Are you too old to start exercising?
Let’s face it. The odds seem to be stacked against us. We have kids to get to after-school activities and don’t have time. We’re flat out tired. Our joints ache. Our mobility isn’t what it used to be. We are taking 11 pills in the morning and 7 at night for a diverse litany of medical problems. We have heart disease and are scared we’ll croak if we start exercising. In short, no matter what our age, there’s usually at least one very reasonable argument against exercise…but would the benefits of exercise make it worth our time? Let’s find out!
Let me throw this out there first, though: there are absolute and relative contraindications to formal exercise. The absolute contraindications include recent EKG changes, recent heart attack, unstable angina, third-degree heart block and new onset congestive heart failure. Relative contraindications include significantly elevated blood pressure, heart disease (including cardiomyopathies, valvular heart disease and complex ventricular ectopy) and uncontrolled metabolic disease. If you have any of these or have any question about your ability to exercise, you need to see a healthcare provider for advice before starting an exercise program. Exercise has plenty of health benefits, but needs to be addressed and implemented correctly!
Ok, we got that out of the way. Now let’s chat. Like I said, exercise is important for your immediate and long-term health, but two arguments immediately come up – you don’t like it and you don’t have time. Let’s address them.
There’s an acronym I want you to remember: DF ALIVE. It stands for Daily, Fun, Available, Lifelong, Independent, Variety, and Endurance. The first thing I’d say you need to figure out is what you do like that would be considered exercise and what you like about it. You’re never going to be able to maintain a life-long exercise program if you don’t like it. Start there! Make it fun and make it daily. And it’s fine if you prefer doing it with a group – that helps a lot of folks particularly because of the accountability factor but also be open to exercising on your own. There will be some days you can’t make the scheduled group time and I’d still like you to get some kind of exercise in. It doesn’t have to be everyday (which can seem oppressive and daunting when you are just starting out) but I’d love to see you shoot for 5 days a week.
How about time? Studies have shown that even one hour of moderate exercise per week has a big impact on your long-term health. One hour! You can give me that, can’t you? Trust me, you’ll have more energy and flat-out feel better, physically and mentally, long term. And if you feel like you don’t have time still, tell me what’s important to you? Is it being able to pick up your grandchildren? How about continuing to work in the garden? Whatever that thing is that drives you, use it as fuel to make time for exercise. It’ll help you maintain longer what we call your Activities of Daily Living or ADLs.
How about the younger crowd? You say, ‘I’m not old and decrepit. I don’t have heart disease. I’m actually the picture of health’. I, too, once thought I was invincible…but I’m getting older. I notice little things. It takes me longer to recover from strenuous activity. I don’t seem to have the strength I used to have. Things like that crept up on me and I don’t want them to creep up on you. I want you to prevent them. Once we hit our late twenties to early thirties, we lose muscle and bone mass each year. We can slow this process down and maintain our muscle and bone banks by exercising! You want to be that guy or girl who looks 15-20 years younger when you’re 68? Exercise is part of that preventative formula! You may not care about holding grandkids right now, but you will! You may not care right now about having the ability to get up in the morning and go have coffee with your buddies at the Liar’s Table at your local coffee shop, but you will!
Exercise is important for any age – the physical and mental benefits--short and long term--are well documented. See a health provider if you have any question whatsoever about your individual health status before starting an exercise program. Do something you enjoy but also push yourself. Try new things. Involve your spouse or friend. Stick with it and you’ll soon be wondering why you didn’t start sooner!
Dr. Thomas is a board-certified physician who operates Complete Health Integrative Wellness Clinic and Thomas Urology Clinic in Starkville, Mississippi.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is, under no circumstances, intended to constitute medical advice or to create or continue a physician-patient relationship. If you have a medical emergency, you should immediately seek care from your nearest emergency room, and if you have specific health questions, you should consult your own physician.