Exercise for Seniors

I have given myself a challenge!

Recently, because I am a senior on a fixed retirement budget, I gave up my gym membership to save money.

So what things can I do to get exercise several times a week, which will cost me little or no money at all?

  • Mall walking. There are several indoor malls within a short bus ride of my house which I can take advantage of if the weather outside is too cold or too hot (which is often the case).
  • Walking on the trails around Ottawa. We have the beautiful Greenboro Trail which is half a block away and is kept plowed all winter by the city.
  • Cycling. When the weather is good and the trails are free of snow and ice, nothing is better for making me feel like a 17 year old, which is great considering that I am now 71!!!
  • Skating. There is the world-famous Rideau Canal, and every neighbourhood in Ottawa has an outdoor rink where one can skate free of charge. People of all ages take advantage of these rinks.
  • Wii. I have a Wii console with Wii Sports and Wii Fit. It only takes a few minutes to set up and gives me the opportunity to practice my stretches and balance skills as well as tennis and bowling, which I enjoy.
  • Fitbit. I got a Fitbit for Christmas and am able to track my exercise throughout the day. It gives me a running total of things such as number of steps, heart rate, stairs climbed, and total number of “active minutes”.
  • Gym mat. Years ago I bought a gym mat which I rarely used but I got it out the other day, dusted it off, and started to use it to stretch and do exercises like crunches and planks.
  • Weights. Another item bought years ago and almost forgotten. They are proving useful but I have to take care as the first time I used them, my shoulder problem resurfaced. Take it easy, and start (or restart) slowly.
  • Stairs. Because of my Fitbit, I have made a little “circuit” in my house where I start with stretches, and then go to walking and stair climbing.

So far today I have walked more than 6,000 steps, which is 4.5 km. I have been “active” for 24 minutes, and climbed 11 floors.

I know there are probably other inexpensive ways to motivate myself to exercise. Can you think of any that I missed?

I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes last April and I know that exercise helps control blood sugar levels. I have lost 20 pounds since then and should lose 10 more.

I really hope that at my next check-up, my doctor will agree that I am making good progress toward my goal of good health.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to be making posts on a more regular basis. – Maureen



Just Walk

As I get older, I also get wiser.

And one of the wisest things I have ever done is to start walking.

My mother told me that I actually first walked at six months. At nine months I was running rings around my four older brothers. Well, probably not, but you get the picture.

Over the years, I walked less and less, and when I was approaching forty I drove pretty well everywhere.

Then an amazing thing happened. Our daughters’ school was sponsoring a “fun run”, where people who signed up walked around our neighbourhood in routes set out by the school. One route was one mile. Up Isbister Street and down Stradford. One mile. One!

My husband and I and our four girls signed up and started to walk along with scores of other families. And guess what? It was HARD!

Okay, first of all, I didn’t own running shoes and did the walk in strapped sandals. Second, it just seemed so long!

I bought sneakers and we started walking every evening. It felt amazing. Liberating.

Walking has so many benefits.

  • It gives you time to think.
  • It makes you feel young.
  • It improves your mental outlook.
  • It improves your circulation.
  • It improves your appreciation of nature – you notice flowers, signs of spring, autumn leaf changes.
  • You meet and greet neighbours.
  • You find out what the kids in the area are up to.
  • It helps with weight loss and flexibility.

If walk to the store to buy milk. you get the added benefit of weight-bearing exercise which is good for your bones.

If you walk to your favourite coffee shop or fast food restaurant you actually “use your calories before you consume them”.

I am now seventy years old and I walk (or cycle) everywhere. I do 90% of my errands on foot.

In 1997, Bill Bryson wrote a book about walking the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail. Apparently it was or is going to be made into a movie, starring Robert Redford. I just finished reading the book and I highly recommend it. Funny and touching and also inspiring.

But you don’t have to make a commitment to walk 2,000 miles. Just do more than you did yesterday and count the benefits. You won’t be sorry.

A few things can help:

  • A companion. Even Bill Bryson didn’t walk alone.
  • A tracker. A pedometer or even your iPhone can count your steps for you. Work up to 10,000 steps a day.
  • A Fitbit. You wear it on your wrist and in addition to step counting, it calculates heart rate and calories burned.

