April 17, 2019 | View PDF
Activity of any sort has always been a large part of my life. As a child, I had the nickname Worry Wart or Nervous Nellie as I could not seem to sit still for any length of time. When sitting, one or the other leg constantly jiggled up and down, my feet tapped the floor, and movement seemed an integral part of my being. I drove classmates who had the misfortune to sit directly in front of me totally berserk, as my feet always seemed to find the back rung of their chairs and those feet beat a constant tattoo on that rung. I tried hard to sit still, but it seldom worked well.
This activity continued as an adult. When I worked at outside jobs, I got along well. When I had the misfortune of working inside at a desk, I needed to get up and move to stay sane. I walked during every break, and my lunch hours I spent walking as well. When I lived in near proximity to a job, I would walk to and from work every day, regardless of the weather.
Now that I am semi-retired, I still remain far more active than most people I know. So imagine my annoyance and disgruntlement when I broke my ankle in January and spent the next six weeks with no weight bearing allowed on that leg. Oh, I found ways to move with the help of a pink scooter, which allowed me to lead a semi-normal active lifestyle but this didn't compensate for the loss of my normal hiking and other activities and the freedom to move at will.
While under orders not to put weight on the broken ankle, I did some research on exercises, what I could do in spite of a broken ankle to remain in somewhat decent physical shape, and what physical activities would help me remain sane in a most unhappy situation. I looked at statistics in general on exercise and physical fitness. I was horrified to discover what a nation of overeaters America has become. First of all, obesity has soared out of control. 68% of Americans are overweight or obese. That is more than half of us. By 2020, experts figure that three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese. The CDC recommends an hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous activity daily for those between 18-64, but most adults only do 17 minutes of fitness activities per day.
Only 30% of those of us between 65-74 years of age are physically active, and of those 75 years and older, only 40% remain physically active. 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities. Especially disturbing to me is that older adults are more physically active than youngsters, who spend far too much time in front of a screen of some sort.
I find this information appalling and really sad. I looked around, and noticed that often the heaviest people park by a store entrance, while thinner people are willing to walk a little distance to reach that entrance. Stout people seldom return shopping carts to the collection site, but drive away leaving their carts abandoned in the parking lot. Many of us seem willing to drive three blocks to the post office rather than taking a nice stroll to retrieve their mail. Research does show that people feel better about themselves when they include some physical activity in their daily routine, even if that means a short walk to the post office, or a jaunt down the lane and back.
While I nursed the broken ankle, I did push my scooter up and down Lois Lane, down Cornucopia, and into Virginia City and home again. I shoveled show, swept walks, and completed housework. It wasn't the same as having two sturdy legs underneath me, but it kept me mobile, moving, and far less grumpy and discouraged than I would have been had I confined myself to the house. I did foot exercises, I moved my foot up and down, tapped my toes, raised my heel, and did leg raises to keep the leg muscles somewhat in shape, and ready for action when I got the all-clear to start walking. Was this easy? Not always, nor was I always in the frame of mind to work on physical activity of any sort. It took a good talking to myself on many occasions to get up out of the chair and start to move.
It took seemingly forever, but the time did arrive when I was allowed to start walking with a boot and crutches on that bad ankle once again. I think the effort I expended while remaining non-weight bearing paid off. I need to wear a boot on the affected ankle until the end of April, but the boot doesn't hamper me much. I also needed crutches the first few weeks of weight bearing, and they DID slow me down somewhat. The exercises the physical therapist gave me were not that difficult to do, and my stiff ankle has responded well to motion. It feels good to move, it makes my heart sing to have the ability to lead an almost normal life again, and I appreciate a body that works reasonably well and gets me where I want to go.
Physical activity really does improve my mental outlook as well as my physical health. It takes just a little thought and some desire to add additional physical movement to a day to improve one's physical fitness. There are days when I really do not feel like expending a whole of energy, but I do it anyway and once I get started, I want to continue. Activity really does fix foul moods and correct feelings of boredom or dissatisfaction.