O.k., I confess. I disliked P.E. in high school. The only sport for girls was basketball, and I wasn’t interested. At age 28 my husband challenged me to run to the end of the block, and I couldn’t do it. That was a wakeup call, and I enjoyed recreational running a few miles a week for the next 30 years. I felt good and had more energy to work in the classroom with teenagers every day. For me, the key to aging is focusing on what I can do and enjoy, not regretting what I can no longer do.
As I neared 60, I suddenly started feeling some pain in one of my knees. My choice was to keep running, which I loved, or stop and try something else. It was difficult at first to change, but I began walking briskly instead. The point was to be moving, and I was doing that. I am now 71, and walking is a regular part of my exercise routine. I also have two new knees, which means I have to modify exercise a bit more. I use walking sticks to hike, and my yoga instructor has helped me modify the routine so I don’t put weight on my knees. I also have a wonderful gardening seat for weeding and deadheading in the garden, so I’m not on my knees. The biggest change in exercise as I’m aging is in my mind—allowing myself to do something that isn’t as strenuous, but keeping up my routines.
I know how important exercise is as I age. Scientists have found that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. People with arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, or depression benefit from regular exercise. It also helps people with high blood pressure, balance issues, or difficulty walking.
I have learned from my elders. My father-in-law quit playing chess as he aged because he couldn’t play at a championship level anymore. What a loss! Another friend quit skiing when he wasn’t comfortable on black diamond runs, and years later friends from the senior center convinced him to join their group for a ski trip. He fell in love with the sport all over again at a vastly different level.
Each morning, when I get up, I look forward to some kind of physical activity. I plan to continue to keep active and am thankful for what I can do today. I don’t waste time thinking about what I used to do.