I’m a Baby Boomer. 1949 is my year. When I have one of “those” moments, I prefer to call it a “Boomer moment” rather than a senior moment. Depending on where you are, you may not even qualify as a senior at my age. I’m 61. One store in town gives discounts to seniors on Tuesdays. Their definition of a senior is 60. Another store gives senior discounts on Wednesdays for those over 65. If you are in sunny, forever young California, you qualify at age 55! Discounts for Disneyland! Seniors are people who are older than I am, sometimes. I want my “Boomer” discount!
I saw my doctor the other day. He’s younger than I am . . . they all are these days. He told me I had a couple of “troubled discs” in my low back. I knew that. He also said I didn’t need surgery. I knew that, too. I told him it was a result of “time on the planet.” He liked that. Said he planned to use it himself. It sounds kinder than “aging” or “getting old.”
What happens with time on the planet? The most obvious is the effect of gravity. Shoulders sag, derrieres drag and upper arms wag. Yes, time takes its toll on us but we can intervene. Did you know that we lose muscle mass, bone density and flexibility as time goes on? Many of the aches and pains that were once thought to be consequences of aging, oops, I mean “time on the planet,” have been shown to be the consequences of lack of activity. That’s where “we” come in by doing aerobic activity for our hearts and lungs, weight training or resistance training for our muscle strength and bone density, and stretches to help improve our flexibility and range of motion.
Think of it as conditioning, maintenance. We are wonderfully made. Our bodies are marvels. Our muscles were made to move. Daily activity sparks our minds, refreshes our souls, invigorates our muscles and makes our bones stronger. It all comes down to moving. That means we need to be physically active on a regular, daily basis, and we need to exercise regularly, too. What does that mean? Physical activity means any kind of moving. Exercise means structured moving. That’s the time we decide to go to the gym, go to the pool . . . you know, time for your workout! Exercise is recommended three to five times a week for at least thirty minutes, maybe even sixty if you feel like it and have the time and inclination. Exercise is another form of physical activity. Exercise can help to slow that “aging” process or the effects of “time on the planet.” Put it all together and it adds up to a combination of more physical activity in your everyday life plus a regular exercise program. I try not to get too technical these days since my “Boomer” mind likes to keep things simple!
I like to think of exercise as a process of making my life easier. I know I have low back problems but when I strengthen my abdominal muscles and back muscles it makes it easier for me to stand up straighter, have better posture and therefore carry myself around more easily. When I go jogging, or walking, swimming or biking, I strengthen and condition my heart and lungs which also makes it easier for me to carry myself around more easily. When I use my weights and do resistance training, it strengthens my bones which have the awesome job of carrying me around the planet for a long time, I hope! The stronger my bones are the better job they will do in holding me up. That’s what it’s all about. It’s really pretty simple when you get right down to it.
You don’t have to be a Baby Boomer. Start where you are and keep going for life. Last Saturday I volunteered at the finish line of a 15K (9.3-miles) run at Blue Lake Park with the Oregon Road Runners’ Club. The first person to come across was a 29-year old man who ran the race in 55-minutes (under 6-minutes per mile), and crossed the finish line with a smile. Towards the end of the race, an 81-year old man came across the finish line in 90-minutes (under 10-minutes per mile), also smiling. Whatever your generation, keep your bodies in good condition. Maintain them. Keep moving. I don’t know what Generation X’ers will be called in their later years, perhaps, “Xeniors” or “Xoomers.” No matter. Just make the best of your “time on the planet” and take care of your wonderfully made bodies. They need tune-ups, maintenance and lifelong conditioning, and they will serve you well for life.
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM
(Certifiable Baby Boomer, circa 1949)