Rev It Up and Move More

Mow a lawn to move more

We can’t all be ultra-marathoners, but we can all move more


We all know we are supposed to exercise but as we begin to stiffen with age or injury, sometimes just the word exercise sounds exhausting and sends us reaching for the remote.

So why not reframe it? Don’t exercise. Just move, more.

I’m a trail runner who ran my fastest 100K when I turned 60. And you want to know a dirty little secret? I don’t exercise. I just move. For miles. With friends. On trails. It is pure joy. Okay, there are some moments when it’s really hard, but it’s always, in the end, a joy. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t run that far. When my husband asks me what I’m doing, I never, ever, ever, say “I’m exercising.” That sounds so unpleasant. I’m going for a run with Betsy. I’m skiing with Robyn. I’m going for a bike ride with Rebecca.

There are so many ways to keep your body healthy without going to the gym. My husband who sits in a cockpit three days a week keeps his body taut by being farm fit: fixing fences, bucking hay, and chopping wood. My 85-year-old mother-in-law loves to mow the lawn. When we offered to find Oma a kid-down-the-street to take on the chore, she refused. “It makes me feel good,” she says. My octogenarian father—who’s been fighting Parkinson’s for over two decades—has kept the debilitating disease at bay gardening. The other day he built a garden gate with my brother, walking up and down his steep yard, hauling bamboo, and “measuring twice, cutting once.”

You don’t have to go to a gym, get a health club membership, or wear Lululemon to work out. You just have to move more than you did yesterday.

“When we are moving, we are improving, when we are sitting, we are rotting,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Stone, orthopedic surgeon at The Stone Clinic and author of Play Forever: How to Recover from Injury and Thrive. The Mayo Clinic concurs. Sitting for 8 hours a day—with no physical activity—incurs the same risk of death as obesity and smoking. And we know what the Surgeon General says about smoking.

Attitude, Dr. Stone professes, is a big part of maintaining a healthy body. Dr. Stone prefers to “encourage patients to see their injuries as a reason to get fitter, faster, and stronger,” and to see themselves as athletes-in-training, not patients in rehab. Don’t wait for old age or injury to be your wake-up call to action. You can start to boost your energy and your well-being at any time.

If you start to move more today, your body will be fitter, faster, and stronger than you were yesterday. And so will your mind.

“Simply moving your body has long lasting protective benefits for your brain that can last for the rest of your life,” says Wendy Suzuki, a neural scientist at New York University in a recent Ted Talk on the “Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise.

Exercise is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain because, according to Suzuki, it helps you literally grow a bigger brain at any age. And, she adds, one workout alone improves your mood, your ability to focus your attention, and your reaction time for up to two hours.

Looking for more than two hours of bliss? Sure, ultra-runners might be bathing in the bubble bath of a dopamine-infused brain, but Suzuki assures us that you don’t have run hundreds of miles to get these effects. According to Suzuki’s research, you simply need to get your heart rate pumping a little faster for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, three days a week to give your mood, memory, and attention the boost it needs to protect your mind and your body from an onslaught of diseases and change the trajectory of your life for the better.

It doesn’t matter your age. People 75 and older who have been diagnosed with dementia can benefit from increased activity. “While you’re not going to cure these diseases, it will take longer for these diseases to take effect. Think of exercise as a supercharged 401K for your brain,” says Suzuki.

Simply start investing in your body today by moving more than you did yesterday. Take an extra walk around the block, maybe include a set of stairs or two. Consider adding a little power salsa to your vacuuming. Or change your attitude. Look out your window. The grass is growing.

You are an athlete in training; the lawn is your gym.

Rev up that lawn mower.

Rev up your life.

Stephanie Irving is an avid trail runner who competed in the Ultra Trails du Mont Blanc 100K last year. She raises sheep on her farm in Trout Lake, Wash., and is the executive director of Helping Hands Against Violence in Hood River, Ore. She was formerly the senior editor of Sasquatch Books’ Best Places series.

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