Staying active remains beneficial as you grow older

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I meet with a few friends each week for lunch or coffee to catch up on how everybody is doing. We are all retired and enjoying the idea that we are still active and have a “to-do list” that keeps us busy. The only difference is that there is no time line on getting the “to-do list” done. We always have tomorrow. There are some conversations that are recalling some of the activities we did in our youth. Some of the activities have come back to remind you that the joint or muscle that you hurt when you were young still hurts today. Not as severe as when we first got hurt but a little ache here or there — especially early morning when we wake up.

We occasionally ask each other if now that you know the end result of those activities we participated in and may have put a stress on the body would we change anything. I have yet to hear any of these senior citizens ever wanting to change anything they did growing up. Some of the activities were downright foolish and had possible danger. Jumping off the roofs of buildings, swinging off tree limbs, contests to see who could jump the farthest from a high swing, being a dare devil on a bike and jumping off ramps, and playing tackle football with no pads or helmets to mention a few.

Many older folks played a variety of sports or activities. The practice of specializing in one sport was not yet a popular practice. Looking back at the activities I played is a long list. I was never outstanding in any one sport other than weight lifting but gave any activity a try. Baseball, softball, football, track, basketball, tennis, wrestling, gymnastics, scuba diving, springboard diving, swimming, racquetball, golf, handball, body building, Olympic lifting, power lifting, boxing, judo, and marathon running are all on the list. Did I have any injuries doing all those activities? Of course I did. Falling off a high bar in gymnastics, football with no face mask or padding in the helmet, belly flops in learning a new dive, being driven into the mat head first in wrestling, and learning to hit the mat without getting hurt after being thrown in judo all make the list.

At lunch this week I was talking to an old friend and he mentioned a new prospective to being active in all of those activities. Maybe it was because our group was so active and did so many activities and sports is the reason we can still get around pretty well at this older age. I have two T-shirts that have fitness logos on them. One is, “We don’t stop playing because we got old, we got old because we stopped playing.” The other logo is, “If we don’t take care of our bodies, where will we live?” When the topic comes up about when did you stop being active we were all in our 60s or 70s years of age before we gave up some of the sports. Walking seems to be the most popular activity now. Weight lifting is with lighter weights and often the resistance is a bag of raked leaves or chopped firewood. Bike rides are now around the neighborhood instead of out on county roads. Swimming in a pool where the water temperature is warmer than the river. The activity is still there, but adjustments were made to accommodate less strength, slower reactions, and a much wiser sense of knowing that there are some activities that are not meant for older bodies. No more tackle football and more pickle ball.

I still help with many of the road races here in San Marcos and one thing I notice is the number of entrants of runners in the 50 year and 60 year and older age groups. There are a few exceptional senior age runners that can still run a fast time in a 5K race. These runners just never stopped long enough to let old age slow them down. It is good to see the number of women in the upper age groups still active in road racing. Some walk the distance but more of them are still running for an age group award.

The age groups that seem to have the fewest number of runners is in the younger age groups. Maybe they are active in other sports but it seems too many of them are into video games. It pays to be physically active as you age rather than finding out you need to start being active to better your health when you are older. The old standby of slowing down when you are 40 years old does not hold true if you stay active from that young age to an older age. Maybe after 70 years you can start to slow down.