Ah, exercise. The bane of my existence. I have never really enjoyed exercise. Sure, when I was young, I was in track and field. I played badminton. I cross-country skied. I tried aerobics (you go, Olivia Newton-John), jazz dance, joining a gym, jogging, racquetball, etc. I tried riding a bike. Walking. You know how it goes. It still all came down to exercise. Yes, I know it’s good for you. Yes, I know I should do more. But… I have other things to do!
When I worked, I would park and walk about 10 minutes (1500 or so steps) to my office. Then repeat at the end of the day. Sometimes, if I remembered to take a break, I’d go for a walk during lunch. Still, after a long day, I was too exhausted to do anything in the evening except exercise my finger on the remote.
Fast forward to working from home, getting COVID and, consequently, leaving my job and, with it, my main source of exercise. It didn’t take long to notice the side effects. Covid knocked out any stamina I had left, and I found I couldn’t even walk around the crescent. Luckily for me, we were in lockdown at this point, and I was able to go online and discover several videos and groups that really helped me get back on track.
It is no secret that physical activity plays a very vital role in our health, well-being, and quality of life. It helps us maintain strength and flexibility, balance and coordination and can help reduce the risk of falls. It also boosts mental health. Once you get over the initial stiffness, physical activity will help you move with fewer aches and pains. It will also help maintain a good, strong posture. Being physically active will improve your sleep, relaxation and reduce stress. You will also feel more energetic. (Well, maybe not right after doing something, but in general!)
So, how much exercise is enough? This is going to depend on the individual, but the World Health Organization recommends people get 10,000 steps a day. Is this just a random number? Who picked it? Interestingly, the 10,000 steps per day target seems to have originated with a pedometer sold in Japan in 1965. The device was called “Manpo-ke i”, which translates to “10,000 step meter”. Is that all we need to do, then, to be healthy? Log 10,000 steps on our FitBit?
The 10,000 step target is not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting active. After all, you can log 10,000 steps over the course of the day in various ways, especially if you live in a house with stairs. A leisurely stroll around the block will count for a few steps. So will grocery shopping. I can log an awful lot of steps when I go grocery shopping because I’m always going back and forth to get things I forgot. But does that count as exercise? Compare that to someone who plays pickleball for two hours and logs 3000 steps, or someone who goes for a lengthy hike and hits 10,000 in a few hours. Which is better? There are also plenty of exercises that don’t count steps, such as swimming, weightlifting, cycling, yoga, qi gong, etc. The 10,000 steps can be a bit limiting for those who prefer to do other types of exercise.
So where does that leave us?
“For many older people, 10,000 steps per day can be a very daunting goal,” says I-Min Lee, M.D., a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “We wanted to investigate whether this was necessary for lower mortality rates in older women.” Lee tracked the movements of more than 16,000 women aged 62 to 101 and found that as the average number of steps taken per day increased, the risk of mortality decreased. This peaked at about 7,500 steps. In other words, although the more steps you take, the better, the benefits slow down after 7,500 steps. To read more about this, check here.
Many experts, including the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), say adults 65 and up should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic (there goes Olivia Newton John again) activity per week, in sessions of 10 minutes or more. (Hmmmm. Those same guidelines recommend adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get two and a half hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise. Isn’t that the same as 150 minutes?) Let’s just say we should all aim for 150 minutes! Besides, I’m only a few years away from being an “older adult”, which is defined as 65 and up.
When you think of it, that isn’t very much to spread out over a one-week period. It is also wise to add muscle and bone-strengthening activities at least two days per week. And, if you have poor mobility, you should be doing some physical activities to strengthen your balance.
I have no trouble doing the 150 minutes per week. My pickleball addiction has that covered. But I sure don’t hit 10,000 steps playing pickleball. At least not according to my fitness tracker, although it is not the most accurate. Actually, I just did an experiment. I wore my Fit Pro and an Apple Watch at the same time. The Apple Watch tracked double the steps that my Fit Pro tracked. I’ll go with that!
I have friends who are so active, they make me feel like a slug. Seriously. They play pickleball, go to the gym, do Zumba, skate, ski, walk, snowshoe. . . sometimes several activities in one day. Yes, Joanne, Fran, Joan, Karen, you know who you are! Their energy is endless, and it always amazes me.
I suspect there are a lot of folks out there just like me, wanting to be more active but not knowing where to start. I’m not the type to do several activities in one day. I like to read and enjoy coffee in the morning, then spend a couple of hours writing or engaging in an art project. I play mah-jong at least one afternoon a week. (Got to exercise the brain, right Laurie and Joan?) Then there’s supper and family. Sometimes, and I stress the word “sometimes”, I pick up a cloth and dust. Evenings are for TV, meetings, shamanic ceremonies, and other things that randomly come up. Premium time. I suppose I could do some exercises while I’m sitting, right? Here is a couple I may try: Get Fit as You Sit and Paul Eugene. This guy has a whole fitness channel. I love him! Thanks to Juliana for introducing me to him!
So, how can we log more steps, or become more physically active? Turns out there are lots of things out there. Saskatoon has a lot of gyms, but if that isn’t your thing, there are other options. Saskatoon Council on Aging (SCOA) runs its Globe Walk from January to April. This event involves logging your steps and gives you an incentive to get out and walk or do something physical. Walking is easy and doesn’t require any special equipment or planning. Besides burning off that delicious donut, walking increases circulation, glucose (sugar) and oxygen that reaches the brain. So, as you walk, your heart works harder and ends up allowing more blood to flow to the brain. This is a good thing! Forever in Motion offers a Facebook exercise class every Tuesday morning at 10:30 am, and if you just do a YouTube search, you will come up with many, many options. There are opportunities with the Saskatchewan Seniors Fitness Association, and if you want to play pickleball, check out SSFA Saskatoon Pickleball (for 50+) or Saskatoon Pickleball (all ages). You can download the Geocaching app for free (a premium membership is also available) and have some fun while out walking. There is even a local group ready to get you started.
Now that the weather is starting to warm up, I am going to try to reach that 10,000-step goal. Maybe I’ll throw a set of weights in the mix and see what happens. Who is with me?
Some interesting reads:
Forever…in motion – Knowing the Benefits of Physical Activity.pdf (windows.net)
Physical Activity Tips for Adults (18-64 years) – Canada.ca
Physical activity tips for older adults (65 years and older) – Canada.ca