This Is Why I Exercise for the Future Me
Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with appearance.
There are lots of good reasons for women to exercise, especially as they get older. Some women do it to stay healthy or lose weight. Others want to get toned or like the social aspect of working out with friends. One friend thinks that her celebrity crush, Chris Evans, appreciates a nice bottom. She wants to be ready in case she ever meets him. Other women detest exercise and that’s okay, too.
It’s undeniable women’s bodies change when we enter our 30s, especially if having children is thrown into the mix. I could stand to lose a few pounds and firm up my “mummy tummy.” However, that’s not what motivates me to get on the treadmill and pick up my medicine ball every day.
Instead, I look around at those a decade (or four) older than me and see how they have slowed down. Some of them considerably. While I hope that I will accept grey hairs and wrinkles gracefully, I exercise for the future me that will lose stamina, muscle and cardiac function as I get older if I don’t do something about it now.
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I exercise so that I can continue to travel and walk miles along cobblestone streets or hilly mountain sides for as long as possible. One day I want to chase after my grandchildren without getting winded, while telling them how much I loved playing tag with their father at their age. It is important to me that I remain as independent as possible no matter how old I get. I want to be able to do even mundane tasks like carrying groceries into my home myself.
I appreciate that a side benefit of exercise might make me look better. However, that’s not what I care about. I’ve been fortunate to be relatively healthy so far, but I know I can’t take my health for granted. If I don’t care for my myself and start good habits now, it may be too late once I realize I can no longer do the things that once brought me joy. If I wait until my body can’t keep up to take action to start exercising, the damage will already have been done. Much of it irreversible.
Women start losing muscle and bone mass early, starting at about age 30, and the process only accelerates from there. Bone density starts to decrease as well. A shocking one in 16 women aged 20 and older have heart disease, which is the leading killer of women in America. I remind myself often that even though it’s impossible to stop the aging process, I can take steps to help slow the process down. Exercise and eating well are the chief tools I have at my disposal.
Mental acuity can also take a hit as women age. I once told my doctor that I didn’t know if I had time to exercise. Most working moms of young children find that to be the case. He told me I didn’t have time not to – because exercise makes you so much more productive. This is a lesson I carry with me as I lace up my running shoes and hope to keep my brain sharp, even when my head is covered in a crown of gray.
When I start to lose motivation, I look at the older people in my life who can no longer walk around the block without difficulty, the ones who spend too much time at home because going out is too physically taxing. Then I look to my neighbor, well into her 70s, who still trapezes around Europe. I think about my father-in-law who still plays tennis at 84. While genetics and luck certainly play a huge role in aging, if I have any say in what happens to me, I will choose to be active well into old age if at all possible. Exercising now is one way I can help ensure that happens. I am stacking the odds in my favor every way I know how. I hope one day the future me will thank the current me.