August 18, 2017

Exercise: What Do You Do To Stay Healthy?


Regular reader, Madeline, asked if I would take a look at an area that many of us struggle with: exercise. A recent study found that a higher percentage of those 65+ are more concerned about health issues than financial stability. That makes sense since a major health crisis can do major damage to one's financial situation, even with Medicare and supplemental insurance in place.

It is a given that moving our bodies is helpful. Suggestions for people our age center on both cardio or aerobic and well as weight bearing activities. Thirty minutes a day for at least five days a week of walking and a few days of muscle strengthening exercises seems to be the consensus. If you jog or run, the total time can be reduced by half.

I can only speak for me, but that exercise frequency is not always met. Since Betty rejoined our gym we are doing better; 4 days a week is pretty typical. We start on the treadmill and then move to free weights or machines. During the cooler months of the year I will ride my bike a few miles a few times a week. Because of bad knees and hips, Betty has tried biking but finds it is painful.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a good summary of the needs of older adults. One section deal with the amount and intensity of exercise we need. Another area details how to make physical activity a party of your life. Of course, there are thousands of other web sites that may give you important tips and ideas that help you. I have listed a handful at the end of this post.

For us, the primary concern is making exercise a part of our life without injury. I have the unfortunate habit of deciding to add more to my exercise life, only to pull or strain something that forces me to back off again. Learning our personal limitations becomes an important part of the process. 

So, I am turning things over to you for ideas, support, and suggestions. What have you found works best to stay as healthy as you can? How do you find the time to do what you should? Do you have to force yourself to meet your exercise needs, or do you look forward to physically pushing your body? 

Here are a few web sites that you might find helpful:


Senior workout needs

Physical activity for older adults

Activity Guidelines for Older Adults

Choosing the right activities

Easy home exercises


And, if you are limited to only chair-type exercises, here is a sample of what you can do to stay fit (if there is an ad at first, you can skip after 4 seconds!)





44 comments:

  1. Great topic. For me it's bike riding. It's a passion and a little bit of an obsession. So getting enough aerobic activity per week is just part of my day to day routine. Road bike and mountain bike.
    However, I also go the the gym to do light resistance training for bone health and mobility/flexibility as cycling is not a weight bearing activity. I am less enthusiastic about my gym sessions, but I know I need to do it or risk injury and likely have issues as I get older. Use it or lose it.
    I found out the hard way that exercise is only part of the story about 2 years ago. My diet was poor and my cholesterol started to increase. I got some advice from a dietician and ex cerise physiologist, dropped some weight and reduced the bad fats from my diet. My cholesterol numbers are now ok. My point is you can exercise as much as you like but if your diet is poor your health will suffer.

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    1. Thanks for making the link between exercise and diet. All the leg lifts in the world won't overcome the damage of a bad diet.

      Because of the summer heat, I am glad my gym is only about 5 minutes away, otherwise I'd make too many excuses to not go. I do feel more alive and with more energy after only 35-40 minutes there. I'm anxious to get my bike back out on the streets around my home. It should be cool enough in another month or two.

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    2. And as a woman who lost alot of weight, I don't want to discount exercise for health as I do as much as I am able. But I will tell you that I do not give cred to exercise for my weight loss, and in fact the biggest weight loss was when I could not exercise due to injury and only dieted. Often I think we tell ourselves that "well, I exercised for an hour today so I can have cake now". Umm, that only works for the true Athletic types like my daughter who used to do crossfit regularly or someone like Tamara who literally goes all day.

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  2. (1) A weekly half-hour, max-intensity, "superslow" resistance-training workout. See the book "Body by Science" by McGuff MD and Little. This has reshaped my body over the past six months. Amazing!

    (2) Simple mobility exercises from Original Strength (originalstrength.net). Things like rocking, crawling, and rolling. Great YouTube videos on this.

    (3) Tai Chi weekly (about a year and a half into this, and still just becoming competent)

    (4) Twice-daily walks with my dog!

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    1. I did Tai-Chi for about 2 months and gave it up. The classes were pretty far from my home and, frankly, I found it tough to not forget the movements from week to week! But, I did it long enough to see how it is an excellent low-impact exercise option for many.

      We have been taking our dog to the park first thing in the morning before it gets too hot. But, within the last week, nights have been cool enough we can restart evening walks, too. The dog loves it and it is good for us.

