Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MOVE IT and Improve Your Quality of Life

In my mind's eye I see him.

He's mowing, raking, sweeping and bagging the grass. He's washing and waxing the car. He's painting the house his favorite shade of redwood. He's teaching me to ride a bike, and patching me up when I have a wreck. He's building a rabbit hutch, or a play fort, or a swing for a neighbor. He's preparing a vegetable bed or trimming the hydrangeas or planting a tree from a sapling. He's cleaning his golf clubs, or his rifle, or untangling some fishing line.

Then I look up. And I see him in his hospital bed at home. Fragile, thin, and tired. What does this have to do with fitness? Everything. As I sit here in the middle of the night at his bedside and watch him breathe, I realize that the magnitude of the fight he has given this disease called Parkinson's is quite impressive.

My Dad didn't play sports. He didn't lift weights or "do cardio". He wouldn't have been described as athletic. He worked most of his life in the food industry. But the most important part that prepared him for his challenges later in life was his capacity for physical work.

Because he was so strong and active and conditioned, and because he had determination that some disease called Parkinson's wasn't going to stop him, he was physically able to deny and delay the effects of it for a long time. I know that every patient has different symptoms exhibited in different ways and at varying levels of intensity. But I literally watched my Dad fight back. He has been diagnosed for 17 years. Which means its onset was even prior to that. By the way, he's 83 years old.

So what is my point? I am concerned that there aren't too many of us who can say that we are making healthy enough physical fitness and nutrition choices right now that we can fight hard if we get a disease, much less ward one off or flat out prevent it. My Dad is not the norm. Too many of us would be grossly unprepared for a catastrophic or progressive disease. Typically even those of us who consider ourselves in shape get our tails kicked by a half day of yard work. I don't think my Dad always made the healthiest choices with his physical activity. He didn't rest enough, he scared us to death climbing ladders, he drove his car way too long. But we can all learn something from him.

It's not just that our sedentary lifestyles are prematurely aging us, or making us ill-prepared for a potential future disease. Our sedentary lifestyles are slowly killing us. I truly believe that. What other outcome can we expect when we're complacent in sitting around, spending hours on a computer, watching TV and moving only from the kitchen to the couch with our salty, fatty, sugary processed food snacks? What about hours in a car, or at a desk, with loads of stress and no activity other than finding the closest parking spot just to go in a restaurant for a huge meal? Some studies are now showing that even a good hard workout several days of the week may not be enough to offset all the sedentary hours we log.

We MUST get serious about this and we MUST do someting about it. Now. Not later, not when we feel like it, not when we're getting ready for a short term event like a wedding or beach trip or class reunion. Now and every single day. My Dad has given this disease a hard, determined fight. He didn't give up. He didn't just sit in a chair and let it take over his life.

What are you going to do? Do it now, for you, and for the people who love you. Decide. Get started, and tell me about it!

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