Have you ever noticed a baby sitting in one of those umbrella strollers just crying uncontrollably. Let’s face it, children cry and especially in the afternoon just before dinnertime. I called it the “bewitching” hour, because my kids seemed to melt down about that time of day, no matter where we were.
I often wondered, though, if the child was really crying because his legs ached. They were sitting in a way that may have cut off their circulation. I know that when we travel with our grandchildren who have to sit in car seats for extended periods of time, I notice the same behavior. They just get surly. I think they just might need to get out and run around a little.
We live in such a mobile world; yet here in the US we move less and less. Kids seem to move from their car seats to their couches to watch TV or play with their notebooks. Even playing with the extremely popular Legos doesn’t require much movement. Problem is, according to research they will pay a price for this behavior. Certainly, many of us adults already are.
I sincerely believe that our ability to keep moving is the key to better health; however, I’m not talking about exercise, gyms and treadmills. I’m just talking about everyday moving, such as walking to a kitchen to fetch a glass of water or gardening in our yards or standing and washing dishes.
Most of us seniors grew up at a time when there were no gyms and someone running for the sake of running was seldom seen. The only people I can remember running in my community were athletes, trying to stay in condition. Jack Youngblood’s mother lived in our town, and we would see him out running, but he was a professional football player.
My grandparents didn’t run and neither did my parents. As children, we ran; in fact all of us did. We played hard. It was a part of growing up in our era.
People did get fat, but there weren’t very many. Mostly, it was a consequence of a more sedentary career, such as a desk job. Most people I knew growing up worked on farms and other hands-on, physical jobs. Most of these people were trim if not thin. My dad was an example of this. He worked as an electrician for Florida Power Corporation. He also trimmed trees in the late afternoons and weekends to send me to college. When he came home, I seldom saw him watching TV. He was out mowing the yard, washing cars, or fixing something. He was seldom still.
My Uncle James is a wonderful example of someone who worked at a desk all his life but kept moving and maintained a good weight. Uncle James contracted infantile paralysis when he was eighteen months old in 1922. Today, it is called polio. He was completely paralyzed except for his left hand and arm.
The family lived near Thomasville, Georgia, where there were several wealthy families living on plantations. Because of these families, Thomasville had a chiropractor, a doctor unheard of in most towns of the south back in the 1920s. Dr. Strobel took little James as a patient. My Grandmother Roe said that Dr. Strobel worked hard to help James learn how to walk again. His paralysis was permanent, but he showed James how to use other muscles to compensate. Finally, Uncle James could walk, though crippled and could not run. His friends called him, “Wobbly”.
My uncle had a wonderful life. He never let his affliction slow him down, and his demeanor was wonderful, if not delightful. He worked at a local gas station when he was a teenager, and he had a paper route. He delivered the Florida Times Union morning paper using his bicycle. It was an early edition paper route, but he never missed delivering their papers.
When he graduated from high school before World War II, the family sent him to Jones Business College in Jacksonville, so he could support himself at a desk job. He was hired first by our hometown’s local Rationing Board during the war, and after the war he went to work with the Atlantic Coastline Railroad in Jacksonville. He stayed with them almost forty years before retiring.
One time when I was visiting with Uncle James, he drove me to a local restaurant for lunch. The parking lot was full, and we had to park a good ways from the restaurant and walk. I mentioned to my uncle that I was sure the state would give him a handicap sticker for his car, but he said, “No, I don’t want one. Dr. Strobel said that if I didn’t keep moving, I would lose my ability to walk. That my muscles would weaken, and I might never walk again.” I guess Dr. Strobel believed in the “use it or lose it” premise.
Back when Uncle James was a baby with polio, the family worried that they would lose him. Now, Uncle James is 94 and is the only member of his family still living. His attitude and demeanor are still wonderful, and the other day one of his high school classmates gave me a message to give to my uncle. He said, “Tell old Wobbly that I said ‘hello’.
I’ve noticed over the last decade that my joints hurt if I do not move enough. I really cannot afford to sit and watch a TV for an entire hour at a time. If I do it frequently, I notice that my joints begin to ache again. I actually use commercials to get up and get things done, even if it is only to go to the bathroom, wash four or five dishes, or carry a load of laundry to the laundry room.
I keep moving. If I do this, my joints don’t hurt. I also noticed that it helps with weight control, and I have more energy. I’m 5’4” and weigh 136 pounds. I do not belong to a gym, and I get almost all my exercise by doing housework, yard work and walking, though my walking is usually just down the street and back. I also do Yoga for flexibility.
I don’t remember ever seeing my grandmothers worry about their heart rate. They never ran or did jumping jacks or anything else. One lived to be 93 and the other 99. The 93 year old was sharp as a tack and had good health just until about five months before she passed. The 99 year old began moving toward dementia when she was about 94, but her body was amazing. She died without ever having to take any daily medication.
I sincerely believe that this intermittent movement should be the basis for everyone. If nothing else, even if you cannot get to the gym or cannot run a mile, just keep moving.
Our government has been surveying us, and they found that almost 50% of us report sitting for more than six hours a day. Over 65% of us spend more than two hours a day watching TV. I believe that if you’ve been sitting for more than an hour, you’ve been sitting too long.
Several more studies confirmed that a regular fitness routine will not counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. This study followed 82,000 men for a decade and found that their risks were the same as those who sat the same amount of time and did no exercise.
Let’s face it, most of us will not go out and race across the yard let alone run a mile. So just make your plans to keep moving. Place a program on your computer that reminds you to get up every 20 minutes like Workrave. This is a software program that I use that reminds me to take a break. I use the breaks to get something done. Also, use the TV commercials like I do. Even if we DVR something, I still let the commercials run. I’m just not in the room to watch them. I guess that is why the TV commercials are so loud now. It is because of people like me.
And what about all our kids who are sedentary while they play video games, watch TV, and play with their notebooks and Legos? I hope I’m wrong, but we may see a new phenomenon in the future–a worldwide decline in our life expectancy. It may begin with their generation. Life Expectancy Statistics for World Population