Exercise makes me happy. Normally I’m at the gym twice a week and do a solid hour’s workout, at times more. But lately with interstate travel, family commitments, a few old injuries flaring up, plus other bits and pieces demanding my attention, the gym had been put aside.
So, when I finally returned to my weekly gym routine, setting the alarm for 6 a.m. caused me to question my reasons for doing this. Nothing worse than being forced to wake up when you are drifting on a tranquil cloud.
I am not an early morning riser unless there is a specific reason to set my alarm. Since retirement my close friends laugh as waking up naturally is one of my treats. It gives my mind and body the freedom of choice.
Needless to say, no regrets as I leave the house to walk to the gym. Greeted by the morning sun, breathing in the fresh air is invigorating. Once I slide the door open and approach my young, smiling fit trainers who understand my strengths and weaknesses, I realise it is all worthwhile. (I call some of my trainers smiling assassins).
Quick to jump on the walking machine to warm up, I realise how much I had missed my weekly schedule. The next two days can be painful, but my muscles and bones tested. Rather than pick something off the floor I would prefer to kick it aside. But I push myself and groan. This is a good sign, my body telling me it has lacked exercise. The soreness dissipates after a couple of days, and I feel pleased with myself.
Included in my gym workout, between sets, I add a few Latin American dance steps to the gym’s vast range of music, including doof doof beats. Even when I am puffing like an old chook, I can’t help but move to the music, plus it gets my Fitbit steps up.
My regular exercise consists of a solid one-hour session of cardio, weights, and stretching twice a week. It makes a huge difference to my physical and mental well-being. There is ample evidence to support how I feel.
Physically I feel stronger and have extra energy. Experts say the best way to slow physiological changes like ageing, is through consistent exercise. It keeps our body fine-tuned and stimulates our brains to prevent cognitive decline.
Mentally I feel happy, even when it gets tough. Again, there is ample research to demonstrate that physical activity and exercise can improve depressive symptoms and overall mood in people of all ages. Physically inactive individuals have been reported to have higher rates of morbidity and healthcare expenditures.
Even my father, who died at 86, was an advocate for daily exercise. He would say you must puff every day. Into his 80’s he still liked to chop wood for the open fire to keep fit. He would also tell us to run on the spot to get our heart pumping and to warm up in cold weather. I still partake in this practice today, apart from chopping wood as I don’t have an open fire (phew, that’s a relief).
Before retirement, I would ask my already retired friends lots of ‘how do you cope questions’. Interestingly they all seemed to be happy at whatever they were doing but the thing we all had in common, was exercise and more than once a week. It may be Pilates, yoga, gym, dancing or walking with a group of friends. They all said they liked the routine to motivate them and the exercise kept them alert.
In my seventies, my mind says I am in my thirties, although I have come to terms with the need to pace myself. Particularly after suffering from long-Covid. It has taken a year for me to exercise without restricted breathing. I needed a fifteen-minute rest on the recliner. Now I can hold off for hours.
Rather than do solid exercise each day I find a smaller walk in between the gym days works well. I may not always gain the recommended 10k steps per day, but I make sure I move my body. I use shopping centres for more than shopping. They are a great way to increase my step count and in the summer the AC is a bonus. I always park further away from the entrance. There are little tricks to make step counting enjoyable.
In my eyes getting too old is not an excuse for lack of exercise. It sounds like someone is saying I can’t be bothered. Finding incentives is not difficult. Seek and you shall find someone out there keen to help or maybe look within.