An Insightful Lob by Bob: How Old You Feel Depends on How Much You Move

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Written by Bob Kleinfelder, Birches Assisted Living resident and senior editor emeritus of The Lions Club’s LION Magazine

Would you rather sit around a good part of the day watching TV? Or take a brisk walk around the block? Or perhaps grab a mitt and play catch with a friend, kid or grandkid?  How about taking a chance on learning a new skill or joining a service club in your community?  Do you engage in activities that reduce stress and foster your well-being?

This month at The Birches, we are celebrating Movement Matters, the physical component of Masterpiece Living, the year-long culture of successful aging we have here. For five years, this has been a vital element of our overall positive approach to aging.  We’ve come to understand that regardless of our calendar years we can, and must, continue to grow and realize mental, physical, social, and spiritual fulfillment.  In short, the aging process, rather than the oft-perceived path to physical and mental decline, can be a venture along which we accept challenges that await us and be resilient to any negative effects they may have on our lives. This is the path, the journey, to successful and meaningful aging.

A major focus in Masterpiece Living is a landmark 10-year study by the MacArthur Foundation which revealed that 70 percent of physical aging and 50 percent of mental aging is determined by lifestyle, not genes. Now, that’s worth keeping in mind when we, residents of The Birches and elderly citizens everywhere, make those vital decisions on how to avoid the pitfalls of “old age.”

Of the four components of Masterpiece Living —Social, Intellectual, Physical, and Spiritual—the one that concerns us here in September is our physical well-being, easily summarized in two words, “Movement Matters.”  Also neatly stated in the warning, “Move it, or Lose It!”

Indeed, residents at The Birches are challenged to keep moving in any number of ways.  Monday through Saturday we are afforded opportunities to strengthen our bodies to meet the challenges of aging:  fitness sessions, physical and occupational therapy, our walking club, yoga, movement through music, and the ongoing encouragement to keep walking.  Added to these are the twice-weekly exercises coached by Mike Andrews, a professional trainer, from Right Fit.

“This month,” says Mike, “we are using Movement Matters to highlight the physical activities component of Masterpiece Living.  These are standardized functional tests that set the foundation for the exercises we do during our training sessions.”

He continues, “I seek to improve residents’ physical functional capacities and to do this in a fun social way, because I firmly believe it is important that the residents who participate are happy while they are moving to improve their ability to function in a positive manner.  I encourage all the residents here to get involved in all the wonderful physical activities offered at The Birches.” He adds, “I’d love to meet more residents up on the third floor’s physical therapy area.”

The benefits of walking, or moving in general, are many… it helps weight management, reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, reduces risk of heart disease, helps maintain strong bones and—what appeals most to all of us—we don’t have to pay for it.

The list could go on, but you get the drift of what walking will do to improve your physical and mental health.  Yours truly didn’t catch on until it was too late.  After retirement I settled down to enjoy my “golden years;” settled down a bit too much.  I spent lots of time plopped in my easy chair reading or listening to CDs and tapes, oftentimes simultaneously.

”Why don’t you get up and walk around the court or over to the lake?” advised my all-knowing and beautiful wife.  “Nah, I’ll just stay here,” was my not-so-wise reply.  My exercise was walking over to my basement bar to pour myself another drink or pop a beer. I figured that was as good as walking. Uh huh.  The Germans have a word for it: Dummkopf!  So now I am in assisted living, due in large part to my choice to forego walking and exercise in general.

Movement DOES Matter!

So, my friends, this is our motto during the month of September: Movement Matters, this month and really every month.  As one of our handouts here at The Birches recently trumpeted about this worthy goal:  “Move it, Shake it, Wheel it, Bend it, Twist it, Stretch it!”  OK, that sounds like a chant from a cheerleading squad at a football game, especially the ”Shake it” part, but all it means is that to stay healthy, resilient, and mentally alert, you need to keep moving because there is no reasonable doubt at all that Movement Matters.

It’s our choice, and ours only.  Are we going to sit back in our easy chairs and resign ourselves to that path of slow and inevitable decline? Or are we going to cheat the devil and take that perhaps strenuous and challenging path to successful aging and an enriching life that I can guarantee will result in physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual fulfillment?

Well, what are you waiting for? Turn off the TV, put the bookmark in your book, pour out that drink and get up and start moving.  Now!

“An Insightful Lob by Bob” is a monthly column written by Birches resident Bob Kleinfelder. Each month, Bob will offer an inside perspective on life at The Birches and answer your most pressing questions about assisted living. Stay tuned for more assisted living insights from Bob!