Let's consider how physically active we are — you and me — very honestly. Is it getting harder to open jars or pick up heavy objects? Do you feel like you have less strength or your balance is compromised? Do you want to exercise regularly, but you just can't seem to get started?
Try this. Raise your arms and look side to side, at each raised arm "¦ does the skin sort of sag and dangle a little? Let's deal with this.
The American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org) puts out a series of excellent fact sheets with instructive messages for aging bodies. In one, the ACSM outlines five reasons we don't move more — with some ideas for motivating us.
Reason 1: Avoiding discomfort. We don't want to experience the muscle and joint aches we believe will come if we stretch and flex. The amazing irony is that avoiding activity leads to further decline in fitness and function. And ultimately even more discomfort.
Reason 2: Convenience. If there's an elevator or an escalator, we take it instead of the nearby stairs. If we have easy access to a car, we get in and drive it — sometimes even if the grocery store is only a few blocks away, and all we're getting is non-fat milk and bread (whole grain, of course).
Reason 3: Sedentary recreation. Television used to be the major culprit but now it's the home computer. Remember what you used to say to your kids. "No TV until your homework is done." Maybe we need to impose the same kind of restrictions on ourselves. "No TV watching or Web browsing before taking a 30-minute walk."
Reason 4: Disease. If you have diabetes, heart disease or other chronic conditions, you fear exercise may make things worse. It's just the opposite. Regular aerobic exercise (a daily 20-30 minute walk) and twice a week strength-training sessions are guaranteed to minimize the long-term impact of chronic conditions (A doctor's okay is important). And this is the point where you may want to consider the Living Well (chronic disease self-management) series. Call 541-864-9611 for more information.
Reason 5: Injury. Maybe you tried this — you took a strength-training class and really started to get into it — but then you strained a muscle, and now you have a new excuse for not being active.
Our list of excuses for not moving more is endless — lack of time, weather too rainy, no comfortable walking shoes. Is this beginning to sound like "the dog ate my homework?"
Need more motivation? Remember the escalator mentioned earlier? Consider watching a uniquely motivating video segment sent to me by my friend Jan, who received it from her daughter Kelsey, who got it from who knows where. Watch it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXh2n0aPyw&feature=player_embedded.
Uh-oh. You cannot watch it because you don't easily access the Internet. Okay. So, try this. Imagine an escalator and a set of stairs, side by side. Most people ignore the stairs, take the escalator and stand sedately until they reach the next floor. But what if some hugely enterprising person turned those less-than-beckoning stairs into piano keys? What if those steps became a musical staircase on which you could play a tune with your feet? (66 percent more people took the stairs.) Imagine that.
Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.