On the Path to Healthful Longevity: the Privilege of Choice
by Wendy Lynn Conquergood
With the advent of the winter solstice, the seasonal movement of the sun provides its least amount of daylight, before it starts to increase again. During this vacuum of winter cold and darkness, we stand be-jewelled by the sparkling festivity of the Holiday season. Our days overflow with activity, merrymaking, great food, and good times spent with loved ones and friends. Long winter nights softly unfold, offering recovery and rest, and as we sleep, we dream; pondering the first important choice we will make in the coming year… our New Year’s Resolution.
The desire for healthy longevity appears deeply ingrained in the human spirit. It should come as no surprise that losing weight and exercising to stay fit perennially holds down the number one spot on the New Year’s Resolution monitor. A healthy long life is partially determined by genetics, coupled with the life style choices we make along the way. Hardly a new or novel idea, centenarians the world over are citing their longevity to the fact of “a warm bowl of porridge in the morning and a hearty attitude to activity for the rest of the day.” Therein shows a timeless example of the privilege of choice.
A centenarian is a person who lives to, or beyond, the age of 100 years. As life expectancy is increasing around the world, and the global population is steadily growing, the number of centenarians is expected to rise in the future. That sounds like good news, but is it really? If our aging populations opt for sedentary lifestyles or poor choices in diet leading to uncontrolled chronic illness, our health care systems will be stressed and to provide the proper care or necessary medical procedures that will be required in the years to come.
Luckily, a large percentage of the speculated population spike will be by the first wave of retiring Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers were born after the Second World War, from 1946 to 1964. Having peak levels of income and a significant impact on the economy, Baby Boomers represent the first generation to reap the benefit of income security and an abundance of food and housing, thus becoming the wealthiest, most active and physically fit of society to date. With a redefinition of traditional values, this group is closing the gap between the concept of young and old. A new paradigm on aging is apt to include pro-active choice on such matters as food selection, exercise, activity, socialization, fun, and all the factors that contribute to keeping us “forever younger.”
Perhaps we were not all born with an innate love of physical activity or sports. Maybe some of us rely on a healthy dose of self discipline to “get down” on the idea of exercise. A recent in-class survey revealed that 90 percent of participants felt that exercise is something they “should do.” Alternatively, the attitude changed to 100 percent “love it” when they have chosen an exercise method they enjoy. The selections are abundant, i.e. walking, dancing, cycling, swimming, yoga, bowling, skating, curling, tai chi, and qigong, just to mention a few. Each exercise format provides a specific palate of benefit and enjoyment. Choosing something that puts a smile on your face will not only lift your mood, but our survey further revealed that a staggering 100 percent of participants reported feeling better with an ongoing commitment to an exercise strategy.
A commitment to exercise will undoubtedly boost your sense of self-esteem. You may feel like a royal setting a crown upon your head. The health benefits that follow will be the jewels that adorn it. Exquisite jewels, well worth the effort to acquire; for example, better overall health, stronger muscles and bones, improved posture and balance, better weight management, reduced stress and anxiety. Revel in the possibility of reducing your health care costs and looking forward to independent living with true quality of life into advanced age. Exercise need not be strenuous to deliver its load of health benefit. You may be surprised to find that your daily walking, gardening, and yard work activities already stoke the tally. A well-planned exercise session should include the aspects of warm-up, cardio, flexibility, strength, balance, and cool down. Start slow with new exercise ventures. Plan on short intervals of moderate activity approved by your doctor. The good news is… it is never too late to start!
Getting started need not be expensive. Fortunately, safe and affordable exercise programs are now readily available as a result of the dedication and focus of the Forever...in motion (FIM) initiative—an “Older Adult targeted strategy” of the Saskatoon Health Region. The mission statement of Forever...in motion is to improve and/or maintain the health of older adults living in the community through support, education, evaluation, partnership, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. The program has grown since it’s inception in 2002, from eight sites to an amazing 114 in Saskatoon and rural Saskatoon Health Region. These sites offer physical activity classes led by volunteers who are trained and supported by FIM staff. A partnership with Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association allows the FIM program to now be offered throughout Saskatchewan. Information about this program, FIM groups in your community, or how to start a group, can be found at Saskatoon Health Region: Community Older Adult, 306-655-2286 or outside the Saskatoon Health Region, 1-800-563-2555.
As we give witness to the blossom of another new year, let us pause to reflect on this golden time in which we age. Now able to break free of outdated societal concepts on aging, we align ourselves to experience the joyful potential present in our “privilege to choose.” The human body is perfectly designed for movement. Empower yourself with an exercise system that promotes healthful longevity and is an enjoyable way to relax and ease the tension of everyday life.
With a background of yoga, dance, tai chi chuan, and qigong, Wendy Conquergood has been facilitating regular and special needs classes in the Saskatoon area for thirty years. An avid interest in healthy lifestyles and the healing arts has included involvement in two vegetarian restaurants, a Reiki Master degree, and the meditation techniques of Knowledge from Prem Rawat (Maharaji). Wendy’s unique teaching style embodies the knowledge and experience gained from a lifetime of appreciation and practice of the above noted disciplines. To learn more about class times currently offered at Grace-Westminster Church, or for information on other locations, or to arrange a special group, private, or semi-private sessions, please contact her at 306-373-6961. Also, see the display ad on page 18 of the 21.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.