Spring is in the air, so it’s time to think about exercising outside again-no more walking the mall or going to the gym at 6:30 each morning before work. If you’re like me, you like to try new things, but you also need to think that you’ll be relatively safe in any new sport you try.
Before deciding on a new endeavor, I like to do a little research into my level of skills and what the new sport will demand of this old body. Now is the time to talk to your health care team. A short neurological exam will tell you what your balance is like-can you cross your midline with ease?-and a cardiac exam will tell you just how strong that ticker is.
Now that you have a good reading on the medical aspects of your body, it’s time to look at how fit you are. If you keep reading, we’ll give you some tests you might try to see just how fit that body is. But don’t stop there. Start to ask yourself questions about how much stress you are willing to take.
By this we mean how afraid are you of heights, how much discomfort do you endure with ease, and how much body to body contact can you take? If you answer that you want to keep your feet on terra firma, and you do not wish to do anything that can cause pain, you will be somewhat limited in terms of rock climbing. I can tell you that for myself, I would rate myself average for all of these questions.
I may not want to scale the side of a mountain in picks and ropes, but I do want to climb a mountain trail even if parts of it are difficult. I do not want to play tackle football, but a good game of touch with the family is something that would make for a fun afternoon. I may not want to play a college level basketball game, but a pick-up game at the Y with women my age would be fun. This is how we narrow down selecting new sports.
Now lets look at some more questions to ask yourself.
- Just how fit are you? If you are just beginning an exercise program, you may not want to take up Lacrosse or Rugby.
- How old are you and have you been abusing your body? Again, we will give you some tests to check this out.
- What do you want from this new exercise, i.e. full body workout, etc.?
- Do you want to exercise alone or with a group, i.e. do you want to try your skills at tennis or volleyball?
- What is your budget for this new sport? It will certainly cost a lot more to travel from national park to national park to hike those trails than just mapping out a trail in your neighborhood, and buying a sailboat will be much more expensive that swimming.
- Which sport or exercise fits into your schedule? Do you need to include members of the family? Is your work schedule going to impede exercise for longer than an hour? Do you need to have someone with you at all times?
Now, you will need to decide the type of exercise you want to try, to improve the condition of your heart and lungs. You will need to select exercises of three types, or include all three types in one exercise, or choose two forms of exercise which represent all the types between them.
The first is brisk exercise, which will raise your breathing and heart rates; the second is sustained exercise, which is done for 15 to 30 minutes without interruption; and the last is regular exercise, which should be done at least 3 to 4 times per week. The reason to try to include all of these exercise types is that not all exercises give you the all-around conditioning of the three types for your heart and lungs. You really do need all three.
Here are those tests to determine your physiological age. This is important because we want to perform like someone younger than we are. Physical declines can start in the twenties if people are sedentary, but at any age staying fit can slow these declines.
These tests are based on the work of the Cooper Institute. As you continue to exercise, retake these tests. This is a great motivator as you compare your physiological age after exercising for months.
- Upper Body Strength: Do as may push-ups as you can in 1 minute. Women can use a modified position with hands and knees touching the floor. Men, you need to try hands and toes on the floor if you can. The average score for women in their 20’s is 26, in their 30’s 21, in their 40’s 15, in their 50’s 13 and over 60 is 8. The average score for men in their 20’s is 33, in their 30’s is 27, in their 40’s is 21, in their 50’s is 15 and over 60 is 15.
- Abdominal Strength: Do as many sit-ups as you can in 1 minute. Keep your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides and palms down with fingers extended. Curl up only until your shoulder blades lift off the floor letting your fingers slide along the floor for about 3 inches. The range for women in their 20’s is 25-45, in their 30’s is 20-40, in their 40’s is 18-35, in their 50’s 12-30 and over 60 is 11-25. The same range for men in their 20’s is 30-50, in their 30’s is 22-45, in their 40’s is 21-40, in their 50’s is 18-35, and over 60 is 15-30.
