The Audacity of Hops: A Commentary on Being in Good Health At a Certain Age

When you turn on the TV it’s hard to miss — creams, diets, vitamins — all promising a key to unlocking the fountain of youth. But does any of it work? Well for one woman a simple exercise ended up bringing up more questions about aging than answers.

By Ruth PennebakerAugust 31, 2015 10:22 am

Sometimes I think I read too much about staying fit… when you’re a certain age. First, I read an article somewhere that said you need to jolt your body by running or hopping. Hopping?

“Women between 25 and 50 who hopped at least 10 times twice a day,” the article said helpfully, “with 30 seconds between each hop, significantly increased their hipbone density after four months.”

Sure, I wasn’t between the ages of 25 and 50, but let’s not get technical. Could hopping be the answer? I used to hop a lot, but I hadn’t been in a hopping mood for years. So, I did what I usually do when I’m faced by a dilemma: I went around asking my friends’ advice.

“You know — hopping is very big these days,” I said to my friend, Carol.

She’d read the same article. But she had her doubts. “They’re talking about hopping up and down 15 inches,” she said. “That could be dangerous. You could end up in worse shape than when you started.”

I would have mentioned hopping to other people, but by then, I’d run across another article about fitness. It said you should be able to go from a seated position on the floor to standing — without using your hands or knees to help.

I tried it. I failed; I had to use one hand to get up. That meant I was going to die next week or something.

“Can you get up from a sitting position on the floor without using your hands?” I asked my husband. He’s in great shape. He doesn’t hop, but he runs a lot.

“Of course I can,” he said. He dropped to the ground. He got up without using his hands but he did lean on a knee.

“You can’t do that,” I said. “That’s cheating. You can’t use your knees.”

“That’s stupid,” he said. “Who’s making up those rules?”

He sat back onto the floor. This time, he got up using a hand. “That’s the stupidest test I ever heard of,” he said. “What kind of idiot dreamed that up?”

“Oh — experts,” I said vaguely. “I thought you were in good shape. You should be able to do that.”

“Nobody could do that,” my husband said.

The next day, my husband announced he could do it, too. He sat on the floor, propelled himself forward, then up, and crashed back in my direction.

“You see?” he said. “I didn’t use a hand or a knee. I could have done it perfectly if the carpet wasn’t so slick.”

You couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t propped you up, I was thinking. But I didn’t say anything. I was tired of the floor-to-standing test. I was tired of the hopping, too.

The next day, I promised myself, I’d find an article about how, if you were standing upright and breathing, you were doing pretty well. You might not live forever — but hey. Today was going to be just fine.

You can find more of Ruth Pennebaker’s irreverent commentary on aging in her new book, “Pucker Up!: The Subversive Woman’s Guide to Aging with Wit, Wine, Drama, Humor, Perspective, and the Occasional Good Cry.”