Winifred Gallagher: Being Active Every Day
That exercise makes me feel beautiful struck me around age 40, right after I had taken a quick run. Just a half hour’s lope eliminated puffiness, brightened eyes, and banished my most tense expressions. After a few more birthdays, I began to study ladies of a certain age and identified the quality shared by the most attractive: sheer liveliness, expressed by quick smiles and laughs, of course, but also quick, graceful movement. And according to aging’s inexorable use-it-or-lose-it principle, the way to stay lively is to stay active.
When I turned 50, tricky knees persuaded me to change my beauty regimen, and I began alternating long walks with yoga. I found an hour’s stroll remedied the pallor and the stiffness imposed by my tyrannical computer during the rest of the day. As for yoga, it not only lengthened and toned my muscles but also calmed my harried mind for a moment. Even a gray-haired mother of five who can stand to lose a couple of pounds feels like a graceful goddess in the dancing-shiva pose.
In 2003 my kinesthetic beauty routine assumed a new importance. During many months of draconian breast cancer treatment, exercise reminded me that 99 percent of me was still healthy. Staying active also set the tone for my "chemo look." Wigs don’t lend themselves very well to uphill treks and downward dogs, so I adopted the mantra "Bald is beautiful." To this day, I think hair is somewhat overrated.
Recently I’ve added some weight training to my labor-intensive beauty plan. My biceps may not be as impressive as Michelle Obama’s, but they’re strong enough to have allowed me to celebrate six years of good health by painting my house, a 105-year-old country schoolhouse. That old place and I have weathered plenty of life’s ups and downs, but I think we both look pretty good for our ages.
Winifred Gallagher’s most recent book is Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. She is also the author of It’s in the Bag, House Thinking, and Just the Way You Are.