We recently purchased a NordicTrack treadmill. It’s a little pricy, but we expect to use it as long as we can, and if anything goes wrong with it for five years (extended warranty), they will come and fix it in our home. Even wear items, like the belt. And if we wear out first, our kids may be able to use it. Frankly, the cost of the thing helps motivate me to use it. I’ve got to get benefit from it that justifies the cost, you see.
Why did we buy this thing? Well, mainly because I’ve been sedentary for far too long, and I know that regular exercise is one key component to aging gracefully. I weigh too much, and when I started with this I would be out of breath checking the mail. Texas Grandma is using it, too, so we’re both getting some benefit from it.
I’ve now, in about six weeks, worked my way up to going a bit over two miles in 45 minutes, at a brisk walk – 2.8 – 2.9 miles per hour. I do this a bit more frequently then every other day. I’ve tried running at speed setting 4 mph, and I can keep it up for about a minute before my heart rate monitor starts screaming at me. So, it’s going to be a while before I can run for any length of time. The key is to try to increase capability slowly. After all, it’s not like I’m on a schedule. Any increase in capability is good.
By the way, if you do this you should  get a wearable heart rate monitor – it need not be an expensive one, all you need to be able to do is to see what your pulse rate is, real time as you exercise. First you use it to identify the pulse rate at which you can continuously exercise for 30 minutes without strain – you can easily carry on a conversation with someone. For me this is currently about 140 beats per minute. Your goal is to exercise at that rate or perhaps 5 – 10 points higher for periods of time. Over time, these numbers increase as your capability increases. The monitor is important, though; it’s easy to get up into dangerous territory very quickly – as in my experiments with running, mentioned above; the heart monitor helps you realize you are doing it, so you know when to slow down before you hit the wall.
I have seen some benefits already; when I started, I had frequent hip pain, and that seems to have abated. My shoulder bothers me sometimes, but not as frequently. I seem to be a bit springier, getting out of bed or bending down for any purpose. And it takes a longer period of exercise before I’m out of breath. So I hurt less and feel better. The only down side is the investment in time.
Now that I’ve been using it for a month, I am in awe of anybody that can use this machine to its potential. I mean, come on – this thing can go 12 mph. Way, way faster than I will ever go on foot.
For them that are interested, here are a couple of books:
“Younger Next Year” by Chris Cowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. – This book is not an exercise book, per se, but rather is all about why you should exercise as you get older. They do have specific recommendations: 45 minutes a day, six days a week; and four of those days should be aerobic exercise. This book is unique in that it explains clearly what goes on in the body if you do or don’t exercise – what message you are sending your body, that is. Understanding this certainly aids motivation.
“Strength Training over 50” by D. Christine Caivano – This is an exercise book, concentrating on weight training and stretching exercises, that is designed for the older person. It’s a well-laid-out book that explains what the exercises do, with plenty of pictures, and various exercise plans depending on your needs. It is spiral bound and lays flat, too, so you can easily refer to it while exercising.
So, we’ll see how it goes.
 Also, get a checkup. This column describes my own experiences. I didn’t get a checkup specifically for this purpose, but I have had one recently. As in anything, your mileage may vary. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice! This column simply relates my own experiences over the last couple of months. No warranty expressed or implied! This is not a Step! This document is worth exactly what it cost you to read it! Above all – don’t hurt yourself by biting off more than you can chew!