I experienced one of my toughest challenges yet in my 25+ years in the fitness business. One of my referring doctors sent me a husband and wife in their 80’s (he was 83, she 85) who hadn’t done any type of exercise, ever. Sure, they walked to mailbox and got up and down from a chair or toilet occasionally, but nothing else, zip, nil, nada. During our first session two weeks ago, I asked how I could help. The husband said that he never exercised, didn’t like it, but would try whatever I suggested. Upon further discussion, he revealed that he had back pain, sometimes so severe that he couldn’t make it to the mailbox two houses away. He also feels unsteady when he walks, and has a hard time getting up from sitting-forget about getting up from the floor. In spite of all his difficulties, he still didn’t want to exercise. Finally, I asked him, “Well then, why did you call me, because I certainly don’t want to waste my time and your money.” He told me he wanted to live to 90, but didn’t know why. He also mentioned that he’d had a minor stroke and heart attack within the past year.

I also engaged the wife in conversation, but she had a lot of difficulty finding words-I think she may have had a stroke. She did tell me that she had only recently retired from her job as an accountant. The couple had no children.

On the first session, I began with simple concepts; bending mechanics, getting up and down from a chair, balance work, hip strength work, and some light stretching. Things were seemingly going well, but I remember telling my wife that this couple represented the greatest challenge for me in that I didn’t know what to really do with the. I wanted to give them tasks which would closely resemble functional activities; tasks that would mimic daily activities. Getting very little feedback from them, I was hoping we were on the right path-until the second session. He reported that he was so sore he couldn’t do anything for several days-she was fine. So I ramped it down (if that was possible) from the first session, but I could tell I was losing him. Sure enough, before the third session, He called to say that they weren’t going to continue.

That inability to connect, cajole, and nudge someone into accepting and embracing a healthier lifestyle has only happened a handful of times in my career. But I don’t take it personally. I use it as a learning tool because that is a section of the population that I would like to reach, because health-wise, they probably need it most.

As an undergraduate student, I remember one of my mentors saying “By taking one or two actions a day towards your goal, you will land in a future that is significantly different from the one in which you took no action.”

I love that quote.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.