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  3. Good reminder for all of us! I walk my dogs every morning about 2 to 3 miles or about 45 minutes. Believe me, they don't let me skip a day! Then free weights (5 lb) a few days a week. I live in Prescott so there's also lots of trails for hiking so I try to get in a one hour hike once a week. Being in nature is good for my mental health. :) I tried biking but found it too difficult on the hills.

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    1. I don't think our cocker, Bailey, could go that long. Her back end gets weak after a half mile or so. But, you are so right: she will stare at us intently every morning when it is time to go to the park.

      Betty and I have given some thought to spending part of next summer in Prescott. We have a few friends who live there either full or part time. It is a gorgeous area.

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  4. I like to exercise as I do activities of daily living, i.e. grass cutting, gardening, snow removal, house caring, etc. On a day when my activities don't contribute to strength training or cardio I like a 2-mile walk in all seasons. I also do yoga and on occasion, some light weights. I'm mindful of getting exercise in small doses, i.e. walking a distance from parking, taking the stairs, engaging my core when waiting in a line. There's a flight of stairs up to my front door that can't be avoided.

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    1. Just saying snow removal brings back less-than-pleasant memories of growing up in Boston and attending university in Syracuse. Enough snow for a lifetime!

      Good point about linking what you have to do each day with exercise. I average close to 8,000 steps a day just around the house, 10,000 if I make an extra effort which is good cardio.

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  5. Even though I owned a health club, many years ago, and taught aerobics I've never been an exercise junkie by any stretch! My primary exercise is walking and I don't even do that as often as I should. Writing is a sedentary thing and that's what I do most. I can't ride my bike anymore due to balance issues, (I've been accused of being a little unbalanced many times.;)). So, I have decided to just accept me as I am. I'm happy with that.
    b

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    1. You, unbalanced? Maybe, but in a good way.

      I never knew you owned a health club. That probably produced some interesting stories over the years. Do you write standing up? I gather that is better for your core and maybe balance issues than sitting at a desk. Disclosure: I write firmly seated! It's my mental balance that concerns me these days.

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  6. Wonderful topic (did not read all the responses yet).I do silver sneakers classic three times a week. I used to just walk, but Im not supposed to stride, and I have to say that the addition of weights and bands and such has made a huge difference. Others more qualified than I can speak on this but it does seem to me that we often concentrate just on the aerobic part (alking and such) and I at least really need the strength building just as much. On the altnernative days I take silver sneakers yga stretch to help with balance or I walk sideways in the water.

    Since my injury I have learned that sideways walking puts much less stress on our legs, but I can never do it in the house, even back and forth. So I hit the water for half an hour.

    and yes, Google is still refusing to give me a real person, referring me again to the help articles. I could see myself beginning a second blog next week and migrating the articles from the original oh joy. But still here and working on it. As Arnold would say "I'l be back) Right now the blog is actually there under an old email from ten years ago, but I'm not referring folks to it until I get this fixed. I dont want you all to have to find me a second time more than once.

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    1. Google is very little help when something goes wrong with Blogger. There is no way to interact with a real person. This might be the time to migrate to Wordpress or use a company like GoDaddy to build your own domain and have them host it. It is not free but you will have real help when a problem strikes.

      I am getting real close to the same move. Having 7 years of work and credibility tied to a site that doesn't offer a way to solve a major problem is very risky.

      My gym membership is provided as one of the benefits of my Medicare supplemental policy. Silver Sneakers is quite a nice deal.

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    2. Bob, that is my long term goal, and why I bought livingrichlyinretirement.com and not just renewing frugal texas gal. But I will never buy a host from them. I originally got FTG from Bluhost and was happy early on with their customer service. It is a good deal, unfortunately the feds dont cover it, darned them, but three bucks a class is very helpful.

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  7. A little off topic, but I read Barbara's comment about her Blog and your response. I recently used GoDaddy to establish a domain name and Wordpress to host our new blog. Have been happy so far with their support.

    As to exercise. I agree that dieting is the best way to loose weight, but exercise is the only way to get fit. We loose muscle as we age and the only way to offset that is to do strength exercises. I use light weights at least 4 times per week and I average 45 minutes 4 times per week on the elliptical. I hate every minute of it, but it is necessary if I want to continue being active. My suitcases aren't getting any lighter!!!

