First foot forward – why does exercise get so difficult as you get older?

Why does exercise get so difficult as you get older?

Today I started walking again – for the first time in a month. The wake-up call was putting my back out a week ago. OK, I admit it’s my own fault. My sister visited at the end of September and I did nothing but clean, tidy and decorate for a fortnight before she got here, then drive her around for a week. The dog was going nuts, wondering where his morning run had disappeared to, but impressing my sister was obviously more important. I even stopped my morning yoga in favour of slapping paint on the salon walls.

The trouble is, I’m not a teenager any more, am I? At 44 you can’t just stop exercising for three weeks and then carry on like nothing’s happened, especially when you have a dodgy back. So last Friday, I should have known better than to pick up a 10-litre can of paint and carry it upstairs – even with a daily four-mile walk and my yoga exercises, this would be daft for me without a back brace, but having not exercised at all it was very stupid indeed. Luckily I got away with strapping myself up for three days and taking it easy.

Today’s been my first walk since then. I live in the countryside and it’s a beautiful autumn day, with mist and yellowing maize, and the cherry trees turning red. Walking is a complete and private pleasure. At heart, I think I do it not just to stay fit, or to keep the dog out of mischief, but to connect with nature, mull over thoughts and feelings, and to calm myself down. I also like being alone for a while, with only my untalkative mutt for company. The idea of exercising on a treadmill or lifting weights is anathema to me, but it’s horses for courses I guess – some people like their gym membership, or to exercise in a class. I’m more of a loner. The important thing is to find what exercise you like, and to stick to it.

So even though my inguinal ligaments were screaming after about 30 minutes and my normal walk took 15 minutes longer than usual, I now feel fantastic. I also know that today I’m in better shape than yesterday, and tomorrow I’ll be in better shape than today. It’s all worth it.

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