop essay is Bill Hayes who is, according to The Times, the author of “a forthcoming history of exercise, Sweat."

I know this guy too – well, I know his name. I always pay attention when it shows up in the paper and it seemed a nice bit of serendipity that the topic of his upcoming book was a reminder that I needed to stop fooling around with the morning paper and get to work on Monday's blog post.

What I had intended to tell you is this: that never does a week go by without at least one new research study – and often two or three – being published showing that the only fountain of youth there is, is exercise.

Every week the studies come in from here, there and everywhere in the world all with the same conclusion:

Maintaining or boosting your physical activity after age 65 can improve your heart's electrical well-being and lower your risk of heart attack...”
”Among older adults at risk of disability, participation in a structured moderate-intensity physical activity program...significantly reduced the risk of major mobility disability...”

I can give you many more of those – I have pages and pages of such links to research about the astonishing benefits of exercise for old people, young people, middle-aged people. All people.

But, even if I was reminded that I should be working, that word “Sweat” was calling my name and I couldn't resist following its link. You'll be happy I did; what I found is much more interesting than a compendium of scientific studies.

On Hayes's pages at the Red Room website, there is a blog post titled, 50 Reasons to Exercise Now, Not Later. It starts out like this:

”For years, I've been carrying around in my head thoughts, observations, and personal tips on exercise. I've started to keep a list: 'Sweat 101s,' I call them.”

And each one is a little miracle of motivation. A sampling:

#1: Try to learn something new every time you exercise. Start today.

#3: Don’t exercise only because it’s good for you in the long run. Life is short. Find other reasons.

#8: See someone rocking out & clearly enjoying running on the treadmill? Ask what they’re listening to. Buy that music.

#16: Don’t designate 3 days a week, e.g., for exercise. You will come to dread them. Instead, exercise every day—some more, some less, sometimes at the gym, sometimes not. Think of exercise as just a synonym for movement.

#27: What is good for your body is good for your brain. Clear your head: Work up a sweat.

#50: Get exercise because of how it makes you feel NOW—in your body, about your body, about yourself—not because of how it may make you feel or look later. There may be no "later."

Now go read all of Bill Hayes's 50 Sweat 101s. You will feel better and more eager about exercise than you ever have. Me? I can't wait to get to the fitness center this morning.

And remember, even if your mobility is limited, there are plenty of ways to get the benefits of the kinds of exercise you can do. Search online for “limited mobility exercise” and as always, check with your physician before beginning.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: I Have Become One of “Them”


The next hurdle is how to get our near and dear to exercise. I'm no athlete, but I try to do something every day, usually a 30 minute or more walk.
I watch my husband grow roots in his chair and struggle to exit the car and worry. He's only 67.

Right ON!!!!

I wish I could learn to like exercise. I just hate it except for swimming but then winter always comes along and I don't want to go out in the cold and snow to get to the pool.

Combining any exercise with something else is the best way to make sure you keep doing it. I started walking as my exercise routine but after a couple of weeks I got bored with it, then I found a way to make it interesting. I bought a camera and started taking photos as I walked around NYC, 10,000 photos later, I still try to walk a couple of miles each day.

And then there's this amazing
91 year old marathon running woman....

It is important to understand that elders who participate in extreme sports for their age are not the people other elders should try to emulate.

Good for the 91-year-old marathon runner but she is not typical nor should the media or anyone else hold her up as a role model.

Doing so demeans the majority of old people who are not capable of such physical feats nor should they be expected to.

Went to read the 50 tips, and laughed out loud at squatting and balancing on the balls of my feet. But...

Yesterday I danced to Justin Timberlake's 'Mirrors'. (Don't tell me the music today is awful. There's a ton of wonderful stuff. Join Pandora and find out). Today I'll do some seated Yoga exercises with Peggy Cappy (Google her, then buy one of her DVD's), from which I end up feeling refreshed and relaxed, tomorrow I'll walk a mile in my neighborhood - with my camera - ala Bruce. Then I'll repeat.

Lest you think I'm a self-righteous braggart, I only started this daily devotion two weeks ago when I realized I was sitting more than I cared to and getting depressed about it. I only committed for a month and will take stock of whether there have been any benefits. Anyone care to place a bet?

I have a back condition that makes walking or standing for more than 30 minutes painful. But you can walk a mile in 30 minutes and the benefits last 24 hours.

The hardest part about getting more movement in your life is thinking about it.

