What better time of year to blog about exercise and its role in health and, yes, self-image, than on a bleak, rainy New Year’s Day? Ever since I turned on to exercise about 25 years ago, I’ve marked the passing of each new year with a five-mile run.
And, for many years, I thought a good, hard run was all I needed to be in tip-top shape. But, as my wife studied to become a licensed physical trainer I learned by osmosis how myopic a cardio-only perspective is to health and well-being (not to mention self-image).
New York Times Health Columnist Jane Brody authored a recent article on the subject in which she, too, says cardio alone isn’t enough, especially as we age. Brody cites various experts who say the body begins to significantly deteriorate as early as age 40 unless we undertake a serious, varied exercise program that includes weights, and is aimed at slowing the inevitable deterioration in muscle, bone strength and flexibility.
Exercises aimed at improving posture, strength and posture are just as important as those aimed at building heart and lung capacity. Why? Because musculoskeletal injuries are now the number 1 reason for seeking medical care in the U.S. And, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths for men and women 65 and older.
In short, the old bromide of walking three times a week for 20-30 minutes simply doesn’t cut it anymore and won’t forestall what Brody refers to as ‘Boomeritis." According to Brody, there’s a simple, eight-question survey one can take that will let you know where you net out (it’s available in a recently-published book entitled, Age-Defying Fitness by Peachtree Publishers . Brody and various experts suggest anyone nearing 40 years of age, or older, should take the test to see where they stand (or sit, for that matter).
A balanced exercise regimen is no longer a nice-to-have, image enhancing program. According to the most recent reports, it’s a fundamental antidote to aging — but only if it goes far beyond the traditional cardio-only approach. Having taken the Age-Defying Fitness test, I know I have to do more exercises aimed at increasing balance and flexibility (which means forcing myself to stretch after a workout).