392 - Wellness revisited | Scoins.net | DJS

392 - Wellness revisited


The Saturday Times, the only paper news I read these days, has a weekly section entitled Body and Soul. Often, the entry for the week could be classed as general encouragement to be more healthy, or to be happier. The last one I read may have had pictures and titles that had misunderstood the text, but purported to be a nine-point check on one's brain and fitness. These nine tests were, not in this order;

1. Stand on one leg for ten seconds.  I do this often, since it has been identified as an old person's no-can-do. The higher target is twenty seconds and with eyes closed. I can do a long time, but not with closed eyes. I shall work on this.

2. Sit and stand from a chair; count cycles in 30 seconds. Exceeding 30 is easy, which is off the chart of results suggested.

3. Get up from sitting on the floor without using your hands. I don't think I have ever been able to do this. My trunk will not move over my hips. I could do it by rolling backwards onto my knees. Deduct one point for each contact point required going down and going up. The best I can do is an eight, but I repeat there has been no change since I left nappies. The wife demonstrates that this is, for some, easy.

4. Walk as far as possible in six minutes. I know I can do 6km an hour for most of a day and on a short walk can reach 8kph, so six minutes would be about 800m without doing a race walk. 700m was the highest suggested. A proper race walker is only a minute per kilometre slower than an equivalent runner.

5. Name animals or fruits for 60 seconds (or countries or some such). I tried English counties and got 23; on looking up how many there are I only became more confused as to quite what a county is.  I tried animals, an unlimited list, and passed 30 easily, but felt I should have been able to do more like 50. Perhaps practice is called for.

6. Can you link your fingers behind your back? Yes I can, either way, one or two finger overlap; but I found this difficult just two years ago.

7. Can you draw an accurate clock face? Given a random time, draw circle[1], put in 1-12 [1], show two hands [2] for the given time [1]. That's five points and losing more than a point is a worry. I think we might make this out of ten and fuss over where the hour hand is on an analogue clock, require the circle to be of quality, the hours to be equally spaced and so on. The wife's response was like mine; is this really a test worth the bother?

8. Do 25 calf raises in 30 secs. Target 25. I used to aim at 100 in a minute while holding 200kg. I managed 40 in 15 secs; pass?

9. How many press-ups can you do consecutively? More than twenty? At 15 (press-ups) I was putting out heat. Not sure I could go to 25, but once upon a time I'd do sets of 30. If I fail the sitting/standing test, the wife fails this one, since she cannot do three that meet my standard of a proper press-up. I probably ought to be able to do more than 20.

If this list is supposed to be generating a test result and if (let's lose No. 7) we marked each test evenly then DJS at 69 is scoring 90% if rated as being 30 and the wife isn't far behind, if at all. Therefore I don't rate this test and read instead that this was written as a way to persuade the sedentary Saturday Times reader that all is well enough.

Could I do better at creating a set of tests?  Let's try:-

1. Aerobic exercise and endurance. Let's keep test 4, distance walked in six minutes, but for those who can exceed 500m, let's then invite a parkrun time (running allowed, not required walking, which assumes one can finish and to do so inside an hour. Some would say "I won't do running and so might walk and be close to an hour. Calculate age-grading for the run; mark the walk in 50m units and the run in 5% units. Mark out of 20 or 25.

2. Flexibility. A range of tests, perhaps starting with test 6 above but including things like measuring how close you can get to touching your toes (the straight leg variety), where some will manage +5 cm and some like me would be on -15cm. A mix of tests of things I cannot do and rarely if ever could. After a year of practice I can pull a heel to my crotch but I still don't see why I would want to, apart from meeting a test standard. A bit like knowing the dates of English monarchs, why would I want to know?

3. Core strengths. Push-ups, planking, sit-ups. Pick some, make a sensible grouping. Include tests 1, 3 and 9

4. Mental agility. Here include something like test 5 above but evidence some puzzle-solving skills. I don't much care what is included but I think the test should be identifying decay indicators in the same way that age-grading identifies where one belongs on a spectrum. It would be better if one could show improvement or decay for the individual.

These tests, whatever they are, need an envelope; something that shows us what it is we should be aspiring to. To me that means two things; an understanding of where we are on the spectrum of the nation, (e.g., my (mine, not yours) running is going well if I'm at 75% on age-grading) and where any such result stands for us individually. Historically my running has decayed a little in the last ten years, but it is consistent with my lifetime median, perhaps a little higher.  So that we understand what might be 'adequate' or 'good' or 'not good enough' in both the context of the nation and the context of ourselves. What we do not have is an appreciation of how much better we could be in any field such as these very limited ones discussed on this page, any more than we understand how much better life might be if we were indeed any better at such measures.

This returns us, as I have done so often, to whatever it is that happiness is based upon. The current term is wellness and, as I comment every time, this is a subjective measure. The shortest route to happiness is—it must be—to lower one's expectations. So I might be 'happy' if I only lose my temper once an hour at work and happier still if that rate goes down to once a day. I might decide that happiness was achieved by going out in the rain instead of demanding that I only go out in sunshine; better still, that going out occurred irrespective of the weather and all weather was there to be enjoyed rather than some opposite sentiment, such as expecting that the world be sunny on demand. Thus one can adjust what it is that makes one 'happy'. All of this comes from the base of what the expectations are. 

When did I last have a laugh? Is that a measure of happiness? Much of the world could be amusing but one could just as easily decide that a demonstration of an inability to think ahead (and avoid some pratfall or equivalent) was definitely not something at which to laugh but to be annoyed, or sad or something unhappy about. Again, this is an attitude.

What is less clear is the steady change in attitude that says that people with better health (fitness, flexibility, stamina, mental abilities, resilience, less stress) correlate with greater happiness. I then conclude, much as I did in my early teens, that happiness is a life objective. That does not automatically mean that one must not be stressed, any more than it means we should all be striving to be professional-standard sportspeople. But it does mean that we ought to be looking at our lives and wondering what we might do to make it better.

20220822 DJS

[1] https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/measuring-happiness/

Things you might explore as having an effect upon your happiness:

Life satisfaction. Gratitude. Sense of community. Physical well-being.

[2] http://www.new.meaningandhappiness.com/eight-ways-gratitude-boosts-happiness/246/ 
This doesn't, I think, refer to gratitude as I understand the word. It does however make some good points, not least that we tend to make assumptions by adjusting to an improvement—it becomes normal. So what we need to do is be 'grateful' for that improvement, which I think means that we must recognise it repeatedly, so as not to demand that this 'good' should somehow be forever 'better'. Customer service questionnaires, in my view, tend to raise expectations without the possibility of delivery; if last time was 'good' and this time is the same, is that still 'good'? But does that cachet still apply if the label was 'excellent'?

Post-post thought: I now run with the objective of being able to run tomnorrow. I am deeply frustrated (as today) at whatever circumstance prevents running, not only from the lack of an endorphin high in the day. So expectations are lowered to what others might view as a maintenance level. I would agree, except that I keep that 75% in mind as what 'acceptable' means. Lower means I'm ill or injured; injury means I made some fairtly significant error at odds with the principle of running tomorrow. Illness, fortunately rare, is perhaps some other error. The hope of returning to enjoying running is itself a small joy. But then I think anticipation, looking forward to something, is itself an enjoyment and a mark of happiness.

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