Rx: For a
healthier, happier, longer life for you and your family: regular, natural
This is what I
have prescribed for myself, my family and my patients—including the President
of the United States.
exercise" I do not mean a rigid training program to weary mind and muscle.
I mean, rather, occasional exercise that is both beneficial and enjoyable. You
can have fun while you exercise, and it can be fun for your whole family as
is a walking— or rather running—testament to the principle that people who are
active in sports during youth and continue their activity as adults are likely
to remain vigorous as they grow older.
As each of us
grows from childhood (when exercise is organized) to maturity (when it is
likely to be sporadic) we find ourselves losing stamina, tending to tire and
injure ourselves by over exercising in sudden spurts.
factor that can lessen such tendencies is something that I like to call
"muscle memory," the effect of early conditioning carried over into
maturity. As an example of muscle memory, remember how long it took you to
learn to ride a bicycle? Yet you never forgot the skill, once you had it, even
if you hadn't bicycled for years. The same holds true for other
"carryover" sports learned in youth, such as golf, tennis, swimming,
bowling, skating, skiing and horseback riding. Once the memories are
established, the skills may become rusty through lack of use, but in a short
time they can be "recalled" and you'll manage nearly as well as
the right memories, on the other hand, will prove clumsy at jobs they never
knew. Of two middle-aged people taking up tennis, the one who played in
childhood will find his natural strokes returning with comparative
effortlessness while the other strains more with less effect. If you once learn
a coordinated movement you don't have to think about it again. But if the
muscles never learned these lessons in youth, never acquired the athletic
skills of free movement, then it becomes exceedingly difficult and even
dangerous to attempt them later on. When you learn new physical skills in the
adult years, you are likely to suffer strains and sprains.
For this reason,
every parent should do his or her best to see that children train and develop
muscle memories while they are young, and not just in team sports like football
and baseball, but in the carryover sports that will serve them all their
But what of those
of us whose parents have neglected to take this early precaution? Are we
automatically doomed to be sedentary because we never learned tennis and played
The answer to the
last question is an emphatic no, provided we seek a sport not too far removed
from whatever muscle memories we may have established—and provided we don't
drive ourselves too hard or expect too much.