How to be a cracker-jack at 90

Morning is my favourite time of the day. I love to sip my coffee leisurely, while I check the weather channel.
Today it was cold, but sunny. A perfect day!
But what really makes my morning fun is exercise. Three times a week, I go to strength training classes. And five times a week, I do water aerobics.
It feels so good. Jumping rope, the breast stroke, soccer kicks, jogging in place, cross-country skiing, jumping jacks. Things I could never do outside of the water.
But what makes my exercise so fun is the special friends I’ve found there. We talk while we work, and still get our heart rates up.
When I began this regimen a year-and-a-half ago, I was still in therapy after my stroke. And ever since, exercise has been my number-one priority.
“Movement is Medicine” is the title of an article by Carol Krucoff.
“When most people think of medicine, they visualize something like a pill to be popped.“ But “exercise is medicine” is a popular slogan among health and fitness professionals.
And it’s a medicine with no known side-effects.
Krucoff has written a book with her husband, Duke University cardiologist Mitchell Krucoff, called “Healing Moves: How to Cure, Relieve and Prevent Common Ailments with Exercise.” This book explores the latest scientific findings about the therapeutic power of exercise.
It seems exercise can stave off all kinds of health problems. Walking can fight heart disease, boost your memory, and sharpen judgment, say the experts.
Exercise can prevent osteoporosis, reduce the risk of diabetes, boost immunity, avert some forms of arthritis, give better balance, reduce depression, ward off colds, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, get rid of fatigue, and even lessen the risk of some forms of cancer.
Two thousand years ago, Roman orator and statesman Cicero said, “Exercise and temperance can preserve something of our early strength even in old age.”
More recently, gerontologist Walter Bortz said the same thing. “Fitness for the young person is an option, but for the older person it is an imperative . . . a fit person of 70 is similar to an unfit person of 30.”
The best way to slow the march of time is to exercise, said Bortz. “Fit people age at a much slower rate than unfit people.”
Then why is it that only 30 percent of older people have a regular regimen of exercise?
Carol Krucoff outlines simple steps to harness the healing power of exercise. The first step is to recognize that exercise is medicine. Your body needs to move to be healthy.
Make a commitment to exercise and choose something you love. Either take a class, or set a regular time and put it in your schedule. Make it a social occasion, either with a human friend or a canine friend.
Find the joy in exercise. Just go outside—or inside—and play.
But always remember that doing something is better than doing nothing. At least avoid sitting for prolonged periods.
Take regular walking breaks. Walk to the store. Park your car in the farthest spot. Run the vacuum. Rake your leaves. Go up and down the stairs. Get moving.
Your life depends on it.
A poster from Health magazine says “There’s only one way to be a cracker-jack when you’re 90—exercise.” And it’s never too late to start.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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