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Variety is the Key to My Happiness and Health!

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Growing up in a large family in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we did not spend much time watching television. When we weren’t in school or studying, we were playing or helping with the housework. I remember many times playing with my siblings, or with the children in the neighborhood, games of hide ‘n seek, tag, soccer, dodge ball, hopscotch, baseball, football, roller skating on the sidewalk, riding bikes, jumping rope or going to the swimming pool during the warm summer months. When we could not go outside, we would play music and dance in the house. We were very active.

My mother and father insisted on a clean home and all 11 of us children had to pitch in and help with the cooking and cleaning. One can burn many calories when you clean each room in your home or tidy up on a daily basis. I still practice that aspect to this day in our own home. I go down 16 steps to reach our basement to clean the additional level. The basement, also, is where our fitness room is located amongst other rooms. When I feel the need to run steps, I just run up and down those steps as part of a workout.

I have always been physically active, but even more active once I married my husband 42 years ago. Fitness has always been an important part of our lives. Over the years, we have incorporated exercise into our daily routine. There really are few days in a year that I do not do some type of physical activity. We have tried to instill the importance of exercise and healthy living and healthy eating into our four children and twelve grandchildren.

I have seen what an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise on a regular basis can do to people even within my own extended family. It affects so many aspects of one’s health and physical ability to play and be active.

I am a person who needs variety in my exercise. We are fortunate to have a home gym with apparatus that you would find in a regular gym...machines such as an elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike, rowing machine, total gym, weights, bands, exercise ball. As you can tell, exercise is important in our home. I, also, use DVDs for aerobics, dance, Pilates, yoga and stretching. The variety of different exercises works different muscles in my body. In the past I have joined aerobics and belly dancing classes to learn how to do them and to meet other people and bond in exercise. It is always fun to exercise with others. As I said before, I get bored doing the same thing over and over, so I utilize what I can to work out daily for about one hour to one hour and half (even at the age of 63). I prefer to work out shortly after I wake up in the morning. If I wait until later in the day, I find too many other things to do to distract me.

When we retired to our present location and after I stopped working, I joined a hiking group of ladies that were in their late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Two ladies that were in their late 60’s were the leaders of the group. We would pick different locations in the area twice a month and meet or carpool and explore the nature or interesting history presented at the location. Our hikes were 3-7 miles long. We would pack a lunch and drink and at lunchtime sit amongst nature. We would visit while walking/hiking and bond and get to know one another. Once in a while after a hike, we would go to a restaurant near our hiking location and share time with one another. Although the group disbanded after about 4 years when the leaders reached over 70, to this day I still walk with a close friend that I met in that hiking group. I have fond memories of our hikes and I know how to get around the area so much better having joined that group.

Recently, I attended an end of the basketball season party with my 11-year-old granddaughter at her school because her parents had to take two of her younger siblings to their sports games that were occurring at the same time. The girls played one another for a basketball scrimmage and then the coach asked the parents if they wanted to play a friendly game against their children. I came prepared in the right attire since my daughter told me playing basketball was a possibility. I never played organized basketball except in high school gym class. (I have played games of “HORSE” on our driveway before which is taking turns shooting baskets into the hoop. One person starts it off and if the shot is made and the next person misses that shot, then the person who missed it gets the letter “H”. The first player to get HORSE is the loser.) I was the only grandmother there and the other parents were definitely 20+ years younger than me. I did play basketball and my granddaughter guarded me and I guarded her. We ran up and down the court many times in the next 25 minutes. If I did not exercise on a regular basis, I would not have been able to participate and have so much fun with my granddaughter. It was such a special experience for me. When I was visiting with one of the moms, she could not believe I was the grandmother and that I was able to keep up with all of them. It made me feel proud.

Recently six of our grandchildren with their parents moved closer to our current home. We enjoy attending their sporting activities and participate as often as we can in their lives. When our children were growing up, we had a trampoline in our yard and all of our grandchildren have access to a trampoline at their homes, also.

Jumping on a trampoline is a good form of exercise. It has been a number of years since I have performed any flips, but I still enjoy jumping on a trampoline, especially with our grandchildren.

Summer is approaching and I will be starting the upkeep and maintenance of our gardens, trees and lawn. I find being outside and working in the yard an enjoyable experience. It can be a lot of physical activity pruning trees and bushes, planting flowers, mowing and edging the lawn, raking debris from the winter, etc., but I just look at it as another way of burning calories and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Helping plants grow and weeding the gardens are therapeutic activities for me. In the winter here, snow removal by snow blower and shovel is extra calories burned by me.

As I have aged, my metabolism has slowed and I now keep better track of my caloric intake, water intake and activity. When my clothes start to feel tight, I do not let my weight get too far out of control, so I pay more attention to the calories I put into my body to lose the extra pounds I may have put on during the holidays or special occasions. When I was younger, my metabolism was great. I have a sweet tooth and I never had to worry too much about those calories. Now I do have to limit those sweet tooth cravings. My husband once told our daughter when she was a teenager, “It is better to snack on an apple than a bag of chips.” I think of that often when I crave something unhealthy as a snack. My daughter, who is a personal trainer, tells me losing weight is a matter of science “calories in” vs. “calories out”. She said that it is important to lift weights and that more muscle in the body burns calories even at rest. It is important, also, as I age to build muscle for core support and overall health.

Recently, I was in Texas visiting our daughter who trains older people at a power lifting gym. She showed me how to push a sled up and down a concrete pad. The sled weighs about 75 pounds. I always wanted to try it. It is important to have the right form otherwise one can get hurt.

She, also, showed me how to lift a tractor tire. It weighed about 200 pounds and was almost as tall as my 5 feet of height. Having the correct form is also important. I was able to turn it 5 times. It was exciting to try something new and accomplish the task.

My parents were of German descent and I grew up on many comfort foods. After getting married, in the early years, I continued to cook those comfort foods. Later, being exposed to many other people’s cuisines in different locations and countries as the years went on, I eventually moved away from the heavier and fried foods to lighter fare. I incorporated more vegetables and fruits and limited the potatoes and breads and sweets. I still enjoy that food, but mindfully limit it. Everything in moderation as many recommend.

There are so many ways to prepare foods these days…bake, broil, grill, air fryer, microwave, etc. I love trying new dishes and like variety in my meals. There are so many cooking shows, cookbooks, apps offering many recipes (with pictures) and I even look at some recipes in magazines. So many options are available. As I said before, variety in my daily exercise and variety in my daily food intake makes me happy and healthy. I have been blessed with good health and pray that my good health continues in “my golden years.”

Wanda, USA

Guest Contributor

Salutation Fitness and Wellness

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So inspiring Wanda... Take care!

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