I was recently talking with a member about my experiences thus far as an EMT and the benefits of fitness as we age and she felt it would be helpful if I shared this:
In my job as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), I was recently dispatched to help an elderly person who had fallen down while trying to stand up from the toilet. She’d dislocated her hip and was stuck in a split position with her head pinned to her knee. It was heartbreaking. This woman was sharp as a tack, but her body was too weak to safely stand from a seated position.
She was mentally fit, but she lacked physical fitness.
I understand the temptation to think of physical fitness as chiseled muscles and a six-pack; a new one rep max on a deadlift; or the ability to bust out dozens of push-ups in a row. Sure, these achievements help to display fitness, but not by themselves.
Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, describes a continuum from sickness to wellness to fitness, with functional fitness as the goal. Fitness isn’t always flashy. Especially as people age, fitness can be as simple as being able to get through daily tasks.
Isn’t the capacity to shovel snow from your walkway in winter; crouch to weed your garden in summer; run with your dog; carry your groceries; and any number of daily tasks worthy goals for your entire life?
In the language of Emergency Medical Services (EMS), if there is no injury, but someone is stuck on the floor, we call what we do a “lift assist.” That’s the term for having to go to someone’s house just to help them stand up. Having spent more than ten years teaching CrossFit prior to becoming an EMT, I now understand the profound importance and multifaceted nature of fitness.
When we practice squats we are ensuring that we can always sit down and stand up. When we practice burpees we are ensuring that we are always able to get up off the ground. When we practice box steps, we are ensuring we can always ascend and descend stairs with ease.
For younger people, fitness may seem synonymous with rock hard abs. For older people, fitness may seem out of reach because they think they should have the same goals as a twenty-year-old. Both perspectives are limited and limiting.
Fitness is for life.