One of the most interesting and enjoyable individuals I have met during my career as a physical therapist was Mr. V. Mr. V immigrated with his wife to America after World War II. He worked in the tool and dye business for over forty years and had been retired for some time when I met him at age 75. His wife had passed away when he was 72, and he had adjusted to living alone. He had three children and six grandchildren who were all a big part of his life.
Mr. V was initially referred for treatment of a cervical pain problem that occurred while on vacation with his grandchildren. Over the span of twelve years, I had the opportunity to treat him two other times for a knee tendonitis and a shoulder impingement problem. All of these orthopedic problems resolved quickly, and I was impressed with Mr. V’s ability to recover for man in his eighth decade. His lifestyle was just as amazing. He kept a busy social life and traveled frequently. He participated in several athletic activities and he had the strength, endurance, and flexibility to outperform many men half his age.
Mr. V was gracious enough to share with me his habits that had produced a long, fit, and active life. Mr. V took a brisk, twenty minute walk every day. On the days the weather was bad, he rode an exercise bike. He performed a series of stretches every morning. Three times a week he performed some “lifting exercises” with dumbbells, a stability ball, and tubing. He slept seven hours a night, retiring and waking at the same time daily. He ate a diet that consisted of many of his favorite Mediterranean dishes, avoided junk food, and limited alcohol. He enjoyed sports and regularly played golf, tennis, and bowled. That was it–no big secrets, no special supplements, no elaborate exercise program—just a long term devotion to a little over three hours of simple exercise a week, enough sleep, proper nutrition, and a rewarding social life. Mr. V was a living testimony that doing these simple things paid big benefits.
The lesson from Mr. V is that staying fit and active over a long life is not a complicated thing to do. An overload of information from the media and “health experts” tend to make it difficult for the average person to know how to begin. You need to start with simple changes. Do not get paralysis by analysis-just get up and get started. You do not need special shoes, clothes, or elaborate equipment. What you need is to be disciplined enough to make these easy changes in your life. The effects of regular exercise, proper nutrition, and enough sleep accumulate over time and can reward you with an active life well into your eighties.
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., O.C.S., C.S.C.S.