I am back in the park, exercising. I have added small weights to my qigong workout because weight-bearing enhances the health of bones. During a hike three weeks ago, I witnessed my father, who is four months shy of 90, take a serious tumble down a steep hill.
Most of us hikers were at the top of a steep incline, waiting for a few to catch up. My father lost his balance and fell onto both hands and a knee. He seemed OK as he got up, but before he was completely straight up, he lost his balance again. This time he fell hard onto his chin, shoulder and rib. Then, like we did as kids down our front lawn, he rolled on his side a few times until he landed in front of a tree.
He grabbed his left chest as he moaned. I thought he had a heart attack and most likely some broken bones—a shoulder, hip, rib, etc. Four of us went to his side. I pulled a paper towel out of my pocket and pressed it to his bleeding lips. A few more came and formed a circle around him, including my sister Linda. He took deep breaths as another woman used moist towels to clean up his face. He started to sit up.
“No, stay down,” someone said.
Linda said, “Let him do his thing.” She knows that he works with hand weights in the morning for an hour before breakfast and later in the morning goes on a few-mile slow jog. Every. Single. Day.
“How are you, Dad?” Linda said to him as he sat.
“I think I’m O.K.” He got up slowly and finished the hike. We took him to the E.R. on the way home because he said his ribs were sore. After an x-ray, the nurse confirmed all was well.
Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and, according to Chinese Medicine, strong bones engender vitality. I wonder how many on that hike would have walked away from a hard downhill fall without a broken bone. There was probably some luck involved, but I think there was much more at work–his good attitude, a healthy diet, and a great exercise routine that he actually enjoys (which is the key). All of these things, in my opinion, greatly influenced the outcome of that fall.
When I got to the park, I put my small weights down and called my father to say hi before I began my new style of exercise. I told him that he inspired me. He laughed and when I asked him how he was he told me he had to cancel a golf date with my brother because his ribs were still a bit sore, but other than that, he was back to his usual routine.
I noticed a difference immediately. The next day at work, I had to treat eight patients in four hours. I felt stronger and less fatigued. We all need to find our fit with exercise. We should do something that stretches and strengthens muscle while giving some weight bearing to the bones. Be creative, find your fit, and whatever you do, be sure there is some joy in it. Joy is essential for it to become a healthy habit. You might find that some day it will pay off big-time.