Not too long ago I had a shoulder replaced due to arthritic degeneration. It was not a pleasant experience. According to my orthopedist, there’s little I can do about arthritis eating away at my joints. I can fight back, however. His advice—get moving.
So at 60, I find myself doing something I’ve avoided for many years: exercise. I’m from the pre- Title IX generation. We might have played volleyball or field hockey in school but exercise was not part of the daily routine. I have a desk job where only my fingers get exercise. With a cleaning service, I have only to unload the dishwasher—and “lift dinner plate, put on shelf: do 20 reps”—is not really what the doctor had in mind. So digging out my sweat suit, I headed for the field, so to speak.
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First I checked with my doctor to make sure there were no health issues that would keep me from being active. I had visions of neighbors commenting on how in shape I was when I keeled over on the sidewalk “Great abs” they’d say. “Such a shame about her heart.” But the doctor gave me a clean bill of health and advised me to start slow and wear a good pair of well-fitting walking shoes.
Shopping! This is an exercise I can do. One quick trip to the fitness store and I walked out with a comfortable, supportive pair of bright orange walking sneakers. I also picked up a neon yellow glow in the dark vest. It gets hot where I live and I planned to do a lot of evening walks, after sunset had dropped the temperature. No point in getting healthy and being hit by a car in the same month. Plus, in the dark, I’d be only a faceless glow in the dark vest moving down the sidewalk, not the lady next door sweating so much her bra was dripping.
When you walk, my doctor, told me, walk fast enough that you can still carry on a conversation but have to work a bit to catch your breath. I started small, quarter mile trips at lunch, then in the evening. It wasn’t so hard, so I made it a half mile twice a day. Benefits showed up almost immediately. I slept better, I had a stress break from the office, and less than half a mile from my desk I found a really great tea shop.
Other benefits showed within the first month. My back wasn’t as tight and I could bend down without making the “uh” sound I’d heard from my dad for decades. My butt tightened up too. Not in a major, 20-year-old ass way, but less jiggle for sure. To make sure I was walking fast enough to be effective I needed someone to talk to. So I recruited my husband as partner for my evening walks, getting him off the couch too, after a day at the office. Soon coworkers traded heels for socks and sneakers at lunch. I was the walking guru for sure.
I walked the neighborhood around my home, and on the streets near my office. I walked the high school track, which had enough give that it was easy on my knees. I walked in city parks, and paid no attention to the 20-somethings that jogged past in workout clothes that looked like they came straight out of the Victoria’s Secret catalog—the lingerie catalog! No jiggling there! But were they really comfortable in those little bras and stretchy pants? I walked the lakefront where for weeks, I followed the progress of a nesting goose as she hatched a brood and taught them to swim.
Frustrated by a week of daily thunderstorms, I even walked the circuit at the mall, proud of my dedication and speed, until I got lapped by a pair of octogenarians. Good news: you can walk well into your senior years!
Three months in I’m down five pounds, I can get up from my desk without my joints popping, and I feel better. I’m also bored with walking as a full time exercise and I’m looking into joining our local gym. Mostly, I feel good that I can still move and see results, even at my age. As my husband likes to tell me, I’m not old; I’m just no longer young—and that means I can keep moving!