I notice that when I walk either outside or inside malls in winter (I live in Canada), I usually pass people much younger than I am. It is important to walk quickly to enjoy all of the benefits of walking.

Today I read an article in our local newspaper written by Brynna Leslie called, “Want to live longer? Pick up the pace.” The article quotes research that explains how walking quickly is good for you.

If you can find a copy of this article, read it.

Then go for a walk!

See you on the trail! – Maureen



Type 2 Diabetes – Two Visits

Last week, I had two appointments, one after the other. The first was with a dietician, the second with a nurse specializing in Diabetes.

Each appointment lasted an hour and they were very informative.

I am very happy that I live in Canada where all medical care is covered by the government (and our taxes).  

I brought a notebook containing the list of meals I had had during the previous week. I also noted my exercise including two bike rides of 12 km and 14 km respectively. I wrote down my water consumption as well. The results of my blood glucose self-testing was also noted.

It seems I have been doing quite well. My total weight loss is 15 pounds and all of my glucose tests have been in the normal range.

Here are a few things I learned from Alia, the dietician:

  • It is important to eat meals at regular hours.
  • They should not be more than five hours apart.
  • Each meal should have approximately the same amount of protein (30 g.)
  • I need to eat even more vegetables.
  • No processed food as it turns to sugar very rapidly.
  • Instead of white bread, rice, pasta, substitute brown.
  • Use seeds and nuts, and cinnamon to help flavor food.
  • Berries are recommended.

The dietician also gave me a “recipe” to be eaten every day. One-third ground flax-seed + one-third oat bran + one-third psyllium. The goal is two tablespoons a day, starting with one tbsp. I was able to easily buy these items at our local Bulk Barn but I am sure grocery stores carry them. Today I had a serving of plain Greek yogurt with blackberries and blueberries and 1 tbsp. of the mixture. Not the tastiest but I am sure I can get used to it.

The nurse, Kelly, gave me a lot of helpful facts and advice. She told me to share this with everyone I know.

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause various other serious problems:

  • Kidney problems and failure
  • Circulation problems, which can lead to amputation
  • Problems with the eyes which can lead to blindness
  • Problems in the brain, which can cause Alzheimer’s

With Type 2 Diabetes, the glucose sticks to your red blood cells. This is bad. What else can I say?

I was originally diagnosed with T2D about 20 years ago. Since that time it was totally controlled with diet. But in the last couple of years, since retirement, the weight crept back on and my sugar levels began to rise. I guess at age 70, it all caught up to me and I was prescribed Metformin, which I take twice a day.

Metformin helps your cells use the sugar your body produces but it also encourages the liver to not make so much sugar.

Here are a few of my goals:

  • lose more weight (5 – 10 pounds in the next few months)
  • continue to exercise every day (walking, cycling, weights)
  • share my (limited) knowledge of Type 2 Diabetes with friends and family
  • get good results on my blood glucose tests
  • incorporate all the important information received from Alia and Kelly

When I was finishing up my appointments, Kelly gave me a card with their direct phone number and their email addresses in case I had concerns and/or questions. I have a follow-up appointment with both of them on October 14th, but before then I will be having blood tests for which I have a standing order every three months. I certainly hope that my next doctor’s appointment will be one of good news.

Thanks for reading about my latest baby steps on my Diabetes journey. Have a nice weekend. – Maureen







Type 2 Diabetes – Another Step

The journey is continuing. But the path is not always easy. This past weekend, I ran into a rough spot.

On Saturday night, into Sunday morning, I was sick. The Metformin I have been taking has been giving me digestive problems on occasion, but this was the worst yet. I was up for two and a half hours and in agony.

I hadn’t exercised much in the previous few days and I don’t know if that played a part in that unpleasant scene. All day Sunday, my whole tummy was shaking and I still had pain. I didn’t eat much during the day, but after I went for a 15-minute walk on our local trail, I felt a little better. I was able to eat a small supper and it felt good.

After supper, my husband and I went for another walk on the trail, this time for about 20 minutes. Last night was much better and today I feel back to normal.

