If anyone has the credibility to tell us baby boomers how to stay fit, it just might be Patsy Shropshire, the physical therapist who recently won the “Fit After 50 Member Challenge” with the American Physical Therapy Association. And we can boil it down to a sentence: Exercise As If Your Life Depends On It.
Not to sound overly dramatic, but for the women I treat as a physical therapist, exercise can mean the difference between quality of life and practically no life at all.
I run a health and wellness group in Dallas for 20 women who primarily are in their 50s and 60s. They have survived breast, uterine, and thyroid cancer as well as leukemia and MS.
They are women with balls. Stability balls, that is.
These “Women With Balls” do weight training while balancing on stability balls. They also run, speed-walk, stretch, and do yoga. Every year they compete in the Dallas Marathon Relay and a Christmas Fun Run that we host for a charitable cause.
The physical challenges for most of these women have been a wake-up call to change their lives. One of our members, a professor with leukemia, underwent a bone marrow transplant and credits exercise for her survival. Another is several weeks out from a double mastectomy. While she waits to see what her next treatment will be, she’s doing fast walks and some easy runs.
I’ve been a physical therapist for more than 25 years and believe the more one learns about the human body, the more motivated she or he will be to exercise. That’s why I teach women about anatomy, posture, proper nutrition, and injury and disease prevention. This is where physical therapy makes all the difference — designing a program based on evidence that takes preexisting conditions into account and teaching people what they need to know to get better and stronger.
For me, exercise has been a part of my daily routine for most of my life. It doesn’t just provide physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. I love competitive runs, lifting weights, yoga, and teaching these concepts to others. I also have a veggie and fruit garden so I can feed my family fresh, organic food. My husband and I have four kids who are becoming more and more health conscious themselves. Exercise has been, and always will be, the answer for me.
As for Women With Balls, many have been a part of this program for more than ten years. One WWB participant told me, “This is the first sorority I’ve ever been in.” When it means something to you, you stick with it.