Fitness & Health Reform: Stay Flexible

Flexiblility is the new necessity. Political flexibility if one is to make the loop from truth to Sarah-Palin fiction, emotional flexibility if you’re following the market from day to day, mental flexibility just to stay sane with it all.

So maybe we’d better look at the physical. If you can just acquire and maintain a little physical flexibility you’re on the way to fitness, health and inner peace. At least, that’s what the yoga people tell me. Plus a lot of gym people, personal-trainer people and public park people. It is these last whom I tend to believe. I failed yoga (tried and just flat-out failed; I was too itchy for sunlight and speedier movement) and can’t afford a personal trainer. But parks! What a gift to the flexibility and fitness of the world and may we please not be closing them.

In our nearby urban park there is a par course. An array of exercise stations installed usually several hundred feet apart along an outdoor trail, the par course is the Everyman/Everywoman route to flexibility, especially for Boomers and Beyonders. It features a number of stretching posts (each station comes with illustrated instructions about what to do and how many times to do it) plus a variety of sturdily-equipped stations for things like chin-ups and sit-ups and other ups. I am addicted to the par course.

For the first five decades, fitness and flexibility aren’t all that hard to come by. Thereafter, one needs encouragement in this obesogenic (my new favorite word) society in which we live. Par courses are all about encouragement. You can’t manage to hand-walk more than halfway on the parallel bars? Last week you couldn’t get past one-third! Or you’re near despair at the chin-up station, and the hunky twenty-something at the adjacent bar applauds as you master a tiny new fraction of an inch.

By the time the final health reform bill is hammered out the issue of preventive medicine may be hopelessly lost in the shuffle. “Takes too long to produce results.” “Isn’t really worth the cost or the effort.” I don’t buy any of those arguments. Until we tackle the need for lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, losing weight and getting fit we’ll just keep pouring money down the drain of preventable illness. E-mail your senator. Write your representative.

Meanwhile, I recommend staying flexible.

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