I have a vivid memory from about ten years ago of hoisting myself up out of “my chair,” accenting the activity with a grunting noise. Something triggered in my mind and informed me that I had been making that noise a lot lately—when I got out of the chair, out of the car, when I sat, when I rose, when I walked up the stairs, when I bent to pick something up, etc. Suddenly, the light came on: That’s the ‘old lady’ sound! I was A.P.P.A.L.L.E.D!
I took a quick inventory of my life. What else was old about me? Where else was an ‘old lady’ sneaking into my behavior, my thinking?
Signs of an Old Lady
For starters, I pretty much loved ‘my chair.’ I did my obligatory exercise at the start of most days (walking), but the rest of the day, I was glued to my easy chair or my desk chair “taking care of business.” I liked staying indoors in the comfort of my thermostat-controlled home. When it came to ‘spending time with the kids or grandkids,’ my activity of choice was going to a movie, eating, or having a good conversation (not a really popular choice with little ones).
After this internal inventory, I sadly conceded that I was, indeed, ‘getting old.’ It would be several more years of sitting, hoisting and grunting before I would discover my age-reversal secret, but if you’ve read my blog very often, you already know what that secret is—or at least the beginnings of it: running.
My Age-reversal Beginnings
I won’t go into how I got started with the running, because I’ve written about that at length; I suggest you read My Running Story for all the juicy details. What I want to focus on in this post is the broad effect this activity has had on my life, in general.
First of all, running did re-ignite some kind of child-like spirit in me. I often catch myself smiling when I run. As I’ve written before (Ten Tips for Getting Fit This Year), I don’t necessarily love the actual act of running; it’s hard! But I do enjoy doing something that is associated more with young people than with, uh, ‘mature’ people. I like being the boss of my body rather than the other way around. I do like being able to truthfully say I can accomplish a physical feat now that I never accomplished in my youth (it never occurred to me back then that I could run a half-marathon; heck, I couldn’t even run a mile!).
But beyond the actual activity, running has made me more active overall. Which brings to mind the saying, “A body in motion stays in motion…” Oh, I still like to see a good movie with friends and family, and I really like good conversation, but my default with the grandkids has become more active. We jump on trampolines, run races, go on hikes and bike rides, play at the park, go bowling, etc. In the ‘old days’ (pun intended!), I would have done all of these things (except maybe the racing), but it would have been the exception, not the rule. And it would have wiped me out for at least the rest of the day—maybe longer. Now, however, it is nothing out of the ordinary to go for a hike and then continue with the rest of the day as usual.
There have been some fairly recent studies that indicate that it is a life of activity that makes a serious impact on health and longevity. That is, it is more effective fitness-wise to be moderately active ALL day than it is to have a strenuous workout session in the morning and then sit at a desk or in your easy chair the rest of the day.
A news-making study last year exposed the perils of sitting for extended periods of time as a way of life (Get Up. Get Out. Don’t Sit). Sitting can literally cut years off your life! And most surprising to me was that this applies even to faithful exercisers who might think they are exempt from the findings in the study since they pay their exercise dues. As it turns out, however, sitting hours a day can be deadly—for the exercisers as well as for the sedentary!
It’s common knowledge that the accepted standard for a healthy life is at least 30 minutes of aerobic-type activity a day. Most working people balk at that, saying they don’t have the time or the discipline to work that in to their already-busy schedules. Well, it turns out that another study offers a solution to the time dilemma: the 30-minute/day exercise requirement does not have to take place in one single chunk, but is just as beneficial—maybe even more beneficial—when broken down into three 10-minute chunks (The Ten Minute Workout, Times Three). In fact, given the findings from the ‘sitting study,’ I would surmise that the three 10-minute chunks might be more beneficial, if for no other reason, because it gets you out of “the chair” three times as much.
So the combined moral of these two studies is: break up your sitting with mini-chunks of activity throughout your day. Sounds simple enough, huh?
Baby Steps to Health, Fitness and Youth!
Along these same lines, I read about a woman who walked or ran on the treadmill 30 minutes a day but could not manage to drop the final ten pounds that she needed to lose. She didn’t have time to add more exercise into her schedule, and her eating was already decent. Her doctor advised her to strategically add more walking/running into the natural course of her life (think: mini-chunks). So she parked a little further away and added an extended walk from the parking lot to her office twice a day (5 minutes). She took the stairs instead of the elevator three times a day at work (10 minutes). She purposefully became “less efficient” in her house, adding 15 extra minutes of walking while doing chores at home (this would have been the hardest for me, because I am all about efficiency!). This 30 minutes of natural activity burned an extra 100 calories a day. She changed nothing else in her diet or exercise routine. It took a year, but she lost those stubborn 10 pounds.
I love stories like that which show the cumulative effect of ‘baby steps.’ I wrote my own baby-step story in Setting the Stage for Productivity about moving my morning routine from my living room chair to my basement office and how it has been a positive change for me. You can read the article for the other details, but one of the main benefits is whenever I need a drink, need to visit the restroom or refill my coffee, I have to traipse up 18 steps from my basement and back down again. This is the kind of strategic daily activity that we can add into our lives to avoid the deadly “sitting syndrome” and beat the “old lady sound” (or “old man sound”), as well.
Remember: Sometimes the smallest changes yield the biggest results.
A body in motion stays in motion. I hope to be in motion all the days of my life. How about you? Are you active all day or have you bought into the notion that a workout a day keeps the old lady (or man) sound away? Do you have any ‘small,’ strategic tips for building activity into an already-busy life? Please share!