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FOREST INK: Elder fitness, you’re never too old

A 93-year-old Irish man recently won an indoor rowing competition
Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Williams Lake Tribune

I have tried to be consistent with my daily walks, but the cold weather and recent icy conditions interrupted my exercise program so it was not a surprise when I developed a pain in my hip which interfered with my walking even in the house. Fortunately we have a stationary bike in the rec room which allowed me to exercise and didn’t seem to irritate the hip as much as walking.

I also brought up my Nordic track cross-country ski machine and found it also was less irritating than walking. The good news is that with my 30-to-60-minute daily stretching and biking-skiing program my hip is much better.

After hearing some interesting examples of what some elders have accomplished I will try to increase my indoor program especially during the winter months when I am not outside as much.

The first story was from Ireland where a 93-old man recently won an indoor rowing competition which would have been difficult for people half his age.

According to his grandson Lorcan Daly the accomplishment was amazing since his grandfather didn’t start rowing until he was in his 70s.

“So that’s the key takeaway, that these things are highly plastic. They can adapt. You put a stress, whether it’s from weightlifting or a cardiovascular exercise, the body will respond and adapt at any age.”

He also described a program in the Netherlands where groups of people over the age of 85 were put on a weight training program and gained a lot of muscle mass and strength at very old ages.

Michael Cerra from Quebec thought he was in good shape until he got into a more intense training program.

“But after those 12 weeks the difference was huge. Today I wouldn’t see myself not going to the gym two or three times a week. It’s become part of my life. I am stronger. What I could do once at a maximum weight, 10 years ago is like 15 or 20 pounds or less than my warm-ups today. So my strength has improved and my general condition has improved, also. My stamina. Overall, my health is probably better than it was 10 years ago.”

Barrie Street at 87 has the following advice. As we grow older, we lose some elasticity balance and muscle mass, but most of these issues can be addressed through exercise.

“I can attest to this with conviction. There are, of course, many kinds of exercises for seniors to keep themselves fit, and you don’t necessarily have to run, bike, swim, or even go to the gym. For instance, you might try yoga, tai chi, social dancing, walking and stretching.”

Somewhere you’ll find an activity with your name stamped on it. I like to count my steps every day, so I aim for 8,000 to 10,000 steps every day.

Another contributor describes how he does his stretches while in line at Tim Hortons which may get him some weird looks but it is worth it.

“Exercising has a huge impact on my life. It’s given me more agility, given me better cognitive fitness. Better cardiovascular, stronger heart. Helps me to sleep better. Much more, it’s given me zest and passion for life. I wouldn’t have this zest and passion without my life of fitness. We can’t control the aging process, but we can influence it because we all have the ability to be the best version of ourselves at any age level.”

The last story is about Lisa Modlich who at 88 in 2013 was a table tennis world champion. She intimidates opponents with her strength and swagger. She steamrolls more experienced competition. Modlich’s journey to the top is the subject of the new documentary, Ping Pong, airing on PBS stations nationwide.