Monday, July 15, 2013

Excercise and Health for the Rest Of Us-A Few Things I've Learned Along The Way

I am here to tell you that I am not  the picture of super active, high energy, boomer or retiree. In fact, I am in awe of fellow bloggers and retirees who climb mountains, run marathons, bike race and the like. That is not me. In truth, that was NEVER me, even when I was younger, thinner and more active. 

 Other than jogging in combat boots on pavement during my military career (which ruined my knee for life) I have never been a physical person. I've ridden a bike more than the average person-but that was casually, around town. I walked a great deal-because I lived in Europe and places where things were in walking distance and/or I was walking as a tourist. I never even played a sport in school. 

When I decided to lose weight, I learned a great deal about facts and myths of fitness, weight issues and what constitutes healthy eating.  I also learned about all the generalities out there about what people think. Even when I weighed less, my experience was that doctors answers to many ills were "eat less and exercise".  I had a knee that was damaged by a fall, and that was still one doctor's answer to my woes.  What's worse, I learned along the way that most doctors have no nutritional training and almost no sports physiology training.  Unfortunately, I also learned that most of those physical trainers at fitness centers also have no training in dealing with less than perfect bodies.  Not knowing any better, I allowed one gal to have me doing knee presses-the result of which was my being almost unable to walk for months and screams from my orthopod that could be heard in the next state.

Eventually, I found a doctor who sent me to a nutritionist.  Add that to the fact that I have a daughter with a degree in holistic health specializing in nutrition and some sensible exercise guidance from (of all people) a physiotherapist and I was back on track.  The end result-I am no expert on high energy lifestyle. I have though, managed to learn through trial and error about healthy living for the rest of us...............or at least for myself.

One thing I learned early on is that health is more important than weight, or fitness per se.  I repeat that to myself all the time. I don't care about losing weight, I care about becoming more healthy. If weight loss occurs, that is super de dooper, but I am looking to become a healthy person.  Society obsesses too much over weight and I did not want to become that person.  I will never be 125 lbs or climb a mountain.  I wanted to be a healthier me, not someone else.

Misconceptions about weight (and what is healthy) are everywhere.  Being overweight is not necessarily being obese.  Heavy people can be healthy and fit. Thinner does not always mean healthier.  And people who don't have issues with their weight have absolutely no concept in general of what those of us who are just a little overweight deal with. Large women can be sexy....TMI I know, but I could go on. As a overweight person I never had cholesterol or high blood pressure issues until I was sixty, and I regularly walked the whole of the Washington Mall from one end to the other and back.

I learned that you can't be overwhelmed by the exercise thing. You NEED thirty minutes moderate aerobic exercise every week, and researchers now know that you can divide that into ten minute increments and still have benefits.  I tend to walk thirty minutes five days or on occasion jump into the pool. If you exercise even more intensely (say, play tennis or "exercise walk") you may need less.  This doesn't have to be at a gym, it can be walking around your neighborhood, driving to the store, pushing your lawn mower. If you only have time, walk fifteen minutes twice a day.  Don't let the neighbor who jogs five miles after work make you feel like an underachiever.  If you do that, my experience says you'll end up doing nothing.

Common wisdom aside, little things DO matter in eating or exercise. When I was recovering from my injury but not leaving the house, I would make it a game to be less than efficient around the house, spending ten minutes carrying things from room to room to put away, just to get more movement. Something is aways better than nothing

An old friend once told me that if I continued to exercise at the local fitness center, I would become addicted.  My answer to that is still no, not a chance. There are many days I have to force myself to walk.  Still, I do feel better when I walk, so in a sense it is part of my routine.

For me, it was not just about the aerobic benefits. Walking was not enough.  Especially as we age, we need to build strength and healthy bones.  This was the hardest part for me.  I finally found an online routine that allowed me to do this one sitting, with bands. I still don't follow through with this twice a week. It's an ongoing challenge......

Common wisdom says to exercise with a friend. I actually found that I prefer to walk alone. This seems to be the time when I am most creative with my mental calculator at work.  For me, I don't want to have to talk with someone-even though I leave semi alone, this has become my me time, I guess.

 When it came to food, I simply decided I would eat more healthily and see what happened. For me, this meant eating a large salad before dinner and lunch, and increasing my fruits and veggies to more than five. I also lowered fat except for butter (low fat cream cheese, sour cream, cheese and salad dressing). I also tried to give up on "fake" food, which meant I cut way down on soda (my cold caffeine). It also meant though that I still eat real sugar, because I don't eat artificial things.

