When I was younger, I loved cardio. You might say I was the archetypal ‘cardio queen.’ Anything to get the heart racing … I walked, ran, cycled, did floor aerobics, stepper, kickboxing etc. Weights or strength training didn’t feature and I did yoga because I had learnt it as a child and wanted to keep up the rhythm. Not because I enjoyed it.
With age (and hopefully wisdom), the body yearns for something else. Yes, the cardio is still very much a part of my routine. But, I don’t spend as much time on it now as I did then. Instead, weight training and yoga have become more essential.
Strength training gives you a different kind of empowerment. You feel stronger, more in tune with your physical self, you feel more in control of your movements. You are unafraid of being stuck near the airport carousel anticipating your heavy baggage, wondering if the guy with the ponytail will help you get it off or if you will have to embarrass yourself. You are not afraid of a bit of physical labour or carrying your own grocery bags. You develop a certain body awareness as you train muscles you never knew existed. You appreciate your body more.
Yoga, on the other hand, makes you more limber. You also feel calmer. More in control. More accepting. Your changing body requires it. It builds strength in different ways. It teaches you to handle your own body with better balance. The focus on the breath brings home just how important the breath is. Without it, we don’t exist!
Yes, weight gain is a dreaded side-effect of ageing! I was never slim as a teenager, (in fact, I was told I was ‘pleasantly plump’), but I was athletic, loved sports and running. So staying physically active later on in life came naturally. But medical college didn’t allow for too much physical activity. With the strenuous academic work and unearthly hours, not to mention the horrendous food, college was primarily about getting through the difficult course and getting the right marks … pure survival.
Extension of medical practice
Later I grew to imbibe fitness as part of my medical profession and as an extension of my medical practice when I also certified as a Fitness and Lifestyle Consultant, so that made it easier for me to stay fit. Making time, or having the motivation for fitness is not an issue for me. Not everyone is so fortunate. They usually struggle with time and motivation.
To them I say, there’s nothing as important as ‘feeling good’ about yourself. Exercise, with its discipline, sacrifices, growth, empowerment and energy, is the best thing you can invest in. One hour in twenty-four is not asking for too much. It is one of the most satisfying hours you will experience. Regular exercise is certainly more than just staying slim or even fit. It is more about the mind, emotion and staying in control of a small part of your day.
Those who have grown up being physically active, and/or come from a physically active family, usually find it that much easier to incorporate activity or a fitness schedule into their lives even after a hiatus. However, even if you don’t have these advantages, it’s never too late to start exercising at any age. Celebrate your body! It’s the only place you have to live in.
(The writer is a fitness and lifestyle consultant.