PUMPING IRONY: The Lighter Side of Fitness

A lighter brand of exercise — for a longer period of time — is said to be just as helpful to the elderly as shorter stints of moderate workouts, but I think I’ll stick with my current program. I like to sweat.

man watering plants
Keep at it, pal. You’re getting good exercise.

I arose yesterday morning, after a particularly trying week, and launched into a heart-pounding, sweat-soaking bodyweight and kettlebell workout — swings, lunges, squats, push-ups, the works. Everything an aging Boomer needs to feel strong and healthy heading into his 65th year. Or is it?

Say what you will about the benefits of resistance training for geezers, but most everyone my age has been well trained in resistance to anything that makes them sweat — especially in a gym. Years of habit-formation contribute to this, as does a sort of acquired distaste for unnecessary exertion or anything that makes us feel at all dorky — they don’t call them dumbbells for nothing. That’s why most of my cohort will be overjoyed to learn about the results of a recent study out of Oregon State University showing that light exercise may be every bit as beneficial as my sweaty morning workouts.

Current health guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week to keep us from sinking into some form of decrepitude, but Brad Cardinal, a professor in the School of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU, and his research colleagues found that a little more time devoted to more leisurely physical activities may have a similarly salutary effect on oldsters like myself.

“You get a nice array of health benefits by doing five hours of light physical activity per week,” Cardinal noted in a statement released by the university. “There appears to be some real value in devoting at least 3 percent of the 168 hours available in a week to these light forms of physical activity.”

You’ll be delighted to find that these “light” activities include things like standing up while talking on the phone, doing the dishes, gardening, vacuuming, and probably even strolling over to your neighborhood bar for a few cold ones. Cardinal’s research team found that those geezers who basically did anything more exerting than lying in a BarcaLounger were 18 percent healthier, as measured by body mass index, waist circumference, insulin production, and other basic guidelines.

This tells me a couple of things: (1) We geezers are in way worse shape as a group than I even imagined, and (2) I must be in way better shape than think I am — which is such a huge ego boost that I’m now going to have to work overtime on the whole humility thing. Even though I now have official science-based permission to slide comfortably into a frail old age, I think I’ll pass. Nothing makes me feel better than that dopamine-drenched high my morning workout delivers. And I guess all that housework I manage to fit into my schedule is just an added benefit.

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

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