For Women in the Second Half of Life
Keep Moving or
Rigor Mortis Sets in
Learn simple ways to add more movement in your life that won’t require a drastic lifestyle change.
In the beautiful photo that represents Second Wind (taken with an aging iPhone 6), my good friend Yvonne is walking Dixie, the sweetest blue heeler that belongs to her sister Jo, along the Belly River in Alberta, Canada, under the morning sun. More than anyone else at this time of my life, Yvonne has inspired me to walk and move more.
When we were all young and chasing children or careers, we looked for ways to save time and unnecessary steps during our busy days. But if we are living a more sedentary lifestyle or working jobs where we mostly sit in this second half of life, we should be looking for more ways to move.
One of the best things we can do for our health in our later years is to stay active if we are physically able. That isn’t a new concept, and oftentimes it’s easier said than done. I learned I had to be intentional about moving more, and I found ways to increase movement in my life that didn’t require a drastic lifestyle change.
Yard Work. For most of my life, lawn mowing (the manual kind) was hot, dirty, and just plain hard work. But when I learned that my 90-year-old great aunt still mowed her lawn, that forced me to change my perspective about it. I told myself that people pay good money for gym memberships, but mowing lawns also gave me a good workout and I accomplished something and saved money in the process. I looked around to find other yards to mow, and for a while, I was mowing five yards just for the exercise. It made me feel good to get something done, too, for others. For a while, though, every time I mowed, I would get a severe headache that sometimes lasted several days. I learned if I stayed well-hydrated, it kept the headache at bay. So drink plenty of water when doing any yard work.
Crawling Around. This position should be on purpose and not accidental, but crawling around doing different chores or projects works a lot more muscles than you might realize, including your core, gluten, shoulders, hips, and more, according to Health.com. I’m always sore the next day after picking weeds between the patio pavers or crawling around pinning quilt layers on the floor. Depending on the activity, I either use carpenter’s knee pads or stadium seat cushions I picked up at a garage sale to protect my knees. But if you have a padded carpet in your house, that will work, too.
Pet Exercise. I changed my perspective about having to get up to let the dogs out or back in because it forced me to get up and move. Walking or playing with your pets also exercises you!
Parking Farther Away from an Entrance. This idea has been around a while, but it’s still a good one. No telling how much time people waste driving around the parking lot waiting for a closer spot to the door, when it’s much more beneficial for them to walk across the parking lot. Curbside grocery service is great for those busy moms, career women, and those with physical limitations, and an essential service during the pandemic, but if you are using curbside service to avoid walking through the grocery store, you’re missing a prime opportunity to move your body.
Walking/Hiking. Find a walking partner or partners to make you accountable to walk. My friend Yvonne is an avid hiker, and she drives to state parks in the area just to walk. Sometimes I go with her. She is also my walking partner in our local city park, too. Time and distance pass quickly when you’re walking and talking with a friend.
Getting up from the Floor. My grandmother lived out in the country, and one day she fell in her yard and lay there for hours because she couldn’t get up. I didn’t realize that this was something I needed to practice, too, until it snuck up on me some years ago when I found myself struggling to get up from the floor. Not anymore, though. I intentionally do things where I have to get down on my all fours so I can practice getting up— even without holding onto anything, although that's okay if you need it for balance. Even if it’s hard for you now, you can learn to do this, which is an essential skill, especially if you live by yourself. If you aren’t sure you can get up off the floor, make sure an able-bodied person is around while you practice. The easiest way to get up is to crawl to something sturdy that you can push or pull yourself up. With practice, though, you can learn to get up without anything around you for support. The key is to get on your hands and knees first, then lift one knee in the proposal position. I lay my dominate arm across my thigh for support, use my other hand for balance and support, and push myself up from the knee or floor. It’s doable!
Mini-Exercises. This may sound odd, but I got in the habit of doing a few exercises every time I went to the bathroom. I do pushups leaning against the sink counter, or get on my hands and knees on a rug to do back and core exercises my chiropractor showed me, which prevents spasms in my back. And there are many other simple, quick exercises you can incorporate into these necessary breaks you have to take throughout the day. Each of these exercises take from 30 to 60 seconds. Every little bit helps!
Setting Your Alarm to Move. If your life is sedentary or your job involves many hours sitting, set your alarm to remind yourself to get up and walk around so rigor mortis doesn’t set in.
If you want to go further, consider fitness classes. Now that I’m on Medicare, I found a Medicare Advantage plan that costs me $0.00 per month, and one of its perks is a gym membership. I’ve only paid for one month of fitness center membership since college, either because my budget wouldn’t allow it or I lived in a town that didn’t have a gym. But now I really enjoy taking group classes like Zumba or Senior yoga.
These activities are simple ways to incorporate more movement into your life.
Keep moving, sisters! It does the body good.
Donna Van Cleve
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