August 9, 2015 – 1 p.m. Blood Glucose level – 8.3

August 10, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. Blood Glucose level 6.4

My average level over the past couple of weeks is 7.3

Now I have a few questions.

  • What part did my lack of exercise play in my feeling of illness?
  • What role did my eating play?
  • What fasting BG level should I be aiming for?
  • What level should I be aiming for after a meal?

I will be seeing a nurse for an hour and a dietician for another hour on August 18. I hope they can answer my questions and help me feel confident that I am doing everything possible to minimize the effects of this disease.

The worst part about getting sick the other night? I had to cancel a visit to my sister’s house for dinner and a “mystery evening” to say good-bye to my brother, David, who is leaving for the States quite soon.

I have been planning my exercise sessions over the coming week and have been to the local farmer’s market to buy fresh veggies. This morning’s breakfast was sautéed zucchini, an egg, and a clementine. And lots of tea.

By the way, my computer’s spell checker wanted to change “Metformin”” to performing”.

Have a healthy week and thanks for reading. – Maureen

The Joys of July

The last day of July is always bittersweet. It is still warm and sunny but we know that change is on the way.

For years and years I was an elementary school teacher and the end of July meant that it was time to begin thinking about the new school year ahead. It was coming soon but not quite yet.

In Canada, July begins with a celebration! Canada Day is July first, and this year Canada was 148 years old. In Ottawa, where I live, there is a huge gathering on Parliament Hill, in front of the Peace Tower. In the morning there are speeches by the Prime Minister and the Governor General. In the afternoon and evening there is a show, highlighting the talents of Canadian musicians and artists, from rappers to classical musicians, to dancers and acrobats. Later in the evening, there are fireworks which everyone enjoys.



The birthday girl.

The birthday girl.

Our 49th anniversary.

Our 49th anniversary.

Sisters and a brother. I am on the right. This photo shows 4/11 of our family.

Sisters and a brother. I am on the right. This photo shows 4/11 of our family.



There is a lazy slowness to the days, especially if one is retired as I am. My husband and I ride our bicycles almost everyday, and we walk on the trail to visit Tim Horton’s where J. has an iced coffee and I have a cup of tea. It is never too hot for tea!

We travelled to Montreal for a graduation party for our grandson, who will be going to CEGEP (Junior College) in September, studying Science.

This year we celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary on July 16, and our oldest daughter turned 48 a week later. She was born in Zambia during Canada’s Centennial year, 1967. This year, on the same day a great-nephew was born in Scotland. Joyful!

For the past several years my sister, Helen, who lives in Bermuda, comes to Canada, to avoid the extreme heat and humidity of her adopted homeland. I have been in Bermuda in the summer and I can tell you that it is beyond belief HOT and out of the realm of reality HUMID! We have NEVER had a day like that in Canada, no matter how hot it gets.

Helen and her husband, Ray, have bought an RV (very fancy/schmancy) and beginning in Vermont, where they have a home, they travel all over North America, and one of their stops is always Ottawa in July. They arrived last week and I visited with them many times as my other brothers and sisters did. They will go from here all across Canada to Victoria, BC, where they will attend our niece’s wedding in September.

Visiting with family – brothers and sisters, daughters, nieces and nephews, granddaughters and grandsons, is the biggest joy of all. July is perfect since everyone can sit outside in the beauty of the outdoors.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day! – Maureen

Type 2 Diabetes – Testing. Testing.

I have recently gone on medication for Type 2 Diabetes. It has been just over a month and my stomach problem due to the new pills is getting much better. It happens every few days but only lasts an hour or two.

Today I had a call from my pharmacist to tell me that my glucose monitor, lancets, and test strips are ready for to pick up.

I need to know when to test and track my glucose levels. I am sure there is an app for that which I can use on my new iPad Air 2.


My visit to the pharmacy was very informative. The pharmacist took about 15 minutes to set up the monitor, explain everything to me and then watch as I did my first test.

To tell the truth I was a bit nervous.

