At what point in my life do I get to stop exercising and just sit around and do nothing?
In working with the older adult population, I find that many people harbor the mindset that when they stop caring about what their bodies look like, they no longer need to exercise.
The direct answer to this question is, when all you want to do is sit around and do nothing, then you can stop exercising. However, ceasing exercise will result in a steady decline in physical ability that would mean surrendering certain aspects of one’s lifestyle. My only advice to those who think this is what they want to do, is to first evaluate the following:
Are there children in your life you wish to keep up with?
Kids are highly active and constantly changing tasks. If you choose to sit in one room, you can only enjoy them at times they come to you.
Do you have an active spouse?
There usually becomes a large discrepancy between physical ability among spouses. The better off tends to aid the one who struggles. The more help one receives, the less one can do for himself or herself. This can put pressure on the relationship when the more active spouse does wish to engage in more activity, but must limit themselves to what the other is capable of.
Are you finished traveling?
Traveling requires significant walking ability and stamina, as well as muscle strength.
Do you frequent zoos, museums, or exhibits?
These activities require ability to get oneself in and out of a vehicle. If walking is too much, one must find assistance of a wheelchair and someone to push it.
Do you have pain?
Exercise eases pain, can help treat pain, or may prevent bouts of pain.
Do you wish to recover quickly from illness or injury?
The better shape the body is in, the more equipped it is to heal. Exercise keeps the body in shape to heal.
Do you want to avoid surgery?
Certain exercise routines can be designed to treat pain that may otherwise only be fixed through surgery.
Do you have the funds for an assisted living community or personal in-home care?
When abilities decline in taking care of oneself, resources are needed for even the most basic of functions. Often this care is very expensive.
Do you have any sources of stress?
Exercise is a common and effective tool for managing stress, and by helping ease the mind, this opens you up for more effective management of that stress.
Do you wish to dress yourself, use the facilities independently, and perform other acts of daily living without aid?
If you wish to keep your independence, don’t want to be told what to do and when, and hope to keep your privacy, then exercise is key to help you continue doing these functions on your own.
Would giving up the list above keep you truly happy?
I’ve seen individuals who have lost their skills and independence, and the subsequent discussions usually involve how and when he or she can acquire the skills back. This is extremely difficult to do once it is lost.
Exercise is on your side. The best way to keep it regular in your life is to find a way or someone who can help to make it enjoyable. When exercise becomes a fun part of your daily routine, then you’re not simply waiting to be done with it. The whole idea is to be happy, and a healthier body opens the door to do more with the time you’re given.
*Coming up: Look for an expansion on some of the questions above!