Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Exercise - fad or commitment?

I had great fun the other day listening to my old friends talk about getting on their exercise machine at home after letting it sit there for more years than they can remember. While other friends regularly work out at the gym, join marathons and cycle more than 100km every weekend, this couple has largely lived sedentary lives. They recounted how they only lasted just about five minutes on the elliptical machine but good-naturedly said it was a start. I agree. No matter how late in life we start exercising, the important thing is to keep moving.

When I was much younger, we, my friends and I, would unwind by going out for drinks. The idea of exercising was alien and gyms, apart from those grungy looking ones dedicated to self defense or dance studios, were unheard of.

We did attend a dance class or two, and even went to the extent of buying dance shoes. The big thing when I was in my twenties was aerobic classes, and Jane Fonda led us all in her easy-to-follow routines. Still, the idea of exercising to keep fit never occurred to me. I was at the same weight I was in my teenaged years and even giving birth didn’t seem to make a difference.

I did start going to a gym in my forties, when they were more prevalent and my weight was creeping up. It made sense to hit the gym early in the morning before I went to work, just to get it over with. I have to admit I did feel better, had more energy and slept more soundly. We couldn’t keep going out for happy hour anymore after work anyway!

It was only in my thirties when muscle twinges turned into worrisome aches that I began to look at taking better care of myself. I did check out yoga classes, aquarobics classes and taichi classes to alleviate the pain I was feeling in various parts of my body.

In the last twenty years or so, I have also been going to one gym or another. I usually work out by myself, doing about 30 minutes of cardio and then another half an hour on weights and Pilates. I have enjoyed the dance classes when they fit in with my schedule. Zumba, Latin and Bhangra were all great fun. Because the classes I attended were held in the mid-morning, they were attended by housewives and retirees. We didn’t care what we looked like in our t-shirts and sweatpants, and made a fool of ourselves whipping around the studio like dervishes trying to keep up with the instructor. It felt good to work up a sweat, to be followed with winding down in the Pilates session afterwards.

I’ve joined a number of gyms through the years. Because I usually work out alone and don’t really mind what kind of facilities are available, proximity to home is my only criterion for a gym. The one I joined last year was near home but closed down after only a few months. I thought I could save some money by using the little gym at my condo, as well as hitting the pool and doing Pilates at home.

But I don’t seem to be able to discipline myself to work out consistently at home. So I’ve joined another gym near home and have started going regularly. My bi-annual  medical examination is coming up so I shall see if keeping active has helped with my cholesterol levels.

Young people these days are a lot more health conscious than my generation ever was. They have gym memberships, exercise regularly and hang out at cafes rather than pubs and bars.

Because I do exercise regularly, I manage to maintain my stamina and flexibility. I am probably one of the more active ones among my senior friends. But I do applaud my friends for starting on their machines at home. Like I always say, “Baby steps!”

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