It’s not often that you get a chance to see into the future. The long term impact of exercise and healthy living can be hard to quantify. Conversely, it can be hard to understand the potential negative effects of poor life choices.
I have friends whose lifestyles have been heavily influenced by their parents prematurely suffering with poor health. I am lucky in that my parents and in-laws are all fit and healthy, able to make the most of the opportunities the “Third Age” offers them. They are reaping the benefits of an active lifestyle in which treats are still considered a treat and excess reserved for special occasions and grand-children.
You could argue that having a Heart Attack should have been enough to open my eyes; after all it could have killed me. To a degree this is correct. However, death wasn’t necessarily the worst-case scenario, not for me at least. Long term incapacitation would have been worse, my quality of life could have been compromised, and with it those around me that I care about most. I was lucky.
I am now four days into my first all-inclusive cruise, and it’s really helped bring things into focus. A little close personal observation (nosiness!) has provided a unique opportunity to see both the negative impacts and some of the underlying choices that have may have contributed to them.
The passengers on the cruise are a different demographic than on our holidays to date; they are primarily couples and slightly older. One of the overwhelming features is a lack of mobility; knee bandages and walking sticks are essential travel companions for many. The general level of fitness appears to be extremely low with some of the physiques having been “carefully nurtured” over an extended period of time.
Even Cardiac Rehabilitation didn’t give me such a powerful insight; I was aware that only a small fraction of people take up the opportunity to participate in rehab. That means that the majority are either unwilling or unable to attend, presumably choosing instead to rely on medication and / or luck for their recovery and future wellbeing. I suspect some of the non-participants might also be on-board!
It’s scary… scary for the individuals who seem to be struggling to perform basic everyday activities.* It’s also scary that until recently I was also on that course.
Fortunately everyone seems to be mobile enough to take full advantage of the “all-inclusive” part of the cruise… if you are unable to carry your plate or glass there always a helpful member of staff to assist. Ironically, the only constraint I’ve discovered is on the Cardiac Setting in the gym… limited to 5 minutes… for health reasons presumably!
* I appreciate not everyone has a completely free choice, but most of us are fortunate enough to have at least some level of influence over our physical well-being even though it may frustratingly diminish over time. I also appreciate that I am very lucky to have more choice than most having received my “wake up call” so early!