First you get a lancet which is like a needle that is enclosed in a protective case. I inserted the lancet into the monitor and then I got out a test strip and inserted it into the monitor. That turned the monitor on. The prompt came, “Add blood.”

I then loaded the lancet by pushing forward on a button. I placed the pad of my thumb over the opening and pushed a white button to activate the lancet and get a drop of blood. I applied this to the side of the test strip and then waited for my reading.

In Canada, the results are shown as mmol/L. In the US measurements are expressed differently.

My result was 7.3 mmol/L.

Ideal numbers would be 4.5 – 6.5. But 7.3 is pretty good. It is in the “range”. Six weeks ago my number, after fasting for 12 hours, was 8.4.

The pharmacist told me to test only 2 or 3 times a week, and to keep a record of the results to show my doctor. The monitor will show you your average for a couple of weeks and will alert you when a “high” trend is noted. For instance, if you have tested high at a certain time of day, you would be alerted so you could perhaps change your diet.

The cost for all this? $4.99. I thank God that I live in Canada where our medical system provides such good care for such a low cost.

I will be seeing a nurse and a nutritionist in a couple of weeks, which is good because I still have a lot of questions.

By the way all the Apps I have seen so far have measured results in American measurements, so I am still looking for a “Canadian” Blood Glucose Logbook.

Thanks for coming with me on my next step in this journey. Have a good day!




Type 2 Diabetes – A Journey

About 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. My blood sugar levels were just over the limit but I was able to completely manage it by controlling my diet. Over the next fifteen years, my sugar levels were tested yearly and they were always in the normal range.

Canadian and American numbers differ and I couldn’t tell you why. For example over those years my levels were in the range of 5.5, which translates to 100 on the American scale. This would be the normal area.

About six months ago I had my blood tested and my doctor told me to watch my sugar intake because I was getting near the 7.0 range (126 American) which indicates pre-diabetes.

Three months ago, I had new tests and my level was 7.7 (About 140 American). This would indicate that I was diabetic. But the doctor gave me six weeks to improve this.

I was already going to the gym, so I immediately started to watch every bite that passed my lips and lost 12 pounds. I had another glucose test as well as an AC1 test. The blood glucose test indicates the fasting blood sugar levels. The AC1 test is to determine the amount of sticky glucose that has been coating your hemoglobin cells over the previous three months.

I was eager to visit the doctor after the six weeks were up. I expected her to tell me that I had been successful at lowering the numbers into the normal range. But, no, she told me that my fasting glucose level was worse, 8.4 (155), and my AC1 test showed a level of 7.7 (140). Between us, we decided that I would have to go on Metformin, a diabetes drug that should help me back to the normal range. I was prescribed two pills a day.

One side-effect of the Metformin is stomach upset so my pharmacist told me to begin with half a pill twice a day. I have had several days with a lot of pain but I think I am getting used to the medication.

Dr. O. assures me that I CAN eventually get off the pills. She knows people who have done it. But it is very difficult.

In Type 1 Diabetes, your pancreas does not produce enough (or any) insulin, so you have to take insulin, almost always by injection. There are insulin pumps which many people use as well. I have a brother who hasmuch  this type of diabetes and has been living with it since he was 17. (He is now 75.)

With Type 2 Diabetes, your pancreas still produces insulin but the cells that need that insulin become resistant to it. Hence, you have too much insulin AND your body is not able to use it. This can cause many problems, with widely varying sugar levels.

There are many secondary effects of having uncontrolled Diabetes, which I won’t go into at this time.

Dr. O. has not given me a prescription for self-testing – glucose monitor, lancets, test strips, but it is probable that I will have to do this soon. In mid-August I have appointments with a NURSE specializing in diabetes as well as with a NUTRITIONIST.

I have a standing order for blood tests every three months to monitor my fasting glucose levels as well as for an AC1 test.

My next tests are in September. I hope to be able to report on progress in both these areas. I would like both my AC1 level and my fasting glucose level to be approaching 7.0 (126).

I am not a doctor. I am not a nurse. I have no medical training. This blog post is not meant to give advice, merely to be a record of my progress in The Sugar Wars. It is possible that some of the facts and numbers are not quite accurate. If you notice any errors, please let me know and I will try to correct them asap!