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    1. Suzanne I am actually doing more weight and strenght now and yoga than aerobics. Not to discount the aerobcs, dont get me wrong.

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  8. I joined the YMCA about six months after I retired and it was the best thing I have done lately. I now attend two circuit classes a week and attend the gym on my one at least one other day. I am one who needs a program because I am not disciplined enough to exercise on my own for an extended period and can find many excuses for avoiding it. This year I lost twenty six pounds on Nutrisystem (another program) and this has made exercising somewhat easier and keeps me motivated. Programs are great, but, in the end, "if it is to be, it's up to me".

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    1. I lost 11 pounds after 28 days of Nutrisystem. That helped me really try to adjust my health approach. Those pounds had resisted all efforts to lose them on my own.

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  9. Daily exercise is an "automatic" in my life. Every morning I take a brisk walk for 20 minutes and perform Tai chi. Twice a week I do kettlebell routines. Twice a week I racewalk. Once a week (usually Saturday AM) I take a brisk bike ride for about 80 minutes. Three times a week I swim laps for about 20 minutes, usually after racewalking and biking. Every heard of Qigong? I practice Qigong nearly every afternoon. Sounds like a lot, but the time for this re-creation really averages only about 90 minutes/day. Of course, Bob, in AZ you cannot include golf as part of your exercise menu because, well, it is a cultural requirement for retired folk, right? So those 45 holes/week are merely an outdoor social ritual. I agree with so many folk commenting on your topic: A moderate and varied diet is a key part of my health program, washed down with red wine (for medicinal purposes "only").

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    1. That is quite a routine you follow. And no, Qigong is a new one for me. I will look it up!

      The glass of wine...that one I understand and follow every afternoon around 4.

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  10. At 62, and very close to retiring, I workout everyday at lunch at the gym at the university where I work. I alternate between the indoor rowing machine and elliptical and do free weights. Being a city commuter, I also get plenty of steps in each day and long walks on the weekend, typically a daily average of ~15000 steps. This along with being "aware" of what and how much I eat has me at the weight I was in high school and wearing the same pants size. It feels good, I feel lucky to be able to do this. However, my major concern is being able to maintain this when I do retire. For now, it's easy to be consistent. It's routine, a habit. When I do retire, the routine will be lost and the access to the gym will be inconvenient. I am paying very close attention to the comments on your post from those who have retired to see what and how they do it to stay in shape.

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    1. I can only speak for myself, but retirememt meant it was harder for me to maintain a routine. I guess because the daily schedule is more flexible, I found it easier to push it back each day, telling myself I will get to it. Then, the day is gone.

      I actually went down in pants size since the start of summer..the first time in probably 15 years I have worn that size. That felt good.

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  11. I don't exercise. I have a neuromuscular condition which keeps me mostly scooter or chair bound. I will be 70 in December. I wish all the exercisers well but I seem to be doing fine without it.

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    1. Maybe the video of chair exercises has something you can use.

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  12. I began doing regular exercise in my twenties when my mother had a major cardio-vascular event at age 49. The family history of heart disease and strokes has been a great motivator to keep myself heart-healthy. I like exercise that takes me outdoors and that I can do without having to get in the car and drive somewhere. At this time of year, I get out first thing in the morning and walk 2-3 miles 5-6 days a week. This is supplemented by gardening several days a week. The winter is always a problem for me because it's not safe to walk on the side of my rural roads (no sidewalks) when there is snow and ice. I get a fair amount of exercise in the winter by shoveling snow and by hauling around wood for my woodstove. This year, I'm also hoping to get back to cross-country skiing by joining the cross-country ski club at the Senior College. (This will require driving to a local area with groomed trails.)
    In addition to aerobic exercise, I have a series of strength and stretching exercises for my back that I do twice a day every day and balance exercises that I also do twice a day.

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    1. I am glad you mention balance exercises. Those are increasingly important as we age. Senior falls due to balance issues are a major source of injury and even death.

      When we lived in Salt Lake City in the late 70s Betty and I did cross-country skiing. Since moving to the desert and getting older, that went by the wayside.

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  13. I run 5+ miles 3-4 mornings per week, and the other 3-4 days I work out on the home gym. I like to have a minimum of 10K steps per day; pretty easy when I run, and also easy if I am doing a lot of work outside on the 4 acres. Need to be careful on the diet, though, since even though I am the same pant size as in high school and the same weight, the distribution of said weight is a little off compared to the earlier years :)

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    1. Weight distribution absolutely changes. More fat around the middle or hips is common and isn't easily controlled. We become more pear shaped.

