I love to people watch. Whether it’s a Starbucks, an airport lounge or a waiting room at the doctor’s office, I make up entire stories in my head about total strangers, imagining what their lives are like once they leave the premises.
This not only makes me extremely annoying, but it’s also honed my powers of observation and provided fodder for my blogs.
For example, I pay particular attention to the grey-haired people (my age 60+) at the gym.
It’s not just because I’m happy they’re taking care of themselves.
Although that’s part of it.
And not just because I’m nosy.
Although that’s also part of it.
I observe their workouts, the exercises they do, and how they move when they enter the gym and in between exercises.
It’s like reading between the lines, people style.
And these moments count the most.
Because honestly, who cares if you can lift big weights If you can’t get up off the bench until paramedics arrive?
Plus, the tiny percentage of time you spend exercising pales in comparison to the rest of your day.
Case in point: People who do an hour of cardio and then light up a cigarette as soon as they leave the gym, or those who do a high-energy workout and grab a burger and supersize fries on their way home will have a hard to make progress with this type of oxymoronic workout approach.
But I recently noticed people doing less obvious sabotaging practices that could do damage over time.
Here are my top three…
1. You lean on things
I first saw this when people sign in at the gym. Instead of simply punching in their code, older people (my age, so no hate mail, please!) often lean on the counter while entering their info, bending at the waist and supporting themselves on their forearms.
At first, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Then I realized this position takes the pressure off the lower back. So if your back hurts, standing by supporting yourself this way eases the discomfort.
But here’s the thing: It’s lazy. And if you continue to do this instead of actively engaging your core muscles, guess what? Yes! Your core only gets weaker and your back gets more painful.
Use ’em or lose ’em. Engage those abs and stand up!
2. You push off objects
I’ve caught myself doing this. Getting up out of a chair by holding on to the armrests is easier on the knees, sure.
Once again, it’s a bad habit that leads to more weakness over time.
Because you’re not only taking the easy route, but you’re missing out on an opportunity to strengthen your quadriceps muscles which, ironically, can help relieve knee pain over time.
So the next time you’re about to get up from a chair, think for a second.
Focus on and squeeze your quadriceps muscles (fronts of your thighs) and USE them to help you stand up from your seated position. Count it as a “one repetition squat.”
Sending you a virtual high-five!
3. You’re a slouch
This one is a rampant problem among ALL ages, but its effects hit home after 50. Nearly everything we do involves forward motion, a lot of it hunched over a desk.
Since your body shape is the result of what you do all day, sitting with a rounded back for weeks, months and years and you end up with the posture of a bay shrimp.
Aside from looking as if you’re headed up the tower to ring the bell and alert the townspeople, this forward posture wreaks havoc on other body parts. Namely shoulders.
This position compresses the shoulder joint and can, over time, lead to rotator cuff problems (shoulder stabilizers) and other issues. All are much more common as we age, even if we’re not practicing tennis serves every weekend.
So practice not only strengthening your back muscles by performing rows but pay attention to your posture throughout the day.
Ears, shoulders, and hips should align when sitting. Add knees and ankles if you’re standing in alignment.
Overall, walk tall, be conscious of using and engaging your core and abdominal muscles, and you’ll not only look as young as you feel.