Started a regular routine of daily exercise when I was in boarding school (age 9) and I've continued it for 71 years. When I was diagnosed with lumbar stenosis last year, I thought for a while that I'd be spending the rest of my "golden years" on the bench but then I realized that I could continue my activity all be it a bit slower and beat the stenosis as well. Now I walk at least 7-10 miles a week, ride my bike 15-20 milesnand play tennis 3 X a week. And I keep telling my sedentary contemporaries. "Get off your ass- keep moving."

I have exercised 6 days per week since I can remember, an hour each session. It takes discipline and priority. It is worth it for longevity, mobility, energy, and maximum healthy life style. I am 66 and keep up with young people in the high tech industry, in a large part due to this routine. Also, it is great for mental health as it reduces built up tension. In order to make it work, you must avoid missing any scheduled exercise day, because, the demise of the program begins with just one excuse to skip a day. Just do it, you will probably not regret it.

I, too, have a back condition that makes standing painful. I wish I could stand for 30 minutes, Lauren, but just standing long enough to shower and brush my teeth is painful and I have to sit for quite a long time before standing again without pain.

I guess I had better head for the limited mobility site and see what I can do. Thanks for the tip, Ronni.

When I was still working, I started walking as a way to avoid suddenly-raised parking rates. At first I parked far away and walked from there, but after a while I got so enthusiastic I walked the whole way there. It was nearly four miles and took me just over an hour. I took the bus home in the evening.

Walking to work was wonderfully energizing--it gave me solitude and time to think about things while revving up my body. I walked year round--rain or shine--and loved it.

Now that I'm retired I've continued my walking. I use it to do errands, like going to the library or the bank or the post office. And sometimes I just walk for an hour.

This winter I had a knee problem that forced me to first curtail and then quit walking for a time. I was miserable--so cranky and out of sorts! But I did my physical therapy exercises faithfully and I started swimming, and slowly I've regained the ability to walk, though not quite as much as before.

I am 66, still weigh the same as I did when I was 26, have low blood pressure and am not on any prescription medications. I credit much of my good health to my consistent exercise program and am so grateful.

I think the key to sticking with an exercise program is to pick something you actually like to do. There are any number of ways to move your body, so experiment until you find one that you enjoy.

For me, the beauty of walking is that I can just fit it into my day, while accomplishing other things. I need to go the library, for example, so if I go there on foot, I get some exercise. I find going to a special place, e.g., a gym, just to exercise to be tedious, and all the repetitive motion a bore. But that's just me. I'm sure others love gyms.

Four years ago I began collecting songs that I loved and ones that I can move and dance to and ended up with 16 hours of my greatest hits.

I try to walk 45 minutes a day --- inside, outside, all around the house. What ever works for me that day.

With my greatest hits music on an MP3 player--sometimes I walk more than I need because I just want to hear the next song.

Look at all the enthusiasm you stirred up today. All the ladies in water aerobics were discussing that 91 year old who rant the marathon this morning. :)

Oh boy, did I need this nudge! Thanks.

A lesson learned late but not lost on me. Though active most of my life, even at work, my diet sucked. Since retiring I have learned that the one-two punch of a whole foods diet with little to no meat and exercise not only keeps me out of the doctors office but has me feeling better overall and sleeping better at nights.

A needed reminder, I just started walking again with a camera to keep me interested. My neighborhood is very walkable with many places to sit if you need, and I do need after about 20 minutes. I plan short hikes with the younger grand kids, we seem to have the same attention span.

#40: Get stoned on your own body chemistry: Have an endorphin rush.

Works for me every time!!!

We're coming up on four years since the death of my son and going to the Y to workout 3-4 times a week was a definite help.

Of course, I'm one of those people who really enjoy or maybe really need it....

I am 55 and at the end of this month I am taking training to become a yoga instructor. I am probably crazy, but yoga makes me feel good and I want to share. My husband asked me last night why I suddenly decided to do this and I told him it was because he took me to see Paul McCartney in concert last summer. He is in his seventies and still a rock star and still dancing all over the stage. He inspired me to consider all of my possibilities, no matter my age.

As I age, I do a lot of things, some worthy, some just wearisome -- but in answer to a reflective group discussion I found myself in recently, I found myself saying that "all I want to do is go outside and move!"

I'm incredibly lucky when it comes to exercise: I like it, it feels like me.

My Dad is 97 and has always been a walker and a dancer. He loves both but is to the point where he dances more than walks. His suggestion is yours and the author you quote- keep moving. I'm a walker and runner and love how I feel when I do. I loved the 50 reasons to exercise now- thanks!