- Flexibilty: For your lower back and hamstrings you can test flexibility by sitting on the floor. Tape a yardstick to the floor and place a strip of tape perpendicular to the yardstick at the 15-inch mark. Position yourself so that the yardstick’s 0 end is close to your groin. Place your heels on the tape at 15 inches away. Put your hands on top of each other and lean forward along the yardstick. Your score is the place on the yardstick you can reach. Remember to keep your knees straight. The average score for a woman in her 20’s is 20″, in her 30’s is 19″, in her 40’s is 18″, in her 50’s is 17.9″, and over 60 is 16.4″. The average score for men in their 20’s is 17.5″, in their 30’s is 16.5″, in their 40’s is 15.3″, in their 50’s is 14.5″ and over 60 is 13.5″.
- You can learn to score your aerobic fitness or have an expert do this for you at your gym. This includes timing how long it takes you to walk a mile, and your heart rate response to that effort. If you have had a stress test, you will have a good idea of how well you can do this. Scoring a mile walk and your heart rate is mediated by your age, gender and heart rate. If you are unhappy with your scores, don’t give up. Regular exercise can help improve them. Be aware that becoming fit is more important than ever as we age, since active people can maintain a high level of function much later in life than those who are sedentary. Research at the Cooper Institute shows that a physically active person has about a 20-year advantage over a sedentary person in terms of function. The Institute’s studies show that the treadmill time of a 65-year old active person is about the same as that as a sedentary 45-year old.
Now we will look at some new sports you may wish to try. We will include some general information, health issues and activity.
- Field Hockey: This is a good team sport for those of us with good legs, excellent lungs and a strong heart, and for those who are strong enough to take the physical contact that can occur during a game. All of that said, this is a good game, which will take at least an hour out of your day especially if you can find a game with people of your age. It will work out your whole body and make you understand why it is so popular with our teens. This is just plain fun.
- Rowing: This is one of those solitary sports that make warm days glide by as you navigate the local river, lake or pond. If you want to try rowing and don’t want to be alone, never fear, because you can take a guest and talk your way across the river or go sculling with a boat full of people and a coach shouting at you to “pull”. Rowing is full body exercise. It is one of those exercises that has a low risk for injury, unless someone asks you to carry your canoe or shell to the water. Then watch those others. This is a sport that will take about an hour out of your day. It has no physical contact and makes exercise seem like a present.
- Canoeing/kayaking: We have discussed this sport recently on the site, but it is worth another look if you haven’t tried them yet. This can be solitary or you can always put a guest in your canoe and hand them a paddle. These are upper body exercise sports. There is only a moderate chance of injury, all of which is over shadowed by the fun you are having. To get a work out you will need to be out on the water most of the day as this is not a very aerobic sport.
- Tennis: We also did a piece on tennis so if you want to know more that, just look at the table of contents for the Exercise articles on the site. Tennis can be solitary or played in pairs. I know, you’ll say it takes 2 to play, but most of the time, if you play singles, you are thinking about how to beat the person on the other side of the net. If you play doubles, you will need to play for a longer time than singles, which should take 1 hour to get a physical workout. Tennis is a full body exercise and is a thinking man’s or woman’s sport that boasts more fun per stroke than you can imagine. Take a series of lessons and go for it.
- Volleyball: A great sport that can be played indoors, then moved to an outdoor court for the summer months. A terrific family sport that can be played in the back yard or at the beach.
We have started you out with some suggestions, some of which may not be an option for you, but start a list of those that are and see how each new sport fits into your life and your abilities. Now, you are asking, “What are you going to try?” I have just joined the local crew club so that I restart that sport. I have also decided to try easy rock climbing.
Now that I’m getting an insulin pump, I am thinking that some sports that were a bit scary for me when I had to carry glucose tablets, glucose monitor, insulin, syringes and food for each activity will now allow me to try sports that I would not try before. I’ll keep you posted. The pump has not arrived yet so I’m in the “dreaming” stage. If I can get excited about getting into something new, so can you. So, don’t stop with making a list; start your new sport.