Archives for posts with tag: aging

Recently, I wrote about the importance of exercise and how if we want to both live longer and live better, we have to exercise even if it kills us. I noted that this is particularly true for anyone getting older, which research has shown appears to be most of us.

In fact, according to a new study published in either The Lancet or Teen People, aging patients who met the guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week found that they did not have to wear East Williamsburg hipster fedoras to appear to be younger and hipper.

But I failed to explain exactly what moderate exercise is.

Well, to begin with, we need to take 10,000 steps a day. To break that down into specifics, it means that every minute of the day we must take at least 6.95 steps, even if we are sleeping, eating or reading studies published in Teen People.

To get even healthier and fitter, we also should aim for 30 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity four or five days a week as well as 72 minutes of figuring out what aerobic means, 24 minutes determining how to spell it and 19 minutes of deciding whether feverish manipulating of the remote control qualifies.

Aerobic exercise, which is sometimes known as cardio and occasionally known as Bob, is technically exercise that requires pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Aerobic exercises, for example, would be jogging, swimming or screaming at the television set during a presidential press conference. In other words, it’s exercise that makes you gasp and unable to finish a sent … .

But to be truly fit, cardio isn’t enough. We also need strength training. We need to build up our muscle mass and get stronger so that when we are doing our cardio it doesn’t hurt as much. Also, weight-training helps you lose weight by increasing your metabolism which is the little neurological system inside you that regulates your metabols.

The question is, how do you fit all this essential physical activity into an already busy day?  There are ways.

  • Set your alarm early. Get up at 1 a.m. You can do this if you go to bed at 3 in the afternoon while making believe you are sending out work emails.
  • Turn your commute into a workout. If you are driving, whenever you come to a red light, get out of the car, run around your vehicle twice and then if the traffic has moved on, get into someone else’s car and ask them to drop you at the office. This also has social benefits.
  • Exercise at work. Instead of sitting immobile staring at a monitor, every 15 minutes reach your arms above your head, stretch out your feet and recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. This will work your arms, your legs and your olde English.
  • Sneak in a workout during your lunch break. Order a very large pastrami sandwich. Lift it over your head five times. Rest. Lift the pickle.
  • Multitask. While exercising, think of stopping.

As we get older, exercise becomes more important. That’s because, as we age, our muscle mass decreases. Each year, past 40, we lose 3.5 percent of our muscle mass and since our brains are also shriveling, we can’t remember where we lost it. Maybe it’s in the back seat of the car? Could be in the upstairs closet. Who knows?

But exercise can take your mind off the reality of decreased muscle mass and getting older and help you focus, instead, on that new throbbing in your chest. With exercise, just a few minutes a day can keep your body the finely tuned machine it never was. In fact, according to recent studies, for every minute of exercise during your lifetime, you will have one less minute to complain about exercising.

Exercise also will help you live longer, or maybe it will just feel like it. Among other benefits, it can ward off a multitude of diseases, most of which you can’t spell. Exercise makes you look better, feel better and can help you sleep, as long as you don’t try to nap while on the treadmill. By releasing endorphins into the central nervous system, exercise can produce the state of euphoria, which is near Kansas and renowned for its pushups.

It engages the mind as well, prompting you to come up with even more ingenious excuses for not exercising. “Look, it’s raining dinosaurs!” is a good excuse, even if you’re under covers in your bed imagining abdominal crunches. Or, “Hey, we’re out of Honey-Nut Cheerios!” sometimes can work, particularly if you’re really out of Honey-Nut Cheerios.

We know that exercise is good for us, and particularly good for those of us who are aging, because we keep reading all these articles telling us exercise is good for us, particularly for those of us who are aging. Get out there and walk! Run a marathon! Take up kick-boxing! Beat up your neighbor! Do squats with a kettle ball while swimming during a Zumba class!

Reading all these articles can be completely exhausting, but will get your heart rate up, maybe even to the target range. (By the way, to figure out your target heart rate range, take your resting heart rate — the rate you have when listening to someone sell insurance — multiply that by the number of medications you take on a regular basis, not including vitamins and chocolate, and then subtract how many times you want to nap before it’s even noon. Remember to always exercise at about 85 percent of your target heart rate or 73 percent more than you’d prefer to be doing.)

But while we all acknowledge that exercise is good for us, and becomes more important as we age, let’s admit it: as we age, there are more interesting things to do, like reading obituaries and noticing how many obituary subjects are younger than we are. So, yes, it’s difficult to get started on an exercise regimen.

Here, then, are a few common-sense suggestions to help launch your new fitness plan:

First, assess your fitness level. And don’t be discouraged when you find out you have no fitness level. At least you still have blood pressure.

