If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need to be convinced that exercise is a life-saver. You know that, or you likely wouldn’t be here. But for some readers, getting back into a fitness routine after many years away, or perhaps starting one for the first time, is a daunting proposition. “How do I even begin?!” If that’s you, consider picking up a copy of “Just Move!: A New Approach to Fitness After 50“, by James P. Owen.
Full disclosure: I was given a review copy by the publisher, but am under no obligation to speak glowingly about the book. 😉
Author Owen describes himself as “a reformed couch potato” (with a day job as a business consultant, writer, and public speaker) who had a “wake-up call” on his 70th birthday…
…when I saw a video of me shuffling up to a podium to give a speech. I was shocked! What happened to the energy and confidence I’d had all my life? Was my physique really that slack? Somehow I had turned into the poster child for looming old age.
He wanted instead to “be able to carry on the ordinary activities of life without hurting myself or being hobbled by stiffness and pain.” He realized that what he needed to regain is “functional fitness.”
A brief aside: this part of the author’s story resonated with me – though I do still consider myself to be an athlete of sorts. I have already mentioned that one of the things driving me to improve my fitness is the slight decline I’ve noticed in my native strength and flexibility. Objects that I could push or lift or move with ease just a few years ago are suddenly giving me a lot more grief. And quick, reflexive movements and adjustments are harder – translating into slower reactions and compensations when I lose my footing, or misjudge the weight of an object. As Owen points out in this book, these are the kinds of unwelcome changes that can result in serious injuries as we get older.
But I (slightly) digress. Owen goes on to outline the basic physiology of aging, and the dangers of being sedentary. He refers the reader to a “fitness age” calculator at http://worldfitnesslevel.org – the very one that gave me a little wake-up call of my own. Then he lays out his own plan for getting back on track. Functional fitness is the aim. Owen is not trying to turn his reader into a competitive endurance athlete. He’s trying to help the reader focus on “maintaining your mobility and being physically able to accomplish the things you need and want to do in your daily life.”
Owen’s program addresses what he considers to be the five essential dimensions of general fitness: core stability and strength, flexibility, balance, muscular strength, and cardiovascular endurance. The program increases in intensity from daily stretching (to get back in touch with the body), to daily walking for endurance, to strength-building exercises (Owen argues that everyone should be able to do these basic exercises: plank, squat, lat pull-down, lunge, and push-up), to a full-body workout that incorporates high-intensity interval training (including variations to the five basics, designed to increase difficulty). He urges his readers to commit one hour/day, six days/week to this regimen.
The book is well-written, entertaining and educational at the same time, and amply illustrated with charts and graphics that reinforce the text. Owen also covers important peripheral topics such as nutrition, choice of footwear, types of exercise equipment, and the comparative benefits of working out at home versus a gym. Considering the scope of topics he addresses in this 223-page book, there is a surprising amount of solid information on each one. His sources are mostly secondary – news articles and popular health and science magazines – but he also incorporates primary research articles where appropriate.
If you’ve already got some good workout routines and habits filed away and are just trying to get over an injury, “sabbatical,” or other long-term fitness setback, this book will be too introductory for you. But if you or someone you love need to start from square one, Just Move! will make the process much less intimidating.