I'm convinced. I've been a walker or runner since I was a teenager. For one thing I love to walk outside with spectacular views of Lake Washington and the Olympic Mountains.

For another, I've been a bird-watcher for decades and can see a wonderful array of species from the tiniest humming-birds to bald eagles.

Exercise does wonders for my physical health and my mental health.

Bravo to all the dedicated exercisers, take a bow you who can rise at 6 a.m. and walk or go to the gym, kudos to the yoga enthusiasts. I've been there, done that, but my overwhelming laziness (or self-destructiveness) always takes over eventually. What seems more natural to me is staying up until 3 a.m. , rising at noon, making something for breakfast that can be held in one hand while I read or make to-do lists with the other, reading the newspaper and the many interesting on-line publications I have somehow found myself subscribing to, doing the NY Times crossword, schlepping half-heartedly around the house to keep up with just enough housekeeping chores so that the place doesn't fall apart completely, settling down for an afternoon reading in my current novel, then pulling together some kind of sandwich or microwaveable thing to eat, and settling down to watch a TCM movie or maybe something more modern like The Walking Dead or Veep or Looking or The Americans---life is short and there is just so much good stuff to watch and you can't really pay attention if you're trying to do it from a treadmill.

Okay, my bad. My very bad. I am wrong and the rest of you are good and I wish I could talk myself into the actuality of that instead of stopping with the theoretical. But there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel and, while I do in fact enjoy my sedentary, kind of boring life, I have no wish to extend it. I find it hard to believe that I've come this far without really trying, but 79 is good enough for me and anything beyond 80 is not going to be the frosting on the cake, but the shit that I begin to slide around in.

What I liked best about this blog post is that it introduced me to the essays and blog of Bill Hayes, a Guggenheim Fellow whose work I had inexplicably been unaware of. So following the link to the 50 reasons to exercise led me to a bunch of really interesting essays that I just had to read. One more reason to avoid exercise.

It gets harder and harder. Thanks for being an inspiration. and while Meg thinks the 80's are about slipping in you know what, the truth is many people in their 80's still are enjoying life. Life is what it is and exercise makes it better. But could I tell you about my leg cramps? I hate to whine, but.....

I've been asthmatic all my life so early on I learned that any exercise where I worked up a sweat and breathed heavily - even a good belly laugh - would have me wheezing and gasping for breath. Except for sit ups, the Presidents Physical Fitness program of the 1950s was pure torture. I'd gasp for breath for hours after recess or, later, PE. So you might say I'm hardwired to avoid exercise.

Nevertheless, I fight with myself three times a week to do arthritis exercise in our public pool. And it is a fight every day. I have a yoga teacher who comes to my house to provide movement for some of us overweight arthritic/fibro senior women once a week and I do what light weights and stationary biking I can on a fifth day.

The truth is I hate every minute of it. I do it because it is the only buttress against further weight gain and the debilitation of fibromyalgia. #3 be damned.

I walk (almost) every day and find ways to incorporate movement into my daily routine. I'm no athlete (never was) but I think I'm doing enough to fend off disability to the extent possible at 77. I've been able to maintain an 80 lb. weight loss accomplished in my 20s.

However, I don't have to like exercise--and being lectured constantly about exercise is a total turn-off for me (I don't mean you, Ronni--you're just the messenger in this case). I KNOW exercise is healthy--so is soy milk and kale, both of which I also detest. So, I'll continue to do the best I can.

I agree with you Meg. I am NOT a morning person. I do some of my best sleeping after 6am I have had arthrtis since I was 27 years old. I do some strtaching in the pm. That's it.

Go Meg--- You sound like an interesting person--

My husband and I belong to a retired teacher cycling club that rides 40 to 50 k's a week.

I take Zumba gold one hour a week. It's fantastic.

The music is addictive.

I play badminton one night a week.

Gardening is my passion. I spend hours hauling bags of earth, transplanting and collecting rocks for landscaping.

My car is a hauler!

Last week I dug up two five foot tall cedar bushes that were dying. It was a heck of a job.

After that was done, I had to buy new shrubs, collect rocks and fill in the spaces artistically.

I go off island to find rocks around construction sites.

I enjoy digging, pulling weeds, doing pretty much the same moves as in yoga.

It's exhausting in a good way, and satisfying to look out the window and see the results.

Our poppies are about ready to bloom. plate size orange and pale pink.


Mom keeps telling me to slow down.

But I remind her that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Wow, "doctafill", I'm a fairly high-energy person, but I'd probably have been done way before digging up the cedar bushes! What can we "slugs" say?

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