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Shades of Gray

Feeling Fit : Exercise and Good Nutrition Are the Keys to Treasure of Life

August 27, 1992| Agnes Herman | Agnes Herman is a writer, lecturer and retired social worker living in Lake San Marcos

It seems that everyone is searching, stretching to stay fit--a condition that we know involves regular exercise, good nutrition and an open attitude.

On the walkways at the beach, runners, some pushing those newly designed baby buggies, pass sauntering elderly couples who hold hands and smile pleasantly as they move out of the fast lane.

Everywhere it seems, runners, joggers and fast walkers set the pace while those with swiftly beating hearts race to keep up.

I get tired just thinking about those busy feet, yet I, too, strain to stay healthy. My motivator is a 4-year-old grandson who I would like to live to see enter college, even graduate and, perhaps, marry!

While I am highly motivated, I cannot run for more than 60 seconds at a time.

Some exercise is just too boring. I cannot stand the thought of riding a stationary bike, for example. If I try to read at the same time, my eyes are always out of sync with the pedals.

Walking is good, even essential, but there are also other avenues for keeping fit.

For the stay-at-home crowd, morning programs on TV offer a host of exercises that range from the easy to the difficult.

Golf and tennis are flexible and adjustable to a player's ability. If one tires after an hour of tennis singles, one hour of doubles might be perfect. To ride a golf cart or to walk the fairways is a decision that is predicated on one's stamina and dedication to exercise.

The woman next door swims every day of the year; a man down the street rides his bicycle daily. One woman from another neighborhood walks rapidly past my door each morning at 8 o'clock. I assume that some of my neighbors are walking past her door at the same hour.

These people are not youngsters, but all of them are eager to feel well.

We residents of North County are particularly fortunate, for there is a wonderful menu of exercise programs available to us.

Oasis, a nonprofit organization designed for persons 60 and older, offers cultural, educational and exercise classes at Robinson's department store at North County Fair. One of the classes is t'ai chi ch'uan, a gentle, safe form of exercise that is popular, energizing and stress reducing. Another is yoga.

And, in that same North County mall, there is a supervised, twice-weekly walking program.

Scripps Memorial Hospital also has yoga classes as part of its Health Plus 55 senior program. Other course names include "These Shoes Were Made For Walking" and "Walking for Vascular Health."

The Palomar-Pomerado Health Concern offers "Keep On Dancin' " twice a week for women and men. Other area hospitals offer similar classes.

Local senior centers are a good source of opportunities for regular exercise. Recently, I pulled into the parking lot of the Carlsbad Senior Center to find a parade of my peers leaving the building, each with an exercise mat rolled up under one arm.

Cranking up the muscles, strengthening and stretching are not guarantees to fitness unless they are accompanied by an intelligent intake of nourishment.

Several years ago, on the day after our doctor informed my husband and me that our cholesterol numbers proved how much we loved to eat unwisely, our insurance man called on us. We agreed with his suggestion to meet with a nutritionist. Today, we do not have to be hit in our sweet tooth to understand the dos and don'ts of healthful eating.

Fortunately for all of us in North County, local hospitals provide outreach classes that encourage nutritional understanding. Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside periodically offers lectures on the role of vitamins and the impact of cholesterol; Scripps offers a course, "Heart Healthy Cooking: California Cuisine."

Exercise, which helps us become physically fit, contributes as well to our mental well-being. When my day has been less than perfect because of a disconcerting phone call from one of the children or a disappointing conversation with a friend or--I hesitate to mention--a disagreement with my husband, I go out, take a long walk and return refreshed.

I am not a doctor, so I am not sure why it works. Hitting a tennis ball as hard as my aging wrists allow also works. These physical acts have consistently proved to be a lot more effective than shouting or rolling my insides with frustration.

Exercise also serves as a hedge against osteoporosis, the thinning and weakening of the bones of aging people, primarily women. We all know that the key to good bone structure is calcium, a subject best discussed with one's doctor. But there are other ways to maintain healthy bones: stop smoking, limit alcohol intake and get active; turn off the screen, get off the couch, stretch your legs, energize your heart beat.

Among people over 65, there are 220,000 fractures of the thighbone annually. Many can be avoided. Bones weakened by osteoporosis snap like uncooked spaghetti.

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