The Single Best Reason to Exercise As You Age

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Photo by Risen Wang on Unsplash

You’ve heard all about it: regular exercise throughout your life can slow down the aging process, giving you the muscle mass, immunity and cholesterol levels of someone younger. It helps preserve both your mobility and your brain, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It can help you sleep better, feel happier, and live longer.

And you’ve heard the experts say that it’s never too late to begin exercising.

If none of that has gotten you to the gym or the yoga studio our out on the walking trail, I’ve found a reason that beats all the above.

Hey, we’ve been around the block; we don’t have to be nice all the damn time, right? Admit it, you get a little weary of feeling patronized or discounted or invisible among the ranks of The Young.

But I’m here to tell you, if you invest some time and sweat into your physical fitness, you can get all the many benefits of increased energy and strength, blah, blah, blah, while showing those whippersnappers who’s their mama. Or papa. You get what I mean.

The organization I work for, with an admirable approach to employee wellness, offered a special, steeply discounted exercise class at a local gym. I signed up right away, along with about a dozen of my coworkers.

All of whom are younger than me. By at least a decade.

Now, I haven’t belonged to a gym in a decade. But I am a lifelong exerciser, and I work out at home most days of the week, as well as staying generally active. I figured I could certainly up my game, so to speak, and hopefully increase my muscle mass (very important for us ladies of a certain age who need to preserve our bones).

We showed up for our first class last Tuesday. An hour of circuit training, using resistance, cycling between increasing reps of three exercises in each set. We did squats, lunges, planks, pushups, bear crawls — all that stuff, some of it with different levels of dumbells. It was challenging, but I completed all of it.

I showed up to work the next day to listen to the other folks who’d taken the class whinging mildly about their sore muscles. By the second day — the day of our second class, the whinging had grown to outright moaning.

Some opined that the trainer who led the class had pushed us way too hard (I clearly remember lots of assurances that we could drop down on our weights and reps or ask for modifications, but maybe that was just my aged hearing). One woman said she’d called up the gym to give them a piece of her mind and ask for her money back.

Some of them could barely get up the single flight of stairs to the office, their legs were so sore.

And me? I felt just fine. A little worked in the quadriceps, maybe a tiny bit stiff in the shoulders, but, hey — at this age, something’s always a little creaky. No big deal.

When I shook my head, they looked at me dubiously. Or admiringly. Or as though I were somehow committing a small betrayal.

Maybe they thought I was showing off. Or simply lying.

It was delicious.

We had our second class, with a different trainer. It was at least as challenging as the first one, and, wishing to promote camaraderie, I mentioned that I thought it was pretty hard.

“Ha!” said a couple of my colleagues. “You’re gonna be sore tomorrow!”

Maybe. But I doubt it.

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Writer & educator. The Startup, Writing Cooperative, P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, more. Award-winning short fiction. Visit me at

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