Consider your fitness goals. It’s probably not realistic to think you can win an Olympic medal in Zumba. Instead, aim for something more achievable — like a participation trophy in 7-card stud.

Build exercise activity into your daily routine. For instance, try to work out every Flag Day or any morning when you intend to pay your utility bills.

Find a fitness buddy.  I recommend my friend Rob, who hates exercise as much as I do and also would prefer getting a beer and a couple of doughnuts.

And remember — before you start any exercise program, check with your medical providers. If you’re lucky, maybe they will stop you.

It’s my birthday today. I am officially … older. And I can’t believe how old I am.

It seems like just yesterday it was yesterday.

I don’t know how this happened.

Maybe it’s that my watch is broken. Or it could be my calendar’s not working because I’m still using the one I got some time ago with the pictures of golden retriever puppies for the months of April and October.

In any case, it does seem like it wasn’t that long ago that I ran marathons, climbed Everest, swam the English Channel and invented sushi.  I may also have written great novels or at least a few really good sonnets.

Or maybe that was someone else.

That’s what happens when you get older. Your memory starts to go and you can’t quite tell the difference between the lies you make up and the lies other people make up.

What I’m sure of, though, is that there was a time when I thought that the age I have just reached was such a … umm, mature …. age that it was an age that my parents were, that U.S. presidents were or that people who played pinochle or canasta were. And yet I have now joined them — and I’m pretty sure of that because I regularly get the five percent discount at the supermarket on Thursdays, even though I keep hoping they’ll card me.

Many — that is, some — years ago, when I turned 30, I told friends who were worried about not trusting anyone over 30 to not worry about it. Thirty was only a number, I said, showing off my then-youthful mathematical skills.

And then on the morning of my 30th birthday, I woke up covered in locusts and also unable to figure out the tip when we were splitting the check. My friends, clearly, had been right.

When I turned 40, I realized that I had no friends anymore because they had all been eaten by locusts. I also realized I was about halfway through the normal lifespan and I had yet to go skydiving or completed composing a sonata or did any sonata composing at all while I was in the middle of skydiving.

At the age of 50, I finally gave up my dreams of playing in the major leagues. Mostly, this was because I could no longer find my Little League baseball glove. Glove memory is the first thing to go, of course. I was also starting to forget where I had left my sushi.

Ten years later, when I reached another milestone birthday, I decided that if 60 is the new 50, and 50 is the new 40, and 38 is the new 29, then I must be losing my once-youthful mathematical skills.

And now, here I am, at an even older age, a numerically significant older age, an older age that ends in a zero. I think I’m going to celebrate by composing a sonata. Or at least a sonnet. Whichever comes first.


First, the good news. The other weekend, I ran a 5K race and I did not end up in the emergency room. In fact, I finished second in my age group.

The bad news is that I’m not sure there were more than two people in my age group.

And to make matters worse, the other guy in my age group just managed to edge me out by a hair — or more precisely, by 17 minutes.

I know I should nevertheless be grateful that I came in second in my age group considering that many people in my age group are dead — or worse, they are on hold with the cable company. And yet, I still have this sense of unfulfilled expectations.

A couple of years ago, I had decided that I should set for myself a physical goal, something that would test my mettle and let me find out if, in fact, I had any mettle left and if that was the reason I was having so much difficulty getting through security control at airports.
As I was getting older, I wanted a challenge that would show everyone that despite obvious evidence, I was not getting older. I wanted a challenge that would stretch me and test me and show everyone that even at my age, I was still capable of major accomplishments and extremely foolish physical exertions.

I considered parachute jumping, snowboarding and eating raw oysters in months without an “R.”

Instead, I decided that I was going to run a half marathon.

I think I may have made this decision before I discovered that a half marathon is actually, in point of fact, half a full marathon. That it is actually 13.1 miles, which, I believe, is the exact distance from here to the emergency room.

Nevertheless, I pursued this goal with the same dedication, determination and perseverance that got me kicked out of college three separate times.

I bought fancy running socks. I purchased a fancy running jacket. I acquired two running caps, one for the winter and one for the summer. Both of them were fancy.

I downloaded an app for my smartphone that would measure my running — how many miles I ran, how many calories expended, how many times I said I’m going to go out running but decided against it because it was too cold. Or hot. Or rainy. Or not rainy enough.
Occasionally, in between excuses, I also trained — or, as we runners like to say, ran. I worked on my stride and my stamina and my speed — or, as some of us runners like to say, I thought about working on my stride and my stamina and my speed while watching television and eating pretzels.

I had hoped to be ready for the half marathon by this spring, marathon season, when “13.1” bumper stickers blossom on cars everywhere.  Instead, I ran a 5K, and although I came in second in my age group, I have begun looking for a month without an “R”.