AGING: Exercise is beneficial, and it pays off quickly

Can exercise be overdone? Most anything can be overdone, but exercise, in my opinion, doesn't seem to be one of them. An acquaintance told me that, in his opinion, I've run out the string on writing about exercise. He's heard enough about the ben...

Can exercise be overdone? Most anything can be overdone, but exercise, in my opinion, doesn't seem to be one of them. An acquaintance told me that, in his opinion, I've run out the string on writing about exercise. He's heard enough about the benefits of exercise. Would I please knock it off?

I'm going to try after this essay. I realize that some folks get tired of hearing a repetitious old song and dance. Certainly he had. My excuse is that most of us don't really get enough exercise in this age of beaucoup modern, labor-saving conveniences. How much of our overload of advertising on paper, screen, radio or TV is devoted to telling us how their product, practice or whatever can make it easier for us? Physically that is. In fact, most of us have far overdone the practice of making it easier on ourselves.

I think Madonna's trainer, Ray Kybartas, summed the benefits of exercise up succinctly; in his book titled, "Fitness Is Religion," he lists seven ways that physical fitness can benefit us. Most of us would like truly these benefits even if it does take some intestinal fortitude to get up off our posteriors and get with the program.

1) Improved quality of life.

2) A slowing down of the aging process.


3) Improved psychological health.

4) Consistent weight control.

5) Improved cardiovascular health.

6) Increased strength and muscle mass.

7) Improved body chemistry.

Most of us can have these benefits and it won't take an arm and an leg. So allow me to make this one last attempt, then I promise to give the subject of exercise a rest. I've mentioned my personal efforts before, and while it doesn't equal a couple fellows that I know, Art Pank and Bill Schiller, it keeps this 83 year old out and about. (Would you believe that Art has chalked up over 15,000 miles total since he started and has over 4,500 in 2007?)

I spend an hour working out at the YMCA three times a week plus some walking on weekends. And I still mow my own lawn, shovel my own snow, etc. At the Y, I do 30 minutes on the exercise bike, usually six miles and then an equal amount of time on weights and fitness machines. And a wonderful part of an exercise program is that you feel better at the end than you did at the start. In fact, some times I have to con myself into getting started. A body at rest truly does tend to stay at rest. But move it and things get better in short order.

In a nursing home study by Tufts University researchers, one hundred frail residents, some as old as 98, were given high-resistance strength training. They participated three times a week for eight weeks and the results were astounding. The residents increased their strength and their walking speed, they doubled the strength of their quadriceps, the major thigh muscle. Many of them began to walk at three times their previous speed and shuffling was ended. Exercise increases muscle tone and stamina, lowers cholesterol and provides other benefits that slow down aging and help you look and feel younger. What is not to like about exercise?


It doesn't take a YMCA or health club membership to begin an exercise program. You already have clothes and shoes. Walking is low cost, and we have lots of room here in northern Wisconsin. If where you are going is too far to walk, park a little further from the entrance door. If there are stairs in the building, don't use the elevator, but don't start climbing too many stairs in the beginning if you are obese (over half of American adults are). Start with a reasonable amount and increase gradually. You should consult your doctor if you are uncertain.

Household objects can be used; no need to buy fancy equipment. Did you jump rope at one time? Still possible. The claim is that a 150 pound person will use about 350 calories in a half hour workout. Everything is available in the home for push-ups, setups and stretching. As an old Montana friend used to say, "Excuses I can get from anybody; from you, what we want is action."

One local women, and I'm not foolish enough to mention any names here, says that the only exercise her husband gets is changing the channel on their TV! See -- here is another example of too many labor-saving conveniences.

I think that I've already said this in an earlier essay, but, unfortunately, there is some truth in it. "Too many confine their exercise to jumping to conclusions, running up bills, stretching the truth, bending over backwards, lying down on the job, sidestepping responsibility and pushing their luck."

I'm not going to reveal the name of the Superior lady in the following story, but it doesn't sound like her husband is getting his exercise. She had a stray cat come around and took a liking to it; the cat reciprocated. So, since nobody claimed the stray, she took Mr. Cat to the vet to be fixed. The vet told her that he was 90 percent sure that the cat had been neutered. She asked how she could be 100 percent sure. The vet told her to take him home and if he began to do some "male" things, bring him back in. She said "Well, he sleeps on the sofa a good share of the day; if he starts hogging the remote, I'll bring him back!"

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D., is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at .

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