Healthy Aging

healthy aging

Exercising Outside the Gymnasium

As I write this, and no doubt as you read it, unless there is a hurricane paying us a visit in August, it is hot as Hades outside.  When the weather is sweltering and the humidity oppressive the last thing one considers doing is exercising out in the heat.  That must be why gyms were created, to keep us fit and break a little sweat, but nothing really more.

However, if you have been in a modern gym, not like the old gyms of my youth that only had some weights to lift, maybe a boxing ring to spar in, sometimes an inside pool or basketball court, you will find a myriad of machines that enable anyone to exercise about any part of the body.  There is only one problem with the modern gym: it is boring.  Why else would they also have flat screen TVs along the wall, apparatus with TV in the front to watch mindless broadcasts, and maybe even some windows to actually look outside wile the air conditioned comfort keeps one cool, there is just the suggestion that the exercise at least has a view of outdoors, where our progenitors got all their exercise.

Some Like it Hot

Exercise is good for our health, goodness knows we have written many times about the scientific information that shows regular exercise wards off heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and a myriad other potential ailments.  The modern gym is made to keep us at it -- even if we go crazy with the boredom.  However, some hale and hardy souls find it interesting and necessary to exercise, no matter what the weather outside.  My hat is off to these people, one of whom asked me to write a column on outside exercising.  So what follows is what we can do in the Lowcountry even in the heat of July, August and September.

Water Water Everywhere

We are surrounded by water and after donning appropriate sunscreen there are many exercises to do in the water.  The first is to swim.  Swim in the ocean, against the undertow to get maximal benefit.  Or swim in one of our creeks, again against the current that is strong around here.  Any number of calisthenics can be done in the water - jumping jacks, running in place, even pushups right at the water's edge with a dip as the reward for completing a set number.  One of my personal favorites is to get in one of our creeks at chest level and walk in place against a strong tide.  It is amazing how many calories this takes and how the heart rate goes up.  Of course, the water can be used to propel some form of boat (kayak, canoe, raft, inner tube, etc.) and rowing, paddling, or kicking with extended feet.  These objects in the water provide excellent exercise.  Finally, there are swimming pools galore and one of the best things to do in them is water aerobics either in a class or alone once you know how to get a good workout.  Swimming laps is a last resort if you are trying to escape boredom.

Landlubbers Do Not Despair

Some people do not like the water, or can't swim, or have any number of reasons like it may be too cold.  That is fine because there are more exercises that can be done on land than in the water.  One of the best and most universal is to walk - with the dog, spouse, friend, or alone.  Walking 40 minutes is great exercise, just be sure the heart rate goes up.  Running is even better exercise: a favorite of mine is to walk for five minutes and then run for five minutes.  This combines the two in something that is sustainable for wonderful cross training.  Cycling (wearing a helmet, please) is a very relaxing and interesting way to see the countryside while getting good exercise.  Tennis in a competitive match is strenuous and walking a golf course can be - I don't think golf carts have done much to improve our fitness though.

For the Men

Housework is something that more women are familiar with than men, I fear, but using brooms, vacuum cleaners, repetitive arm motions at the kitchen sink washing dishes, lifting laundry and trash bags and recycling bins are good for you, my wife reminds me.  Rearranging furniture and moving rugs is good exercise.  Gardening especially with lots of digging and transporting dirt, bags of fertilizer etc. is also an effective way to use up calories and if done with enough zeal raises the heart rate.

The thesis of this column is that one doesn't have to go to the gym for exercise: there are more interesting and natural things to do outside.  However, I must mention that if the heat is excessive, you should stay out of it.  After going to the gym or working outside, the final exercise that some advocate is putting a cork screw in a bottle of red wine and with a sustained pull remove the cork of the bottle, pour some of the contents in a glass and then do an arm lift of the cup to the lips and repeat.  This is a good exercise to end the day.

Health Information Library: Designing and Exercise Program

Podcast: Cross Training - How to Avoid Overuse Injuries

Podcast: Exercise - The Difficulties of Starting a Program


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