Sunday, May 6, 2012

STEP FOUR: Make Time For Exercise. A Body In Motion Stays In Motion

    Why is it so difficult to make time for exercising? I've always been an active, athletic person. When I was young I bicycled everywhere. There was swimming and waterskiing, and lots of tennis. In my thirties and forties, it was jogging and aerobics classes several times a week. I was an equestrian well into my late fifties, riding four times a week or more. I had amazing energy for so many things including parenting and a demanding career. Now my gentle yoga class takes a back burner to any excuse I can invent. If it wasn't for my dog's need to be walked, I worry that the only activity I would get would be climbing the stairs to the bedroom each night.

    The thing is, physical activity is a must if we are to stay healthy and vital in the years ahead. My father always said, if you stop you drop. He was never more correct. He mowed his own lawn and played golf several times a week, walking the course rather than taking a cart, until he was ninety-five years old. I truly believe that if my mother hadn't fallen and broken her hip, forcing them to move into an assisted living facility, he would have lived well past one hundred years. Unfortunately my poor father went down hill fast without his daily yard work and the responsibilities of his home. After only two years in assisted living he passed away, in my mind of sheer boredom and a new sedentary lifestyle. When he was forced to stop, he dropped.

    When I think of my father I am inspired to get off my rear and get my feet moving. Here are things I'm doing to keep the momentum in my daily life.

  • WALK:  Quite simply the easiest way to get some exercise it to put one foot in front of the other and walk. My morning dog walk has expanded from a quick loop around the block to a brisk thirty minutes around the neighborhood or the nearby park, plus a second walk in the evening for fifteen minutes at the very least . I take the stairs whenever possible, avoiding the elevator at the doctor's office, in office building or in the parking deck. I look for parking spaces farthest from my destination at the shopping center, rather than the closest - anything to get in a few more steps.
  • EXERCISE CLASS: There are an amazing number of options out there for more formal exercise programs. Whether you choose the YMCA, a local health club or even regularly scheduled exercise programs on PBS or cable TV channels, the results are always good. For some reason I am finding it difficult to commit to an exercise program outside my home, although it is still on my radar for consideration. Instead, I've purchase instructional DVDs of yoga and aerobic exercises. I keep one in the DVD player at all times, and have my exercise mat where I can see it for inspiration. My goal is one hour of instruction, three times a week. Some weeks I'm good, some weeks not so much - but at least I'm trying, and I'm still walking the dog daily without fail.
  • YARD WORK: It may not work up an aerobic sweat but yard work does force different muscles into action. Despite paying someone for regular yard maintenance, I still like to do some of the work myself. I enjoy raking leaves in the fall and trimming back the shrubs. Planting seasonal flowers and keeping the beds weeded gives me a sense of satisfaction as well as forcing a little extra bending and reaching. I make an effort to putter in the yard regularly for the fresh air as much as the exercise. Seems there's always something that needs doing, even if it's only picking up twigs after a rain storm.
    What is important is remembering that the more you do, the more you will want to do. Sometimes it takes serious encouragement and a good push, but I always feel better mentally and physically once I get going. Even better is the budding new desire to find other ways to work my muscles. There are kayaking lessons at a city lake recreation area staring soon, and trail riding is available at a stable just outside of town. I also have riding a zip-line ride on my list of possibilities. Just do it - for fun and fitness!

Next week, STEP FIVE: Pay It Forward. Good Things Are Best Enjoyed When Shared With Another.

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