An Exercise Prescription
Staying active and exercising as we age.
By Ilene Raymond Rush
April 2008 — Last week's Style section of the New York Times debated "runner's high", the jolt of endorphins that some exercisers get from aerobic activities. While the debate is ongoing, it started me thinking about some things that I know about exercise. Ergo: It eats valuable TV watching time. It can be extremely boring. On more days than I care to admit, I'd be grateful to barter anything (home, dog, first and/or second child) to avoid another trek to the gym.
And, of course, that if you have type 2 diabetes, it's really, really good for you.
By my tally, that makes three against one, which means the ayes have it and everyone can forget exercise and sleep in.
I know, I know. Hi-larious.
All of us know that exercise is the third cog in diabetes treatment, along with diet and medication, and that no matter how we feel about it personally, its here to stay. Exercise is good for everyone, but particularly good for middle-aged folks, who may also be battling a bit of bulge as their once speedy metabolisms slow to an evil crawl.
But, to put it genteelly, none of us -- save for the senior triathloners among us -- are precisely what we once were. Our bodies may be slightly less flexible, our joints a bit sore, and dont get me started on that one arthritic toe. So if abandoning exercise is out of the question, the puzzle is to find exercise routines that make sense for 50 and 60 something's and beyond.
Or, what I refer to as My Personal Holy Grail.
I see everyone raising his or her hands in the back of the classroom. Yes, yes, I know all about yoga. Yoga offers all of this and spiritual enlightenment as well. But at my personal performance level – yoga minus grace spiked with lack of coordination -- it isn't quite aerobic enough to count as exercise.
Lest you think I'm a slug, let me digress. Once, in a galaxy long ago and far away, where there was no husband, no children and no grey hair, I ran. I ran and ran. I ran in the rain and on tracks and on asphalt and on concrete. I even ran races (I have pictures to prove it). My hips were lean, my face weather-beaten, and my toenails black. I ran in Iowa City, Iowa, in temperatures ranging from minus 10 to plus 110. I rose at five a.m., I stretched, and I was off. I talked about times and miles. I trained.
And then, somewhere around 48 or so, I stopped. I'm not certain which hip twinge or throbbing ankle presaged the end, but one fateful day I slapped the alarm and slept in. Did I feel guilty? Sure. But I also woke after the birds and went to bed later than eight p.m. It was a new world.
Yet the conundrum – now what? Once you've been a runner, it's pretty clear that running is the only exercise that makes sense.
So, what to do? What I always do when stressed with a big impossible decision: I went shopping. I turned from running to lifting weights to elliptical trainers to recumbent bikes to Power Hour exercise class. (I even tried yoga.) And while I've yet to discover anything like my beloved running, six years later my sugars are pretty stable thanks to all that shopping, which I continue until this day.
My routine is not as strenuous as it once was. My hips are rounded and I have a stomach, but I've become a more flexible person. I didn't stop exercising, but it doesn't run my life. My coordination hasn't improved (still can't tell my left and right), but the constant variety of activities keeps me and my body from getting bored. I've stopped comparing my stats and appearance with the gym rats and thong girls who fill the Y and simply enjoy what I can do – a true breakthrough.
There, I said it: exercise can be enjoyable. It doesn't have to involve huffing around a dark track in the rain. It might be an hour of planting spring peas. Or walking around the dog park while my mini-Schnauzer nips at my heels. Together, we watch the impossibly driven limber high school runners circling the park, lost in their endorphin waves.
We're not going to be joining them, but we aren't giving up either.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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