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PUMPING IRONY: The Hidden Power of Everyday Excursions

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bike-coffee

Afternoon bicycle trips to the coffee shop may be extending My Lovely Wife’s lifespan — in more ways than one.

My Lovely Wife and I are veteran empty nesters, so with our son in Virginia doing whatever it is Marines do during a holiday and our daughter hanging out with her partner’s family in some unidentified Twin Cities suburb, our Thanksgiving feast was a rather low-key affair. In fact, after discovering upon unwrapping the turkey that it was actually a turkey breast (“I thought an 8-pound bird was pretty small,” MLW admitted) and noticing we were short of potatoes and completely out of wine (“Who knew the co-op and the liquor store would be closed on Thanksgiving?” I whined), we agreed that we were thankful to be dining alone.

MLW salvaged the meal with some leftover sweet potatoes and a creative salad mix, the sort of combo we might employ for any early-afternoon lunch when I happen to be working at home. We straightened up the kitchen, and then, as MLW does every afternoon, we wheeled our bicycles out of the garage and pedaled a few miles north to a place where we could be among people but not have to actually interact with them.

It took me years to understand MLW’s attraction to the coffee shop as workplace. Why would anyone leave the quiet confines of her home office — a cozy womb designed to shield its occupant from the dissonance of the outside world — for the din and clatter of a caffeine purveyor? “I just like a change of scene,” MLW has always explained. And, as is often the case, her instincts are healthier than I had imagined. Turns out, getting out of the house every day will probably extend her lifespan.

Researchers from the Hadassah Hebrew-University Medical Center in Jerusalem last week published the results of a 25-year study suggesting that geezers who leave the house every day have a lower risk of mortality than their homebody peers — even after adjusting for social, medical, or functional factors.

“What is interesting is that the improved survival associated with getting out of the house frequently was also observed among people with low levels of physical activity, and even those with impaired mobility,” lead study author Jeremy Jacobs, MD, said in a statement. “Resilient individuals remain engaged, irrespective of their physical limitations.”

This is particularly noteworthy in MLW’s case, given her bum right knee and distaste for the gym (bicycling and yoga are her preferred activities). Indeed, I’ve never been quite sure whether it’s the “change of scene” or a simple desire to climb on her bike (which keeps her knee happy) that pushes her out the door every day. Having accompanied her frequently enough over the past couple of years, though, I guess I can vouch for the weirdly collegial nature of the coffee shop. There’s something about watching other folks stare blankly at their screens that inspires a certain sense of togetherness.

Besides, as University of Southern California researchers recently noted, a daily cup of coffee is associated with a 12 percent lower risk of mortality compared with those who eschew the bean. So MLW is clearly onto something here. Even though it may be nothing more than the joy of an afternoon bike ride.

is an Experience Life deputy editor who explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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