On the treadmill at my gym the other day, I noticed my computerized trainer urging me to increase my pulse rate from its existing rate of 80 to a recommended aerobic rate for my age to 122. My age is 68. In the mind of my computerized trainer, apparently, I was using the gymnasium equipment simply to continue life as a non-aerobic couch potato in gym shorts.
It so happened that just the night before going to the gym, I was listening to a doctor on a talk radio show adamantly criticizing the need for seniors to stress their old bodies on aerobic exercises. As his evidence of the cardiac problems with aerobic exercise, the doctor listed the relatively shorter lifetimes of professional athletes.
And at my age, according to the instructions on the exercise equipment at my gym, I am not supposed to get my heartbeat above that 122 limit. Increasing my walking pace will usually bring my heartbeat up only to about 90. So I try to do a little running on the treadmill just so I can remember what running is, like for example, for use at a possible terrorism scene, which seems to be happening anywhere these days. So invariably, I will run a little but I don’t last too long, because within minutes this effort will lead to a heartbeat of 150.
NOTE TO MYSELF: My exercise equipment is telling me that if I am going to run at a terrorist scene I better get a hiding place in mind quickly.
But my sense of myself already tell me not to get my heart rate to that of someone playing in the Super Bowl, for the same reason why I would not take any old model car with 200,000 miles on it to race in the Daytona 500.
My sense of my own heartbeats may not be greatly scientific, but it makes sense to my common sense. My body is telling me now that I do not have unlimited heartbeats, any more than the even the best mother hen has unlimited eggs to lay.
And since my heartbeats have to be at least as limited as the best Swiss clock has a limit on its ticking, it makes no sense for me to use up all my heartbeats now on aerobic heartbeat racing exercise.
Listening to that doctor on that radio show who was warning against seniors indulging in fast-heartbeat aerobics, and his warning of the long-range effects of a lifetime of aerobic heart-beating – such as those who live one way or another in professional sports – I began my own tally of the kind of people of who have lived both long and short , So I started to look up on the Internet what had happened to all the once-young major league baseball players whose baseball cards I had collected from the Fifties and the Sixties.
I was very surprised then to find out that about a third of them at passed away.
I was even more surprised at the way that the once overwhelmingly World Series champions New York Yankees had passed away long before the life expectancy years of their time by the stress-related plagues of heart disease and cancer and even alcoholism. If you were once a Yankee fan yourself, did you know that among the early death toll for all those World Series champion Fifties and Sixties Yankees teams included Mickey Mantle, who died at 63; Billy Martin, dead at 61; Roger Maris, dead at51; Elston Howard, dead at 51; Jackie Jensen, dead at 53; Marv Thoneberry, dead at 60; Bill Stafford dead at 62; Tom Tresh, dead at 70; Cletis Boyer, dead at 70? But what is not too surprising is that these Yankees also played under more stress than other players, because their teams brought them into many more World Series games.
The one baseball player in my entire huge baseball card collection who lived over 90 was Al Dark, a journeyman infielder who once became the manager of the San Francisco Giants and managed the Oakland A’s to a World Series championship in 1974. Dark passed away a few years ago at age 92.
In contrast, it seems that if you choose professional comedy as a career, you have a better chance of living to a hundred, such as did Bob Hope and George Burns. But then again, comedy has been discovered to release serotonin, an internal relaxant that may be the most effective heart medicine around.
And this is not to say that seniors should not go to the gym. I go to the gym as much as I can. But we just have to remind ourselves that the trainers in the gym who would like to work with us are not professional medical people, and that they tend to think that physical activity needs to be accelerated until we “hit the wall.” Actually, there may be nothing worse for us seniors than “hitting the wall.”
Yet physical exercises that actually build some muscles may be one of the best things we can do, if the muscles we build can more effectively use our body sugar to keep it from floating aimlessly in our blood and creating diabetes.
Chris Sharp- Commentary
Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel http://a.co/fuaXDsP. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon