As we celebrate Father’s Day, let me tell you a story about my dad.
My siblings and I are very lucky: not only are both our parents still alive, they are healthy. And much of this can be attributed to their fitness lifestyle.
We have known for a long time that exercise contributes to longevity – we were raised in a household where exercise wasn’t a chore, something you “had to do” – it was part of our lives, because it was a part of our parents’ lives.
My father Ian was a track and cross-country runner in high school, and remained a runner into his 40s. My mom and dad encouraged us to do sports – my sister and I both played volleyball, and my brother played basketball. As they got older, my parents took up power walking and have completed a walking marathon and several half-marathons!
But my dad’s health journey wasn’t smooth sailing.
In 2007, my dad – on the outside, a completely healthy person who had chosen exercise, nutrition and to take care of himself – started to develop severe chest pains. After several months of diagnostic tests, he underwent a triple bypass surgery at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, and afterwards was referred to a cardiac rehab program at Peace Arch Hospital – my wing, under my care. Anyone who has had a parent experience a major health episode will tell you this – it is the most frightening period of your life. I was very fortunate to be able to help my dad get his health back.
Seeing my dad go through cardiac rehab, I had the chance to reflect. This was personal now. I reflected on my increased empathy for my patients and their families, I now understood the fear, anxiety and stress surrounding family health issues because I had experienced it. I also became very aware of the lack of exercise-based resources in our communities for people who have health conditions. There was a massive gap between traditional fitness and medical care. The opportunity was a shining light for me – an evident pathway that I had to pursue. The seed that would bloom into LIVE WELL was planted – and my parents were not only my first investors, they were my first patients. They still do exercise sessions at LIVE WELL three times a week.
My dad puts it best: “Going from aged 62 in 2011 to aged 72 is a difficult journey for most people, as age-related ailments start to appear and there is a risk of slowing down when retirement sets in. Fortunately, Sara’s mom and I have been part of a regular LIVE WELL class for the last ten years – this has allowed us to keep pace with our seven growing grandchildren and enjoy our busy lives rather than allowing time to just pass us by.”
How many of us have parents who need the gift of health?
Not only does exercise contribute to a healthy life – it is a cost effective way to move into your golden years. The New York Times reported this week that a new study proves starting an exercise program in middle age can save you considerable money.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal Open Sport and Exercise Medicine, looked for direct links between people’s activities and various ages, and health care costs years later. The men and women who reported exercising moderately throughout their adult lives saved an average of $1,350 annually on health care expenses after age 65, compared to sedentary people. But most interestingly, a different group, who changed their routines in their 20s, gained an even greater savings on health care costs after 65 – saving $1874.
The takeaway: the sooner you start exercising, the better. But it is also never too late – even waiting until middle age had benefits – people in the study who increased how they exercised after age 40 spent $824 less on health care compared to those who remained inactive.
At LIVE WELL, we have had the great fortune to spend the last 10 years not only growing our business, but helping people like my dad recover from heart attacks, manage their diabetes and reduce their blood pressure. We helped thousands of people through the pandemic, pivoting our business to a virtual platform. Now, anyone can be part of the LIVE WELL family from anywhere in the world! There are always silver linings.
On this Father’s Day weekend, I will leave the last word to my dad.
“There is no doubt in my mind that exercise is the best medicine. By attending LIVE WELL, exercising and learning good lifestyle habits, I have been able to participate fully in the life of my family and be an active member of society. I have been free of aches and pains many people experience when they try something their body isn’t ready for. I would encourage any father or grandfather to make regular exercise part of their routine if they wish to live life to the fullest.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad – I love you!
PS – If you want to share the gift of health with someone in your life and your loved one will probably never start on their own, you can sign them up for a free guest session at LIVE WELL. They will get healthier, feel younger, and be happier, because they’ll know it’s what you wanted them to have.
Sara Hodson, BHK, ACSM CCEP, is Founder and CEO of LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic