Oh, brother. I may have to cut out my incessant reading about the latest trends about people of a certain age staying fit. Either that or go completely bananas.
First, I stumbled across an article that said you need to jolt your body all over the place — running or hopping, for crying out loud — in The New York Times. I immediately rejected the running advice, since running makes me extremely unhappy, and who needs that kind of dismal stress?
But — hopping? “Women between 25 and 50 who hopped at least 10 times twice a day,” the article said helpfully, “with 30 seconds between each hop, significantly increased their hipbone density after four months. Another group of subjects, who hopped 20 times daily, showed even greater gains.”
Sure, I wasn’t between the ages of 25 and 50, but let’s not get technical. Could hopping be the answer? I used to hop a lot, it seemed to me. But not lately. I didn’t seem to have been in the mood for hopping for years. Or decades, come to think of it.
So, I did what I usually do when I’m faced by a dilemma: I went around talking about it for hours and asking my friends’ advice.
“You know — hopping is very big these days,” I said to my friend, Carol.
She’d read the same article. But she had her doubts. “They’re talking about hopping up and down 15 inches,” she said. “That could be dangerous. You could end up in worse shape than when you started.”
I talked to some other friends. They didn’t seem to be very interested in high-impact exercise like hopping.
I would have mentioned it to other people, but by then, I’d run across another article about fitness. It said you should be able to go from a seated position on the floor to standing without using your hands or knees to help.
I tried it. I failed; I had to use one hand to get up. According to the article, that meant I was going to die next week or something.
“Can you get up from a sitting position on the floor without using your hands?” I asked my husband. He’s in great shape. He doesn’t hop, but he runs a lot.
“Of course I can,” he said. He dropped to the ground. He got up without using his hands but he did lean on a knee.
“You can’t do that,” I said. “That’s cheating. You can’t use your knees, either.”
“That’s stupid,” he said. “Who’s making up those rules?”
He sat back onto the floor. This time, he got up using a hand. “That’s the stupidest test I ever heard of,” he said. “What kind of idiot dreamed that up?”
“Oh — experts,” I said vaguely. “I thought you were in good shape. You should be able to do that.”
“Nobody could do that,” my husband said.
Our friend Suellen, who was standing nearby, said she could do it. No sweat. She sat on the ground, rocked upward, and staggered a few steps. It wasn’t pretty, but I think it counted.
“I’m a former gymnast,” she said. “That’s why I can do it.”
The next day, my husband announced he could do it, too. He sat on the floor, propelled himself forward, then up, and crashed back in my direction.
“You see?” he said. “I didn’t use a hand or a knee. I could have done it perfectly if the carpet wasn’t so slick.”
You couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t propped you up, I was thinking. But I didn’t say anything. I was tired of the floor-to-standing test. I was tired of the hopping, the running, the eternal nagging.
The next day, I promised myself, I’d find an article about how, if you were standing upright and breathing, you were doing pretty well. You might not live forever — but hey. Today was going to be just fine.
(Copyright 2014 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read about A Very Fulsome Experience