Saturday, December 7, 2019

Fitness and the Aging Prepper

By Timothy Gamble (July 2, 2019)

I'm a middle-aged man with type 2 diabetes, and vision problems related to my diabetes. My knees aren't what they used to be, and my left shoulder doesn't work quite as well as it should. But don't worry, this article isn't about me. I just want to make it clear from the start that I am no young whippersnapper who doesn't understand the difficulties older folks face. When it comes to fitness and the aging prepper, I am the aging prepper. 

We all understand the importance of fitness. I don't believe I have to sell anyone on that idea. Rather than wasting time convincing you of something you already know, this article will address three issues when it comes to fitness and the aging prepper. First, what fitness objectives we should pursue as we grow older. Second, how we can meet these objectives. Third, how we can overcome the many obstacles we face in pursuing these objectives. 

Fitness Objectives for the Aging Prepper

I have decided, as an aging prepper, to center my fitness plan around three main objectives. Here are those objectives in order of importance:

     1) To achieve and maintain a healthy weight. What is a healthy weight? It will differ from individual to individual depending on factors such as sex, height, build, and age. An even better indicator to go by would be body mass index (BMI). Consult your doctor to decide weight is right for you.  

2) To improve and maintain flexibility, agility, and balance. Flexibility is the ability to move your joints. Agility is the ability to change direction quickly. Balance is the ability to maintain a specific body position while either being still or in motion.
All three tend to decline as we age, especially if we don't take steps to maintain them.

     3) To improve and maintain physical endurance. Physical endurance is the ability to maintain effort or activity over extended periods of time. The better your endurance, the longer it will take before you become too tired or weak to continue your efforts. And the less sore your muscles and joints will be the next day.

Other fitness objectives, such as improving and maintaining speed and strength, may also be important, but I have decided on these three as the most important to work on as an aging prepper. 

Meeting Fitness Objectives

There is some bad news. Meeting these (or any) fitness objectives will take time and effort. Fitness is not something you can buy from Amazon and have it delivered tomorrow morning. You have to work at it. And the results won't be instantaneous. Fitness requires patience. But meeting your objectives will be very worthwhile.

There is some good news. It can be done. And it doesn't require a lot of money. You don't need a gym membership, or expensive equipment, or even fashionable workout clothes.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Go for a walk. Walking is great exercise, and free. Start with a 15-minute walk each day, and over the next several weeks try to work your way up to 45-minutes tor even an hour. You can walk around your neighborhood, in your local mall (a great way to walk on a rainy day), or at local parks and greenways. I even know an older couple who walk laps inside their local Walmart most mornings, rain or shine.

Be active. Yard work - such as cutting grass with a push mower, gardening, raking leaves, or chopping wood - makes great (and free) exercise. In fact, anything that raises your pulse rate and causes you to lightly sweat counts as exercise. 

Stretching exercises and calisthenics are easy, don't require special equipment, and can be done just about anywhere. Just remember the exercises you used to do in gym class back in your school days - jumping jacks, sit-ups, toe-touches, leg squats, windmills, push-ups, and so forth. You can also find lots of videos on You Tube with fitness exercises and workout programs, ranging from basic beginner videos to much more advanced workouts.
 Exercise balls aren't expensive (most are under $30, some under $20) and are a great for yoga, pilates, and other types of exercise, as well as helping improve your balance. You can simply sit on an exercise ball while you watch television or work on the computer. You'll work on your balance and burn a few more calories at the same time.    

Speaking of balance, walking around the house with a book on your head really does help. It'll improve your balance and your posture at the same time.

Consider yoga or tai chi.  Both will help with all these fitness objectives. Again, you can find lots of videos on You Tube. Avoid the new age and eastern spiritual aspects if you are uncomfortable with them, but the physical exercise part is great. 

Whatever exercises you choose, be patient. Start slowly, and gradually increase your workout as your fitness improves. And, of course, consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program or making major changes in your diet, especially if you have a chronic health condition.    

Overcoming Obstacles  

"I'm too old."  
"I'm too out-of-shape."  
"I have bad knees."  
"I have a bad back."  
"I don't have the time."   

Excuses. We all have them. Often times those excuses are very real. But they are still excuses. They are still reasons we give to not do something that we know we should do. 

Everyone has obstacles in their life. Those obstacles seem to only grow as we age. But an obstacle doesn't have to become an excuse. Instead, find a way around that obstacle. It won't be easy. It will take effort. It will take determination. It may take creativity. But you can do it. And it will be worth it.

Most obstacles (excuses) are really just mental barriers. Remember the story of the four minute mile. Prior to 1954, running a mile in under four minutes had never been done by any athlete at any level. In fact, many people thought it was physically impossible for a human to do so. But, in 1954, Roger Bannister broke through that barrier, running a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. Since then, over 1400 athletes have broken the four minute mile. The current record stands at 3 minutes, 43.3 seconds. Its not that humans suddenly become faster in 1954, but rather that the mental barrier of the supposed human physical limit was eliminated as an excuse.

What excuses, real or imagined, are holding you back? What can you do to eliminate those excuses? Or to find a way around, over, under, or through, those excuses? Obstacles are real, but you don't have to let them become excuses.

The American College of Sports Medicine's Complete Guide to Fitness & Health isn't just for young people or professional athletes, but covers the entire life span - from birth through our senior years. It has chapter devoted to flexibility, as well as on specific health conditions such as diabetes and cancer. 



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