Want to rile me up? Tell me I can’t do something because of my age. That’s known as poking the bear. Bad idea. The exercise experts at Reader’s Digest have decided that people over 50 should be as sedentary as possible, with maybe a bit of mall walking thrown in. These are fighting words to me. Seriously, f&ck those people. What are they thinking? The goal is to get people doing these things, not to scare them off! This idiocy infuriates me. It is degrading, insulting, and continues a culture that says we are somehow disabled and incapacitated.
The most dangerous exercise for people over 50 is the one they don’t do! Come on, what year is it? 1950? Should we take up smoking and eating donuts while slowing dying in our La-Z-Boy recliners?
This is their list of what not to do. Really. They think we should never do these.
Bikram or hot yoga
High-intensity interval training
Squats with weights
Age requires more recovery time. So what. Just take an extra day to recover, but for god’s sake, don’t not exercise. That is insane. Anyone can do these exercises. It may take some preparation, some instruction, some help, basically some initiative on the part of the person to actually do them. But we have agency. No matter what physical condition one is in, one can start. Progress can be made. This is not a hopeless situation.
Maybe someone is very out of shape, their diet is terrible, and they have no flexibility. This is not a hopeless situation no matter the age. We can walk, then we can walk further, then we can lift weights. We can improve our food situation. We have agency. We can do this stuff. It infuriates me to be told otherwise. It will quite literally kill people.
At 50, I spent the better part of a year hooked to an IV in a hospital with a rare autoimmune disorder just trying to make it through a day. My fitness was zero. It was all about staying alive back then. So I know about how to come back from a very low place. I have been told all sorts of things in my life that I should not try because I will fail. I only fail when I give up, and I am not giving up today.
Pull ups: strict hang, 20 reps straight through, or 3 sets of 12. Ohhhh, so dangerous.
Spin class: I kill it, love Soul Cycle.
Squats: 225lbs, 3 sets of 10, or max at 255lbs. Yes, MF&%s, that’s heavy!
Deadlifts: oh yeah, singles at 305lbs. Boom!
Bench press: 195lbs, 3 sets of 5, followed by 3 sets of 15 push ups with a 45lb weight on my back.
HIIT training: Love it, much better for me than slow long distance.
On and on. I am not a particularly gifted athlete. I just make a habit of taking care of myself. Yes, this stuff is hard. Yes, my hips hurt some mornings. Yes, I need to be careful. But that does not mean don’t do the work.
This gets to the heart of the issue. This stuff is work. Aging well requires work and focus; it is not a free ride. We need to participate, we need to push ourselves in all ways: mentally, socially and physically. Of course there is another option. Believe, as the Reader’s Digest people do, that we need to be coddled, that we are best infantilized and left to a slowing decay towards death, all for fear of pushing ourselves. The choice is ours. You know where I stand.
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at firstname.lastname@example.org.