      In the summer I have a tough time hitting 10,000 steps. It is much easier when the weather encourages more outside activities.

      You have a routine that will pay major dividends as you age.

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    2. FWIW, I investigated Ayurvedic medicine and made diet and lifestyle changes based on my body type, and the weight melted off me. As long as I follow the Ayurvedic principles for my body type, the weight doesn't return; if I don't follow the diet, back it comes to the hips and tummy.

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    3. Anonymous - thanks for the tip. Mentioned it to my wife and she had an Ayurvedic cookbook, as well as a low fat Indian cookbook. I was supposed to start getting into cooking when I retired a few years ago, but never did. Maybe this will galvanize me. When I looked at the philosophy around the originator of the Ayurvedic diet, he was talking about eating intelligent foods. To be honest, my food has always been pretty stupid. It just sits there on the plate and does nothing; not sure if it should be waxing philosophic or what, but it seems pretty unintelligent to me.

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  14. I was a book worm most of my life (I think we call them nerds now..) I prefer exercising my mind over my body but in my 40's I got serioulsy fit,did weights and aerobics daily. The weight training ended up hurting my shoulder and to this day I have issues. Somehow I got off track from fitness and slipped into my old ways and of course gained weight and lost strength. I feel I have got a nicely balanced life in general EXCEPT I struggle with finding an "ideal" fitness routine I can stick with. And that will not hurt me. I am inspired by your 4 day a week gym habit! I may have to join something-- Tumbleweed Rec center appeals to me, but it's a bit far from my house.. they have water aerobics, which is a real plus.. however,it is only 3 miles from the office where I am now practicing real estate.I am in that office at least twice a week.. Back in the 90's when I got fit ALL I did for one full year was WALK ONE HOUR A DAY every day 6 days a week.Either outdoors or on a treadmill.Religiously. I lose 35 pounds and felt great.Ken says: Well, do THAT!! How come we just think it has to be complicated?? I know now we DO need some strength training at this age and so am looking for a way to incorporate that without injury. This post has got me motivated again..thanks Bob!!!

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    1. Your idea for this post has resulted in a lot of comments, many from readers who haven't commented before, so the subject has hit a nerve.

      Your husband has a point. If walking worked before, give it a try again. It is simple and considered one of the best exercises you can do.

      I looked into the Tumbleweed facility when we moved to this area of the Valley, but found a gym only 5 minutes away that has the Silver Sneakers program, so it was an easy choice.

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  15. I do a mix of yoga, stretching, weight lifting, and exercises for my core at least 5 times a week. All the exercises are modified by my PT to accommodate joint and disc issues. I also walk the dogs 3 to 4 times a day. My motivation is strong -- if I don't exercise I will end up in a wheelchair.

    The hardest part was timing after I retired, since I used to exercise when I got up at 5:30 am and before I went to work, and lost that routine habit once I retired. I am most successful in exercising daily if I can link the exercise to an activity that is already a habit, so for the first 6 months I was retired I was exercising at no particular time. Felt totally unsettled. After 6 months I have a daily routine and a set time for exercising, usually midmorning. If am appointments come up, I have a backup time in the afternoon.

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    1. While my time at the gym isn't firm, easly afternoon seems to work best. My energy begins to dip about then and the ecercising pumps it back up a bit.

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  16. Martial arts, qigong, and now yoga, four or five times a week. All good activities, but since I gave up the more vigorous martial arts, I find that I still need more cardio/aerobic. I try to take long walks several times a week, much easier when I'm at the cabin!

    When people find out that I practice martial arts, they sometimes think it will be too hard for them, but it isn't. The great things about martial arts, at least the way it's taught in my school, is that it is adapted to your body. I don't do anything that is going to cause injury. I'm especially careful with my knees and my neck.

    As an example, my school brings in teachers for weekend seminars sometimes. We had a tai chi master come who is this small slim guy in his late sixties and was tossing around the big young buff guys without breaking a sweat. He barely moved, at least it appeared that way. The true power of martial arts is internal power--it's not just about muscles.

    As for motivation, although there are days when I just want to sit on the couch and watch reruns on cable, if I can get myself to class, then I always love class. Plus I love my teachers and the people I train with, so it is a social activity as well.

