Exercise and Aging

“Of course you hurt yourself. At your age, you need to work up to strenuous exercise. Take things more gradually until you are in shape.” That’s how my doctor put it when I went to see him about a muscle strain last spring. I had injured myself gardening.
Let me repeat that: I had injured myself gardening. Gardening. I had failed to prepare myself enough for raking and hoeing.
Talk about hurt feelings! I’ve never been an athlete, but I’ve always been athletic — alpine and cross-country skiing, canoeing, wilderness hiking, camping. Maybe I’m not as active as I used to be, but . . .
It took me awhile to accept it, but the truth is I’m not as active as I used to be. My job entails long hours in the car or at a computer, I haven’t skied in years, my hiking is more like a leisurely stroll in the local woods, and camping to me now is staying at an unfamiliar hotel chain while traveling.
Like it or not, I’ve reached the place in my life where activities which used to be easy are not. That presented a problem because I needed to exercise and stretch. When I did, just touching my toes was so difficult at first, I gave up in disgust. Little by little, accommodations were made and new kinds of exercise entered my life.
Now, I start the morning with some stretching. Nothing dramatic mind you, just slow reaching down, leaning back and squatting sort of things. It still doesn’t do much for my ego, but it helps keep things limber.
Before breakfast there is a brisk walk uphill for twenty minutes; that’s my cardio. Then there are easier walks to the post office in the morning and around the village in the evening. Nothing dramatic, but it makes me feel better all day.
In fact, when I miss the stretching or walks, I really do miss them. Taking that time for myself somehow makes the day longer and gives me more time for other things. On the days I’m in too big a hurry for my exercise, it seems things rush out of control right up to the moment I crawl into bed exhausted.
As for gardening, I’m building up to it this year. Starting with a little hoeing, weeding, digging or raking, I make sure and rotate the activities. Nothing for too long. Nothing too hard. Pacing is all and the variety of jobs means less stress on the same muscles and joints.
I’m taking my time, getting in shape for a great year of injury-free gardening and a healthier, happier life. After all, Aging in Place doesn’t happen by accident.

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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.