Keeping fit means something different to a 30-year old than it does to those of us over 50, especially those of us with physical challenges. A few years ago, I had dinner in a restaurant next to a family with an elderly relative. She was really quite elegant and from what i could overhear, she seemed mentally and emotionally vital. When dinner was over, though, she lacked sufficient strength to raise herself up from the chair in which she was sitting. To get up, she had to rock back and forth until her body had enough momentum so that she could push herself out of the chair using both her arms. Even with the help of added momentum, she needed assistance to stand. I remember thinking, “Wow! It’s her legs. Her thigh muscles are weak. If only her thigh muscles were stronger, she might have a lot more freedom…”
Prior to that moment, I saw exercising and dieting as simply the means to achieve the elusive goal of being physically attractive. Not that looking great is not a worthy goal–it is just that if you look great and still can’t hoist yourself out of a chair, looking great loses its value. In the long run, it’s better to aim toward staying mobile and active.
There are four different areas to being physically fit after 50: strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and balance. These four areas form the pillars of your physical fitness.
- Strength helps you move your body through space.
- Flexibility helps you move freely.
- Aerobic capacity provides stamina.
- Balance helps keep you from falling.
Neglecting any one of these four pillars can cause instability and keep you from reaching your full “at this point in time” physical potential. For example, flexibility without strength can lead to instability; strength without flexibility can lead to injury. Without stamina, you might find it hard to maintain quality of life. And trust me on this: you can wipe out everything with one bad fall.
Coming soon: Where to begin…