There’s plenty of misconceptions about aging. Perhaps the biggest one is that as you age, your health and fitness begin to decline, and there’s really not much you can do to restore your body to the health and vitality of your youth. However, if you take a closer look at this misconception, you begin to realize that age doesn’t have to equal infirmary! There’s ballet dancers who still have a dancer’s body at 70, grandmothers who are more flexible in their yoga classes than their twenty-something counterparts, and grandfathers who compete in bodybuilding competitions against men half their age. Sure, it takes dedication and hard work, but staying fit and healthy long past the age when you’re “supposed” to be declining due to age is simple, if you have the right knowledge.
Countless stories of athletes, fitness devotees and lifelong exercisers who are fit and healthy well into their 70′s, 80′s (and even 90′s) tell a different story than the tales of decline and disease the media would like us to believe. A marathon runner named Fauja Singh, was 100 years old when he completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon! New York City yoga instructor Tao Porchon-Lynch was the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest yoga instructor at age 93, back in 2012. There’s a 92-year old water-skier, a 65-year-old runner who is considered one of the best in the world, and an 83-year-old tango dancer who started learning her sport when she turned 80 . . . and that’ s just the tip of the iceberg! Once you start looking, you can find numerous stories about people who should be infirm, hospitalized, or disabled, but they’re not. Instead, they’re accomplishing amazing feats of physical strength and agility. Why, then, is this false idea of old age so prevalent? And how can we ensure we become one of the exceptions, rather than the rule?
Part of the problem is that for a vast majority of people, making healthy lifestyles choices is difficult or seemingly impossible. If you are obese, have a history or disease, were never taught to make smart lifestyle choices, or do not have access to resources or help, turning the aging myth around is almost impossible. Also, the media bombards us with stories almost daily about disease and aging that are depressing rather than hopeful. And then there’s all that medication advertising from the big pharmaceutical companies. But the truth is, giving yourself the opportunity for a long, healthy and full life, although it does require work and planning, is surprisingly simple.
Pick a physical activity (or activities) you can be passionate about. Maybe you hate running. So don’t run! Perhaps you’re more comfortable in the water, or you like dancing, or you would rather learn new skills. Try several activities and don’t feel bad if a few of them aren’t quite right for you. Once you settle on the one(s) that matter to you, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to motivate yourself to keep going. Plan to do your physical activity at least 3 times a week, and build up to more, for maximum benefit.
The benefits to your health and well being, even if you only commit to walking out in nature, are vast. You’ll increase your heart health; improve lung ability and capacity – a major factor in being able to ward of pneumonia later in life – have stronger, better functioning muscles; and be able to prevent chronic conditions and disease, such as diabetes and arthritis, better than people the same age as you who are not working out! And that’s just the beginning: add in getting plenty of rest, eating healthy and delicious foods, and drinking lots of water, and you’ll be way ahead of the vast majority of people your age . . . and many of the ones younger than you, too.
Will you run a marathon at 100? Plank when you are 92? Climb a mountain in your 80′s? That’s for you to know, but there’s one thing we can all count on . . . it’s entirely possible to do any one of these activities, no matter what your age, because there are people already out there doing them! If you stick to a simple plan to remain healthy and fit, there’s no telling what kind of shape you’ll be in when you’re 70, 80, or 90 years old, but won’t it feel great when you get there and can outrun, outlast, or outperform your grand kids . . . and then teach them all your secrets for a long and healthy life?