A month or so ago, I went to a great exercise class for elderly people. An exercise instructor from Sydney, Stephen Gammack, came to our area and offered a class with people from age 64 (I think I was the youngest of the class – I still have to get used to being in the elder group!) to 77 years old. It was quite revealing and I was shocked at how weak and unfit my body was.
We started the class sitting in a chair doing some movements to warm the body up. I thought ‘Oh, this is all going to be too easy and possibly even boring for me’. But after a few minutes I felt ‘No this is just right for me’. It was even bringing me to the edge with some movements and I had to be a bit slower than the others and make some moves a bit smaller at times.
Now I feel that I have had a good workout today and I have become aware that I have been feeling a bit weak lately. I used to exercise on a regular, sometimes daily basis. I am motivated to exercise more regularly again to help my body cope with the tasks of daily living.
I have been in and out of hospital over quite some years now and I feel the older I get, the faster I lose my strength and fitness. And each time I am out of hospital I start to build up strength again, lose it again being in hospital, build it up again etc. My fitness and strength has gone up and down over the years and I did get a bit disheartened and lacking motivation to keep exercising. The building of strength – and I don’t mean body-building – can be a bit challenging and needs some perseverance whereas I feel when I have a certain fitness already it feels easier.
I did not exercise a lot after my last surgery. Now I go swimming once or twice a week. I just love water and so swimming comes easy to do, also because the water is heated and available in a pool just up the road.
And I walk daily.
I don’t intend to push wheelbarrows up and down the hill anymore or carry mulch or fertiliser bags or other heavy things as I used to do. I just want to be strong enough to look after myself like doing the laundry, cooking, shopping, cleaning, growing my vegetables, walking upstairs or uphill easily etc.
It does not need a lot or to be very strenuous, just some gentle but regular exercises. Maybe a little bit more now in the beginning and then a regular routine in my daily rhythm to maintain it, and always gentle, no pushing beyond where the body is happy to go. I don’t believe in ‘no pain no gain’. Sooner or later you will hurt your body.
I also realised that if I don’t have strong enough back and tummy muscles to hold my body up, enough to keep a good posture like spine straight, shoulders back and head up, it affects how I feel. Try and slouch and have a drooped posture and notice how you feel. Then stand or sit upright and straight in a good posture and observe how that feels. To me it makes a big difference. I feel more powerful, more me, confident and able to deal with what comes my way.
From my experience, I also need exercise to be fun and enjoyable otherwise I might give up or find excuses not to do it. A live class with a bunch of people exercising together can be a lot of fun if you make it that.
Stephen our instructor was great and adjusted the class to where we were at and he found that we all had a good balance for our age. Everybody exercised at their own pace and level. After the class I feel motivated again to put a little exercise time into my daily rhythm.
It does not have to be a whole hour but maybe 15-20 minutes daily, one day strengthening my arms, next day maybe my legs, for my posture stomach and back muscles are very important. And because I love walking and swimming this will also stay in my rhythm. And all this will make daily living and looking after myself lighter and easier.
Ingrid L., Australia
Ingrid also blogs at A Life Unfolding