Exercise & Health Dissertation For Seniors
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Guest post by Jan Geo
I am eighty years old. I have managed my body for sixty.
I am my own doctor (without degrees without license to practice and without office).
I am my own patient.
I probably have had four different tenures of ten years each with a primary care physician, three men and one woman, and I remember each of them vividly because of their words and their care. I did not always follow their counsel, mainly because they mostly saw me as a case, and I, who micro-managed my life, experienced the details and was responsible for the actions directly and certainly their consequences.
Healthcare, for most people, I think, means primarily examination and counseling by a primary care physician once a year for fifteen minutes. When the structure, muscles and bones, start giving problems in their forties, the physiotherapist and other specialists enter the health maintenance support system. To my mind, the nutritionist should come in much sooner and be directly counseled by more often, before the ulcers, the frayed nerves, the fatigue and sleep troubles start.
Primary care physicians are often traditionalist sticking with the consensus dietary wisdom of the past. They disrespect how much the body and the mind is influenced by the food we eat, and how it is eaten. There’s also conflict between the doctor and the physiotherapist, the doctor again often says – ‘take an aspirin, get some rest, and sleep it off.’ The physiotherapist knows better; he/she knows that seemingly small issues like a callous on a foot, a neck spasm, a slump in the spine, persist and escalate over time, do cause finally serious health problems.
All three doctors deal with the same subject, my or your body; they are however different disciplines with different treatments, although they attempt to deal with the entirety, the whole that is you or me. Ideally the disciplines should all be embodied by one healer, a holistic practitioner – the whole body with all its systems, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, endocrine, respiratory, nervous, digestive, lymphatic, integumentary, and reproductive systems.
I do not have much biological knowledge of the functions of my organs – heart, lungs, kidney, liver, pancreas, intestines, large and small; nor much knowledge of the chemistry they depend on; I do not understand the body’s systems, but I do monitor them all, consciously some of the time, semi-consciously often, and unconsciously constantly.
This dissertation is on exercise for the aging structural system, a subject I do know a great about – its bones, muscles, tendons, joints, discs and especially the spinal column. It is my theory that when the human animal stood upright, by mutation and by adaption, as homo erectus, more than one million years ago, and the presumed ancestor to the 200,000 year-old homo sapien, our spinal column became the most vulnerable part of our structural body. The average weight of the head 15 lbs, the trunk, with most of the organs 60 lbs, and arms each 10 lbs, was now to be carried vertically on the uprightness of the spinal column. This required muscular stabilizing with three groups of muscles, the abdominal, the back muscles, and the deep interior muscles, the iliopsoas, to allow bending and twisting of this column, whose bottom three fused sacral vertebrae, or sacrum, is wedged between the two hip bones of the pelvis. One result from this weight, is compression on several major joints such as the hip, the knee and the ankle. This means that as we age, which basically starts at age 25, the downward pull of the near 100 lbs of moving body parts, counter balanced from the spinal column with the stabilizing muscle groups, the health of the spine becomes increasingly paramount. Both strength and flexibility is needs to be maintained for another fifty years, even as the muscles lose firmness, bones become brittle, and tendons lose their elasticity.
I address the compression-stress with an inversion table exercise which I use every single day, when home, for a 7 minute routine, lying on the table, tilting it vertical to my hanging by my ankles upside down, doing several light twisting and crunching exercises. I recommend the Teeter Hang-Ups model EP-850 which I have used for five years. Mr Teeter, the inventor, is a septuagenarian.
I believe that for flexibility of the spine, the practice of yoga is the most user-friendly system for that maintenance. For strength and stamina, I believe in light weight use and challenging repetitions. The salutation to the sun, a multi-parts yoga routine can do the job for flexibility of the spine. I think it became the heart of Hindu religion because its practice enhanced the survivability of its practitioner, thus more practitioners living longer – survival of the fittest. Five different primary exercise postures, developed to help man survive the traumatic transformation needed to cope musculoskeletally with motion being on four feet to motion on two. The salutation to the sun is first the standing posture, then the forward bend, the down dog, and the up dog. They all stretch and flex the spinal column, and therefore stimulate the blood flow and the nutrient flow to nervous system that spirals through its entire length. These simple exercises and their practice do require instruction, initially, patience and persistence thereafter. For me they are one vital anchor to my exercise routines.
However there are two other necessary components of our physical survivability, besides the flexibility of the spine – strength and stamina. The right selection of exercise for these will favorably influence muscle tone, lung capacity, heart rate, blood circulation and nerve stimulation. How I answer this need is fairly simple. I race-walk, I jog lightly, I climb stairs, I do knee-bends, toe-raises, balance on a 16 inch diameter balance disc and jump on a 36 inch trampoline, al this with 2 lb weights on each wrist.
So these last years, each week, I do three 55 minute race-walk & jog routines, two 20 minute yoga sessions, one 20 minute knee-bend, toe-raise, balance & jumping routine, one 20 minute self-taught tai-qi routine, one 20 minute yoga breathing & meditation session, and one 20 minute aroma-therapy session. My yoga practice is now 25 years old. I dance once per week Argentine tango.
The details of these six routines are available free by writing email@example.com with subject title: 80yr-exercise.
The aging 80 year-old body is a definite challenge. Recognizing the need for exercising it is a must. Obsessiveness and regularity is needed. There are many different paths to achieve the same end depending on your temperament, your life style and your background – many elder people are dedicated senior athletes in several sports, such as competitive ping-pong, avid golfers, regular bowlers, social dancers, swimmers, walkers, hikers and so forth. All good! Bravo to all!
Eating healthily is another area that will occupy an entire other dissertation and about which I do have a lot to say. Again, I am not academically schooled in nutrition, I don’t understand the chemistry of complimentary food groups, I can’t explain anything, but instinctively I have been motivated to become the fully vegan eater that I am today. It basically started for me at my age 35, when my blood father died of atherosclerosis, that I started cutting down on meat and dairy products. Today, gradually, due to aging and slowing of glycogen-burning activity, grains are no more than 15% of my diet, with fruits, nuts, beans, and vegetables making up 45%. Fish dropped out some ten years ago, and organic soy products, as cheese, as milk, as bean, as curd, are the star center of my nutrition taking up 40% possibly. Water, estimated to be as much as 75% of the human body, is currently recommended to drink 8 glasses of daily.
So there you have it – these are the confessions of an 80 year old regarding exercise & health issues, offered in the hope that it might motivate some insight into how you might handle your approaching later years.
The details of these routines are available free by writing firstname.lastname@example.org with subject title: 80yr-exercise.
Jan Gero is a journal writer who has written consistently for fifty years. He has had published two books titled ‘me on me’ and ‘more me on me’ in 2012, which are each seven short stories derived from his journals. Previously he self-published twenty-four books of journals from 1983-2011. His journal work takes several forms, such as audio, video, dream and therapy-journals. In his eighty years he has had careers in architecture, fashion, modern dance and documentary filmmaker. He was born in Denmark and emigrated to America at age thirteen. For further info, visit www.myjournallife.com and www.mydrawinglife.com
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