I was somewhat dismayed by the negativity of Dr John Cameron’s letter (17 December), especially coming from someone I understand to be a retired Church of Scotland minister and probably of a similar age to myself.
Dr Cameron seems to be contending that the extra years of life expectancy that most of us in the West can now take for granted are hardly worth having because they will inevitably represent mainly an “increase in the time we live with depression and chronic painful diseases that cripple but do not kill”.
In order to combat such a tendency, I would humbly but confidently recommend to Dr Cameron and all others (especially over-50s) who are not already availing of it, to develop their lifestyle to include regular, preferably aerobic exercise, at least three to five times per week for 30-60 minutes a session.
Such a regime is well proven to increase one’s longevity along with improvements to both physical and mental health, well into our later years.
It has also been shown that starting to exercise (within the limitations of ones physical capacity) produces equal proportional benefits to an individual at any age of starting or restarting.
People like myself who have recovered through the initial period following a cardiac problem are encouraged to join a regular, structured exercise class led by a specially trained instructor.
This form of after-care starts about six weeks after discharge from hospital and is designed to continue, lifelong from that time.
The first eight weeks of this programme are provided by the NHS but the ongoing stage usually relies on provision by a local authority or a local charity (in our case Grampian Cardiac Rehabilitation Association, of which I am a board member).
The reports of people who have taken part in these programmes bear ample witness to all the benefits and general sense of well-being gained from this self-help effort, despite their history of a heart condition.
There is also the added bonus of fun and sociability during and after these classes. I would hope that most Christians and others view the prospect of their twilight years rather more positively than Dr Cameron.
Instead of appearing to suggest fatalistic and deterministic excuses for clinging to their bad habits (especially sedentary ones) I would thoroughly recommend an appropriate exercise regime in order to optimise their remaining years – physically, mentally and perhaps even spiritually.
If doctors were able to offer a pill for which even some of these claims could be made, surely such a pill would top every doctor’s prescription hit parade.