I continue to strive to be more healthy-I include exercise on a daily basis and eat healthy foods, while still enjoying gourmet food and my baking addiction. My numbers have gone down, my stamina has increased and my retirement life is full.  Along the way I lost a great deal of weight (seventy pounds), no weight, and then some weight here and there.   The end result is that I am a healthier, if not thin, me. That's what it's all about, after all.


12 comments:

  1. I am not thin either. I exercise at the pool or on a walk about five days a week. My bp is under control and my cholesterol is low. I talked to my doc a couple of weeks ago about my heart risk. He plugged in my numbers and it turns out I am very low risk. I said, "But what about the 40 pounds?" He said, "This calculator doesn't use weight.

    I am fairly fit. Good enough, most days.

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    1. I agree, most calculators for heart risk are more about smoking and other things. I am not as fit as I could be, but I improve.

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  2. I am like you in weight and health. I appreciate all you have written and will fit it in with my rather haphazard lifestyle.
    Take care.

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    1. Jeanne I also have a haphazard life style on many days....I'm not a routine girl so much.

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  3. First I would say that as with everything in life, it's about progress, not perfection.

    I'm active primarily because it makes me feel so good, both during and afterward. I do appreciate what it does for my cardiovascular system and my physique, but primarily I appreciate the energy being active delivers as I move through the rest of my day. And yet, even still I have to force myself out the door on some days, which I guess is part of the craziness of being human.

    We all have our journeys, and we all struggle with something. If you feel good about yourself, then clearly this is not an issue for you, and your energies are better spent elsewhere. Like your new home! Fingers crossed that all goes well with the inspection.

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    1. I know you enjoy your activity Tamara, and it seems to work very well. My activity level is much lower and I am comfortable with that, and many people go in between....I will say although I am laid back I dont have an energy issue other than not being a morning person. Energy has never been an issue.

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  4. Barb, I concur that health is more than body weight. To lose wt, calories in need to exceed calories out. And calorie control isn't the only consideration; the quality of the calories is important too. Various body types need to be considered - ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph. I try to do something physical each day whether it involves calisthenics/walking/bike or a task like mowing the lawn with a push mower. I find that I have lost wt since retirement because I eat when I'm hungry, not because I'm rewarding myself for a job well-done, eating because everyone else around the coffee room table is, less "tired" eating. I'm also more active because being physical is on my to-do list and I have more energy and time now for exercise. Isn't it all about finding balance?

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    1. See, and I eat more in retirement-because I am gourmet cook and now have actual time to bake, eat out and the like, lol. I am not necessarily more active, since my hobbies are primarily sedentary, but yes, we all have our own balance.

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  5. Hi Barb,

    I love your blog and this post. I happen to be a naturally small person and pretty darn active, but as I get older I am trying not to be obsessive about the natural weight gain (10 pounds over last 15 years, during which time I went form pre- to post-menopausal) or keeping up an exhaustive exercise regimen (in my early 40s I took up running and ran 6 marathons in 18 months). My tendency in general is to overdue rather than underdo so I am striving for moderation in all things and that is what I hear you touting in your post. My running is now much lower mileage and interspersed with lots of walkign and yoga. Thank you so much for your blog!

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    1. I would say that youll appreciate the walking and the yoga. Honestly if I could get down on the ground I would probably take pilates a few days a week (I have found a yoga) class that I can do in a chair.) Most of the time I am laid back and dont obsess, but I have my overdoing days as well, lord knows.

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  6. About 15 years ago I started a weekly Sunday morning walk of about an hour. I called it my use it or lose it walk because I wanted to be able to do a lot of walking when I did retirement travel. I started to look for coins along the road when I walked and that was my reward for exercising.....putting the coins in a can to count up at the end of the year and go out on a nice lunch with them. It sounds silly but it did perk up the whole exercise thing. A few years ago, Hawaii state started to give 5 cents refund on aluminum cans and plastic bottles. So I started picking up cans and bottles as I went along too....and get about a dollar a week from that too. It is not much money but it gives more incentive to go out and walk....and some extra money in my travel account.

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  7. One of the nicest things about getting older is that I feel free to ignore all the experts on what I should eat, how much I should weigh, how much I should exercise, how much money I should spend/save/invest. I have been in this body for a good long while and I know how to take care of it. I eat lots of good food: fresh fruits and veggies, meat, and whole grains and I feel wonderful. If I eat sugar or refined grains, after the sugar rush, I will feel sluggish and crave more sugar. My weight is fine for me. As for exercise, I have a neuromuscular condition that limits what I can do. I manage to keep my house, cook, clean, and garden. That's enough for me. I love to read and quilt for relaxation. The experts are welcome to their opinions but I make up my own mind.

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