Thank you for reading this post and for allowing me to share my Journey with you. – Maureen

Canada Day in Ottawa – 2015

Today is Canada’s 148th birthday!

It's a happy day coast to coast to coast.

My niece's two little girls greet Canada Day.

My niece’s two little girls greet Canada Day.

My grandson, Owen, watching the Prime Minister and the Governor General arrive on Parliament Hill.

My grandson, Owen, watching the Prime Minister and the Governor General arrive on Parliament Hill.

At The War Memorial, where a soldier was killed in October, the heavens opened up.

At The War Memorial, where a soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, was killed in October. It started raining but they didn’t let it stop them!

The free bus was full of people dressed in red and white.

The free bus was full of people dressed in red and white.

My granddaughter, Brynn, on Parliament Hill to watch the show.

My granddaughter, Brynn, on Parliament Hill to watch the show.

The “Old Girl” went for a Canada Day walk.

The clouds were rolling in.

The cheerful driver asked if I wanted a photo.

My daughter and her family took the free bus to the Parliament Buildings.

Have a very happy day. Fireworks tonight!

Thanks for reading and have a great day everyone!

Walk Like a Ballerina

Winter came late to Ottawa this year. December was mostly mild with very little snow.

Christmas Day was well above zero and it was raining. The grass was still green, for Pete’s sake!

But this past Sunday, January 4, we had:

  1. Snow
  2. Freezing rain
  3. Rain

All in one day! It was Nova Scotia weather in Ontario!

The shovelling was bad, my husband told me. As a result of all that shovelling, the freezing rain fell on a clean driveway which means that it is a solid sheet of ice. So it was salted.  But all the salt mines of Tanzania don’t produce enough salt to melt the ice that covered everything.

The trees and shrubs were ice coated and glistening in the sunlight which followed the “weather bomb”. It is just so pretty!


The temperature dropped from +8 C (45F) on Christmas Day to -25C (-13F) yesterday.

So now, when I venture out of the house, I have to walk like a ballerina.

You know. The teeny tiny steps, like Margot Fontaine dancing in Swan Lake. The arms outstretched and flapping in the air, like a bird ready for take-off. I mince my way down the driveway and do the ballet dance all the way to the bus stop.

I HAVE to get to Tim Horton’s to have a cup of steeped tea with my friend, Joan.

I feel as if an audience cheered as I entered the coffee shop. But I think some of them were hoping I’d fall.

I just hope I remember the dance steps for the trip home.

Happy New Year to all of you. May you be blessed with health and happiness. – Maureen

Getting to 30

In a few weeks I’ll be 70 years old.

My last post was called, “Being 20”.  It was 1965. I became a teacher that year, went to Alberta for my first teaching assignment, met my future husband, and became engaged before the end of the year.

  • 1966 – I got married, joined CUSO (a volunteer organization), and went to Zambia. I taught Math to High School students.
  • 1967 – I gave birth to my first daughter, Michelle. I wrote a Math text-book for adult literacy during my pregnancy.
  • 1968 – We returned to Canada and lived in Montreal where my husband was working. It was a case of reverse culture shock to be in Canada again.
  • 1969 – I gave birth to my second daughter, Lindiwe.
  • 1970 – I gave birth to my third daughter, Carla.
  • 1971 – We moved to Ottawa. I took my first art class, working on oils.
  • 1972 – Looked after babies. Cooked, cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked, cleaned.
  • 1973 – More of the same.
  • 1974 – We moved back to Montreal. Two weeks later I gave birth to my fourth daughter, Monica.
  • 1975 – I turned 30.

This was, perhaps, my busiest decade. Five of those years were spent with another human being attached to my body in one way or another. Pregnant or breastfeeding. I loved (and still love) being a mother but that was difficult. However, it had always been my plan to have my children in my twenties and “bring them up” in my thirties and forties. And that’s what I did. Successfully.

Getting to 30 was not always an easy road. We had challenges along the way, but we persevered and with the help of God, we entered our thirties stronger and more committed to each other and our family than ever.

So, good times. Good times!

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day. – Maureen