Bill stood next to me at the snack table, which was laden with Christmas goodies that would stop a heart at a hundred feet. Someone had kindly provided hummus with crudites, which was what I was eating to avoid the chocolate cheesecake. It’s not easy to behave well at Christmas parties.
At 6’1 and around 190 lbs, Bill’s in good shape for his late seventies. He told me that he plays racquetball three times a week. For him, that’s enough. In fact he plays a number of games in a row until he’s finally whipped.
Some years back Bill was playing less effectively. After his games he said it took him some four to five hours to recover his energy.
Then one day out of the blue, his knees collapsed under him. He got back up but went in for comprehensive testing. Nothing showed up until he had an angiogram. He needed a triple bypass surgery, and fast.
The surgery went well, and shortly afterwards Bill went back to his regular racquetball games. Because he was already active his body healed quickly.
What interested me so much about his story was that he had never shown any of the classic symptoms of a heart problem. Second, when the doctors opened up his chest, they discovered that Bill’s heart and body had found many other ways to deliver almost the same amount of blood through other avenues.
Life finds a way.
Had Bill not been exercising so regularly, he might have either had far more serious problems or dropped dead. Instead, his body was being asked to work. In order to respond to the demand, his circulatory system found ways to deliver the goods to the muscles and cells of his body. Until they were overworked, and asked for relief.
It required a change in diet to support his heart more effectively, but the exercise has been his lifeline. Not only that, it’s his ticket to many more vibrant years ahead.
Today Bill can play racquetball for hours without getting tired at all. With his heart functioning at full speed, he’s getting far more oxygen and nutrients. He’s hardly lost a step, much less his quality of life.
The body’s set point is wellness. Even when there is a genuine problem, when we exercise and eat well, get plenty of sleep, our bodies can deal with the problem at hand. Bill’s energy level is a testament to this process of arming ourselves against illness.
Bill looked over at his wife, who was helping herself to the cookies.
“I wish I could get her to do something,” he sighed. “It’s all I can do to get her outside to walk the dog.”
Wellness isn’t guaranteed. It’s earned.
Need more proof? The National Institutes of Health published an article 9https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367/) about how important exercise is to our quality of life. Let’s cut to the chase:
“The comprehensive evidence herein clearly establishes that lack of physical activity affects almost every cell, organ, and system in the body causing sedentary dysfunction and accelerated death. (emphasis mine) The massive multifactorial nature of dysfunction caused by sedentarism means that just as food and reproduction remain as requirements for long-term continued human existence, physical activity is also a requirement to maximize health span and lifespan. The only valid scientific therapeutic approach to completely counter sedentary dysfunction is primary prevention with physical activity itself.”
Let’s be clear. You don’t have to start running marathons or hiking huge mountains to be healthier, nor to enjoy vibrant health. However, like Bill’s wife, you and I can’t consume Christmas (or Easter or Valentine’s or Halloween or any other) goodies without impunity. The body wants to move, often and with some effort, to be able to give us a fruitful life.
Doing nothing is not an option if you plan to live long and prosper, in other words. So grab that leash. Get that dog outside and let’s start walking.