It wasn’t that long ago when I realized that I never looked at the comics in the newspaper any more. For my entire life, that was the first thing that I turned to when I picked up the morning paper.

It wasn’t a conscious decision and didn’t come all of a sudden. It was gradual and only when one of my grandsons wanted to always see the comics in our weekly foray to work in my barn did I realize what had happened.

I’m officially old. Forget that I’ve got a birthday coming up in a month — I quit worrying about those things a long time ago. That birthday cake would look like a bonfire.

Today, it’s more of wondering what is going to hurt the most when I get out of bed in the morning. Will it be that nasty left wrist today? One or both of my shoulders? Knees, hips, ankles?

I have to worry about taking too much Vitamin-I (ibuprofen). I keep my regular visits to my primary care physician, my gastroenterologist and my dermatologist. When needed, I don’t hesitate to head for my orthopedist or my cardiologist. But my own medical care is part of everyday life.

When my biking buddy Steve Bright mentioned in the middle of a 50-mile bike ride that we were getting “a little long in the tooth,” I reached the inevitable conclusion we were both most definitely old. (If you don’t know what that means, ask an old person.)

Mind you, I don’t really mind. I consider it better than the alternative. I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to go today — of course that line is in a country song.

So I do everything that I know to do to deal with aging. I eat mostly healthy. I take my meds. I’m getting more sleep than ever. I wear compression stockings most days — there’s another story in there. I exercise every day.

I laugh often, love deeply, live without regrets and read all the time. All those things are important. I play this game called Wordscapes every day because it might help keep my mind sharp.

Let me step back just a bit. My life and my work revolve around exercise. My college degrees all focus on exercise. It is a creature that I know well. Exercise science and movement education have been a part of my professional life for over four decades now.

I’ve never really been what you call “out of shape.” It just isn’t in me. The clinic where I see patients is half rehab, half fitness center. All day, I look out across a gym with people working hard, sweating, getting stronger, getting more fit.

It would be hard to ignore that, but I don’t need much motivation anyway. It is inherent to my nature to ride, hike, paddle, lift and move.

And there’s the magic. In movement is the Fountain of Youth. Every day. No exceptions. Ride with me on a mountain bike and you’ll never guess my age.

When you wake up in the morning and it hurts, you’ve still got to get out of bed and get moving. When you can’t decide whether to take a nap or a hike, you take that hike.

I’m an avid bike rider. Riding on a gorgeous day with a group of friends is divine. But there are some days when I just don’t feel like it. I get out there anyway.

Sometimes that first step is the hardest. Not just the big first step to start exercising, but that first step to get up off the couch and do what you know you should do. Every day.

Maybe I wake up on Saturday morning and am just not feeling my regular Saturday ride. Doesn’t matter. Once I get rolling and feel the wind, the joy of the open road, I know I made the right decision.

Movement. It’s what sustains you. It’s what keeps you young.

And, by the way, I’ve gone back to looking at the comics first.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and

athletic trainer at Blount Memorial Hospital’s Total Rehabilitation. Write to Joe at joeblackdpt@gmail.com.

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