Today's post is written by Sheila of Grandma Moves, an Instagram account that encourages everyone to keep moving throughout their lives.
So, you're a grandparent! There just isn't anything comparable, is there? Everyone always says how wonderful it is, but you can't appreciate it until you are anointed with the label yourself. Then you know. It's magic.
Some of us have special talents or hobbies we cannot wait to share with our grandchildren – maybe it's looking through a telescope at the stars, helping them plant their own garden patch right next to ours or going fishing...It's exciting to consider the many activities we will share with them going forward!
As the children grow older, so do we! Initially, when they are taking their first steps, it is simply holding out our hand for them to grab onto in order to steady their wobbly steps. Once they are confident and mobile it becomes a matter of following them around to make sure they are safe. We've managed so far, but what about when that grandchild is two or three and runs faster than we do? The child runs like the wind while we run winded trying to keep up! When our grandchild is over for a sleepover and falls asleep while curled up beside us, will we be able to pick them up and carry them to bed so as not to disturb their sleep?
Maybe you are chuckling and saying to yourself, “This isn't me. I have no problem”, and that's great! I only want to bring to your awareness that if you aren't proactively moving about daily this could become an issue.
As we age it's no secret that we lose muscle mass at a pretty good rate unless we are active and performing moves to improve our strength and build muscle. Why does this matter? Well, we want to experience that special moment of skipping across the lawn together while our grandchild is looking up at us giggling with the biggest sparkle of joy in his or her eyes. We also want to throw the baseball to an enthusiastic little player in training without pulling or tweaking something—and you know we can't wait to walk together on a boardwalk by the sea and join our grandchild when he or she runs off over the stony, uneven surface of the beach to look for shells. That's why it matters.
Losing our strength can change everything we dreamed of, not only in terms of doing special things or even every day things with our grandchild, but in and around our home. When we lose muscle strength in our legs, they become weak. Suddenly we realize we have been consistently using the table for support to get up out of the chair...and actually, we only sit in a chair that has a piece of furniture nearby to use as an aid. When our arms and hands become weak we can't carry the load of heavier items we used to be able to and even opening jars becomes problematic.
These may seem like small, manageable things but it can be the beginning of our dependency on others. Along with loss of strength, the quick reaction time diminishes meaning if we fall we may not be able to recover before we go crashing to the ground. Confidence wanes and we become overly cautious. We used to go climb up to the top of the stairs without giving it a second thought, but when did we start avoiding the stairs because they seem to be more of an effort?
I think you get the picture. Without moving our bodies often and maintaining strength, flexibility and balance, the idea of what being a grandparent looked like for us in those early days may be much different in reality. Aging doesn't have to look like that. It isn't inevitable.
What does it take? I'll tell you. Consistently moving throughout the day; walking, taking stairs, raising up on your toes when at the kitchen sink, sitting almost on the chair and then getting up before you are fully resting on it, squeezing a towel tightly with your hands and twisting it, doing balance moves from standing such as lifting one knee up while gently holding onto a chair or wall, practicing getting up and down from the floor and even doing some cursive writing to keep those fingers moving!
A good plan includes foundation exercises, like squats, lunges, planks and push-ups that mimic the moves we do every day and so are imperative in order to keep us in good shape, able to perform all the functions daily living demands of us – including sharing all of those wonderful moments with our grandchildren when we go hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, etc. These are advanced moves if you are just starting out, but each of these exercises have easier variations to begin with first, progressing as we are able. For instance, squats can be sitting down on a chair and getting up just as we touch, lunges can be done while holding a chair or wall and not going deep, planks can be done from the knees and push-ups can be done standing up and using a wall.
The key here is to make the activities you choose sustainable and not set yourself up for failure by planning too much at once. Start small, like taking a short walk, then doing that walk more often until you're doing it every other day, and eventually making it longer in duration, then add a hill. Build slowly but surely and add other moves as you go along until you have a well-balanced program that suits your ability. The other thing I would say is make it enjoyable. If it feels like a chore, it isn't going to be sustainable.
Committing to a healthy lifestyle of fitness needn't cost anything – unless you want it to. There are many paths to fitness, some of which do mean you need to spend some money, including going to see a physiotherapist to get an exercise program designed to meet your needs, hiring a personal trainer, joining a gym or purchasing some equipment for your home. You can even become competitive in sport, if you desire. There is something for every person and every pocketbook. Just remember, you're never too old to start.
I'll say that again because it is very important. You are never too old to start.
All of this can change how we interact with our grandchildren in the future and how well we age. Commit to a lifestyle of daily movement so you can enjoy these special years by being the best you can be.
Sheila is the force behind Grandma Moves, an Instagram account that encourages everyone to keep moving throughout their lives. Follow her for daily inspiration: @grandma_moves.