Getting Exercise in a Little House

If you’re over 40 and intending on downsizing to a little house, there is an often overlooked downside to small space living: Getting plenty of exercise to keep your bones and muscles strong.

When we lived in our split level 1,100 square foot home in the city, I had no problem getting exercise. I’d climb the stairs it seemed a millions times a day. If I wanted something when I was downstairs, it was usually upstairs and visa versa.

Getting into our house required climbing stairs, which gave us plenty of “Stair Master” type exercise, especially when lugging heavy groceries. Of course, cleaning gave me lots of exercise, as did running up and down the stairs of our tall deck.

I was also more conscious of taking the dogs for daily walks in the city as our large dog, Emma, needed lots of exercise and we had a pretty small backyard.

When we moved to Our Little House in 2007, I was in pretty good shape. I got myself up to walking 4 miles per day, even in the heat of summer. After losing my mother that year, I felt as if I was sweating the grief out of my pores, so the more I walked, the better I felt – physically and mentally.

But when I started having problems with Plantar Fasciitis a couple of years ago, I really got out of the habit of even doing my 2 mile walks per day, then I started having problems with my blood pressure and eventually, with balance, which caused a couple of nasty falls. It took months for my feet and ankles to heal from those.

As I’ve pointed out many times as well, I just don’t have to spend the time cleaning that I did in the city. There is no huge kitchen floor to mop and no large Kirby vacuum to haul up and down the stairs.

Put that together with my age (I joined Club 5-0 in December) and I weakened pretty quickly. My friend, Sheryl Kraft, a health writer who focuses on boomer issues, says that women lose about ½ pound of muscle per year after age 40, more if she’s not active.

After reading her post, How Exercise can Preserve your Muscles (and much more), I realized that some of the weakness and balance issues I was experiencing may not have all been caused by my blood pressure meds (which I am now off of), but some of it was most likely due to lack of exercise.

Earlier this month on our anniversary, we went to a kayaking class and I was thoroughly embarrassed when I could not only get out of the kayak the “approved” way, but my weakened hip gave out and I had to literally slide out of the boat and sit on my butt to get footing with my good leg. I just hope no one was taking video with their camera phone and posting it to YouTube.

The next weekend, we took our fishing boat out and I couldn’t get in it without a boost from Dale.

I’m back at it now, walking at least 2 miles a day with the dogs, doing leg bends and lifting weights while watching television at night.

My mother practiced yoga until she was in her mid-50s. She always said as she grew weaker when she aged that she wished she had kept at it for better strength and balance. I’m also going to start practicing some yoga bends that will help me continue to strengthen my back (it was injured in a rear end car wreck over 20 years ago).

So, heads up Living Largers over 40, you may not get the exercise doing everyday activities you once did in a larger home. A conscientious effort for exercise should be in your downsizing plan.

Have you thought about the exercise you get now in a larger home (or got) and taken into consideration you may get less by living in a smaller space?

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6 Responses

  1. Mark Hagberg says:

    I think about the exercise as you talked about. I am in my 50’s and want to downsize. The tiny House movement has me in it’s spell. I have always thought about it and now think it is the path for me. Space it not a problem it is the layout but I will let you know how it goes

  2. We have a pretty big house with two staircases and I climb them both every day. Just cleaning and dusting one floor can give me a pretty good workout. But my favorite exercise by far is horseback riding. I have a Tennessee Walking horse that I try to ride at least three times a week. And don’t let anybody tell you that riding a horse isn’t exercise- if you don’t use just about every muscle in your body doing it, then you aren’t doing it right! My daughter competed on hunter jumpers for ten years, and I spent a lot of time watching people ride while waiting for her to finish lessons and/or training. I saw women who were probably up in their seventies, hoisting themselves onto high spirited thoroughbreds and riding around the ring, jumping over four foot jumps with ease. They were without exception: thin, athletic and had to be strong to handle horses of that caliber. It really made an impression on me, because I want to be able to ride even in old age, and I saw that it can be done if someone stays in shape and works at it. Glad that you are once again able to pick up your walking habit, and I applaud you for doing the kayaking despite a bad hip. I think embarrassment keeps a lot of women from going to the gym or the swimming pool or even just outside to walk. We need to get over that kind of body self consciousness and just get out there and do our thing! :-)

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, yes, horseback riding is definitely good exercise, you’re working almost all of your muscles. You keep at it, too!

  3. Kerri says:

    LOL! You just might have to do that, Pamela. Wow, that will be a challenge.

  4. Pamela says:

    I worry about getting enough aerobic exercise when we move aboard a boat. I’m thinking I’ll have to get over my fear of heights so I can climb the mast.