Meditations on Fitness Over 50
Written by Barb Browne (pictured left). Barb is a client of Vagus Fitness, mother of 3, wife, nurse and lover of life. Here are her thoughts on why fitness is so important in her life!
When I was asked to write a blog about “fitness over 50,” I was a little flattered but somewhat perturbed. I guess I know something about fitness but I don’t like to think about the over fifty part. It means time is flying and death creeps closer….but I digress.
I have learned a few things about fitness over 50, mostly because I think about it a lot and have done a lot of reading and research on the journey to attain and maintain fitness.
Everything I’ve learned would not fit in this blog, so I’ve picked 5 and I’m calling them meditations, not steps or reasons or essential facts. Here they are in random order.
Meditation 1: Fitness isn’t optional, it’s essential.
Essential if you are interested in longevity or more importantly healthy longevity, that is.
According to recent research,
“Fifty percent of all deaths are related to smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and alcohol consumption.” Smoking has the most detrimental effect, but sedentary lifestyle is a very close second overall.
The finding that amazed me? Among women, physical inactivity had the most significant impact on life expectancy! Read more about that study here.
I was startled by this research and how strongly physical activity levels were shown to influence health. But this is only one of many studies that show the same thing.
All of us will die sometime, of something. Too many will die of a disease or diseases that are preventable or are cured/controlled by way of regular, consistent physical activity.
The exciting thing is that the evidence clearly shows that the bulk of the benefit occurs when a person transforms from being mostly sedentary to being moderately active (30 minutes of deliberate activity like walking) every day. Anyone can do this!
If nothing else, buy a dog. A dog will guilt you into walking for 30 minutes a day without even realizing it. You don’t need to become a fitness fanatic to live longer and healthier, although once you’ve tasted the benefits and formed the habit you may want to!
Meditation 2: Do One Thing
This little concept applies in many areas of life, but there’s numerous examples in the health and fitness world of its power.
Many have a moment of clarity that sparks a concern to change.
We see ourselves in a picture and it’s clear we are bigger than we used to be.
We have to take the stairs and find ourselves wheezing and gasping for air.
We go to the doctor and are told that we have high blood sugars or high blood pressure.
Or, we read a lot about risk factors and health and get scared. Suddenly it all becomes clear that we need to change something.
So we resolve to change EVERYTHING - eat better, exercise 5X a week, upend our lives for the sake of our health. It all sounds great and positive and exciting. The problem is, most of the time, it doesn’t work. Within weeks or months we are back where we started or worse.
Much better is to do ONE THING. Do that one thing consistently. Throw your heart and effort into that one thing. Perfect and become an expert at that one thing. Read about it, learn all you can but most importantly do it.
In my fitness journey that one thing happened a few years ago when I was persuaded to go twice a week to a total body fitness class at Vagus.
I knew something needed to change, I knew my sedentary lifestyle was bad for me and would eventually lead to premature cruise ship holidays and bus tours. But each and every Tuesday and Thursday I had to coax myself with an inner lecture: you can do this. It’s only one hour. You won’t even miss that tv program because you can tape it. You can’t possibly be more tired from exercising than from sitting on the couch. Come on you slug, just do it! (remember, this is me talking to myself so kind insults are allowed!)
Fast forward years later, and I can’t imagine not having fitness in my life. Over the years my activities have morphed and evolved but deliberate movement and activity permeates almost every day of my week in some way shape or form and I can’t imagine it being any different.
Meditation 3: Shortcuts schmortcuts
There are no shortcuts to fitness. There is no blasting off 10 pounds of ugly belly fat in 10 days. There is no cleanse or detox that can possibly work better than your own kidneys or liver.
There is no miracle food that if you eat it allows you to continue eating mounds of junk and still loose weight.
There is nothing but a quiet decision to make a change and then to put the work in to do it. If the only change you decide on is to take the five flights of stairs up to your office each day, then DO IT. Continue doing it until the thought of not doing it seems strange and foreign and unthinkable. Then, take on one more change and do the same thing.
The body transformation starts the minute you make that one small change. But there are no shortcuts…it will be a while before you notice the changes that started with that one small step. Trust- changes will happen.
I did not know when I started with two fitness classes a week those years ago that as a result in my future lay two cycling tours of Thailand, Cambodia and India. The ability to complete the cycling tours started with a small change, a resolve and a willingness to continue. There were and are no shortcuts to where I am today but I’m OK with that.
Meditation 4: You aren’t old, you just need some expert advice
There is no substitute for face to face, 3D expertise. This is the type that cannot be found on the internet. This is not watching a video or buying a program from an anonymous “personal life coach trainer” who loves it when you click on his/her headline and then on the BUY NOW button. Through painful personal experience I have inevitably gotten much less than I paid for when I’ve believed the click bait headlines.
A few years ago, I thought I had bad knees. After all I was getting older and that’s what happens right? You can’t possibly do a full proper squat or deadlift because your knees are bad, because you are getting older. But on the off chance I was wrong about this, I decided to pay for an assessment with an expert.
In one short session, Vagus Fitness looked at the way I was squatting and gave me a couple pieces of advice, based on his expertise and extensive experience with observing and correcting poor movement patterns. Turns out my technique was causing my pain and hindering my efforts to strengthen the muscles that support the knee joint. Literally that one session transformed my ability to move on and squat and become stronger! In addition to everything else you’ve saved me a bundle in internet purchases of programs and advice that don’t work.
I also realized that although increasing age leads to increased incidence of chronic conditions, a lot of what we attribute to age is just plain lack of moving or inefficient moving, which can be corrected.
Meditation 5: Final Thoughts
Over the years, perhaps due to being older, what I do to increase and maintain fitness has evolved. For some people, activities need to change due to life altering injuries or illnesses. I am constantly inspired by folks within our own gym who find themselves with a huge physical challenge but never stop moving and striving towards fitness no matter what it takes one minute or one day at a time.
A few years ago I stopped running because I found it jarring to my joints. Now if running had been my only exercise, I would have been at a loss and might have hunkered down on the couch feeling sorry for myself.
But I have realized that getting and staying fit isn’t so much about what you do, but that you are doing it. So now my fitness plan looks like this:
- one live fit class/week because evidence is strong that strength training is absolutely vital to maintaining functional movement throughout the lifespan and contributes something to every other activity I do.
- Some parts of the year, a series of Pamlattes classes to increase flexibility and strength which diminish with age
- Walks with the dog almost every day. Partly she guilts me into it and partly I am inspired by her hunger and unstoppable passion for walking
- Longer walks on the weekend
- Long cycling adventures once per week (weather permitting)
- Hiking if possible several times/year
- Cross country skiing in the winter
- Active vacations when possible- only because they are fun, not because I have to
- Walking five flights to my office when the mood strikes
It’s really an inner attitude.
I will run if I am able, if I can’t run I will walk.
I will walk briskly if I can, but if not, I will walk slowly.
I will walk five flights of stairs but if a physical challenge keeps me from that I will walk one.
The exact activities are completely optional, but moving is not, as long as I can.
Fitness over fifty or fitness under, the message isn’t any different: morph, change, adapt, evolve, but don’t ever ever stop.