    When I'm maintaining my activity level, I feel better--I have more energy, I'm not stiff or in pain. I have a vitality and positive feeling about my life that fades when I get out of my routine. So that's another motivation to keep it up!

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    1. As I noted in tbe comment just before yours, gym time does boost my energy level.For the longest time I thought a nap would do the trick, but that actually made it worse.

      One of the toughest things Betty and I are having to fight is muscle loss. Our butts are disappearing while our underarm jiggle is increasing. We would rather it was the other way around.

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    2. Yeah, that muscle tone is hard to maintain. Your work with weights should help. I need to work on that, too!

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    3. Same for me, exercise boosts my energy levels, but it's also an opportunity for calming meditation and breathwork, which keep me supple and feeling positive. If I miss a day, I feel stiffer, achier, and am more prone to feeling stressed out.

      Galen, how great that you are doing martial arts.

      Bob, to build muscle I increase number of reps in weight-lifting. Lighter weights, lots of reps.

      Butts are hard to keep toned, there are some great dance exercises at the barre designed just for that. You could try googling on the topic. In my experience, triceps exercises (again, light weights, lots of reps) done ad nauseum help with the underarm jiggles.

      Might want to check out protein consumption and how your body is metabolizing protein. My OBGYN doc told me that most post-menopausal women either don't consume enough protein, or are not correctly and completely metabolizing the protein they ingest, which can result in muscle loss as the body pulls protein to use from the muscles. She said post-menopausal men can also have the same problem, but the problem is more acute with postmenopausal women who have usually spent their lives "dieting" and routinely consuming far less protein than they require. YMMV, of course.

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  17. I have taken to walking a three mile loop (we live in a semi-rural area) 3-4 days per week when the weather is good. It's definitely harder in nasty weather, but I have the clothing/shoes/boots to do so and hope to do better this winter, although ice can be a problem sometimes. To motivate myself, I've downloaded podcasts and that keeps it interesting. Also, a big section of it is still gravel road, and I love the crunch under my feet. But this summer they started developing new condos across from the horse farm on that road and I fear the unpaved section is not long for this world.

    I do realize I need more weight training and need to get motivated on that front. Also, gardening takes up a fair amount of time in summer, so when that ends, I'll get back to my weights. I hope. (Yeah, hope is not a stradegey...) :-)
    --Hope

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    1. Hope hopes...that works!

      That's a good walking routine. I just returned from several days at Disneyland with the grandkids. I don't know the exact mileage, but between walking all over the park for 4+ days and walking a mile roundtrip to and from the motel twice a day I was close to what you do on a regular basis.

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  18. In the cooler months I find that walking the dog is a great exercise – he and I will walk a mile or 2 a day and where we are both in our summer place and at home we have some hills to climb which gets my heart rate up. I am remiss where it comes to the strength training but still try to get some in a couple times a week.

    I think the biggest problem is just deciding that the time it takes to exercise is really important. I can ALWAYS find something MORE IMPORTANT to do!!!!!!

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    1. Speaking of which, it is time to take Bailey for a walk tonight...not a mile, but at least around the neighborhood!

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  19. I have really fallen off the exercise wagon with our move and travelling this summer. One of my goals as we settle in is to establish a regular exercise routine. So far, I have scheduled yoga x2/week, and have done some random walking, hiking, and biking.

    Regarding Betty's troubles with the bike -- I too have hip, knee and foot issues. However, I have learned that a properly fitted bike can make all the difference. When I was rehabilitating my knee a number of years ago, my physio told me that cycling was one of the best possible exercises for knees, better than walking, even. It is important to have a bike that is the right size, with the saddle and handlebars at the proper height so that the rider is seated in a good position, and the peddle cranks need to be the right length for the height of the person (I am short). The knee should never be at a more acute angle than a right angle when pedalling, nor should a person have to rock side to side to reach the pedals. Also, the gears should go low enough that the rider can spin the pedals at a fairly rapid cadence, rather than straining at pedalling. I recommend talking to a knowledgeable person in a good bike store; maybe Betty's bike can be adjusted, or maybe she needs a different bike.

    Jude

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    1. Thanks for the input on the bike. She did get a child's bike (24" wheels) because she is barely 5 feet tall. But, checking the angles and lengths is an excellent suggestion.

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