two man playing baseball during daytime
Tip/Thought of the Day

It’s Never Too Late

Too often I hear patients claim they are too old, in too much pain, or have too many ailments to exercise or enjoy an active lifestyle. There’s no question as we age we aren’t the spring chickens we used to be in our youth. But we can still accomplish great things if we take the time to stretch, mobilize and slowly build our stamina and endurance.  Getting older doesn’t mean we are relegated to the couch. Regardless of your physical or medical status staying fit is an important component staying healthy.

My grandmother had breast cancer and a subsequent mastectomy at 80. Her arm swelled from a then common consequence of the surgery. But that didn’t stop her from walking, albeit slowly, the wall of China at the age of 83 when the country first opened its borders. A friend was supposed to have joined her but the family kept her home, fearing she was “too old to travel.” Undaunted, my grandmother went alone.  She believed life didn’t end as she aged, it just matured, requiring accommodations but not capitulation.

My grandfather loved to bike. Whenever he visited one had to be available for his daily rides. I remember joining him on long outings when I was young, amazed at how a man in his seventies could outlast me every time. He believed it was a wonderful way to escape the worries of the day and soak in the beauty all around him.

By fifty, my uncle had severe arthritis in his hands, to the point picking up a penny off the table was difficult. He was sure that keeping his hands active and strong helped his pain and improved his mobility. It didn’t matter where he was, who he was talking to or what the setting, he was always using a hand strengthener. As a child I was fascinated by the device and shocked at how hard it was to squeeze.

One of my patients flew to Pearl Harbor to spread his father’s ashes. As a survivor of the attack on the USS Arizona he was entitled to that honor. His mother desperately wanted to make the trip but could only walk short distances. So they prepared for months with physical therapy and daily exercises. Finally he pushed her wheelchair as far as possible then she used a walker, with his supervision, to get to the designated spot. A feat she hadn’t thought possible. One he’ll cherish forever.

Another patient, diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes in his forties, decided he was going to climb Mount Everest by 60. He crossed that lifelong dream off his bucket list when he was 58. He never reached the summit, but the experience and determination it took to get as far as he did changed his life forever.

After recovering from months of invasive and exhaustive treatments for breast cancer a forty year old woman walked the Appalachian trail.

Another told me she trained with her eighteen year old daughter for months to run a marathon together. They both finished a year later.

Too often we see older people as debilitated, fragile and infirmed. Sadly some are, but others, especially today, are vibrant and active. Whether it’s that big trip to Europe, visiting family and friends, getting through a work day, gardening, or a way to increase  energy mobilizing and stretching every day will keep us fit and significantly improve how we spend the last decades of our lives. It’s never too late. Starting a program today will mean more options tomorrow.

As Hunter S. Thompson said,

“Life is not a journey to the grave
With the intention of arriving in a well preserved body,
But rather to skid in broadside,
Thoroughly used up,
Totally worn out,
And loudly proclaiming,
‘Wow, what a ride!’”


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