When I first started coaching, I didn’t think all that much about “Active Aging”. But as a 52-year old on the front side of Generation X, it comes up a bit more in my mind now. And as a coach and personal trainer, I see more and more clients in their 40’s, 50’s 60’s and even 70’s walk through our doors.
No doubt about it. Our clients (and I) still want to look good, but more often than not we want to feel good, and we don’t want to give up doing the active things we like doing. Who says you can’t keep hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding just because you added another number to your age? I want to keep throwing the football as far as I used too, and I am working hard to stay ahead of my 15-year old in the weight room.
At my last birthday I found myself pondering this thought:
"I know I am a year older, but I really don't FEEL any different than 10 years ago, in fact in a lot of ways I feel better. Do I really have to accept that getting older comes with unavoidable aches, pains and weight gain?"
Now don't get me wrong. I have noticed some physical changes that have come with the passing years. But they have more to do with recovery than they do with ability.
I have continued to get stronger in the gym, but he fact of the matter is I just don't bounce back from training or injury as fast as I used to. I spend more time on mobility work than I used to, and I can't pound quite as many calories as I used to and stay lean. When something gets tweaked, I am careful about addressing it, not ignoring it, confident it will eventually "go away". Part of that has to do with a little wisdom gained over the years from doing stupid things.
Many of us are at the stage of life when we see our parents starting to struggle with the aging process too, and we want to help them as well. The fact of the matter is the more proactive we are with our physical fitness and healthy eating habits now, the far better off we will be in the next 10, 20, 30 years and beyond.
I read an article recently on this subject, and this sentence caught my eye;
"It's not the number of years you live; it's how you live them." – Jennifer Broxterman
The author then wrote something that really drove the point home. It's not about lifespan - it's about healthspan. It's not how long you live - it's how well you live. That’s our goal.
The Gap In Our Thinking
What is “Active Aging” anyway? In 2015 the World Health Organization actually replaced that term with “Healthy Aging”, and they define it this way:
“The process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age”. That’s a pretty solid definition. It’s what I like to call PROactive Aging.
No matter what you call it; Active Aging, Healthy Aging, Successful Aging, or Functional Aging the premise is the same to me; I want to live as actively and productively as possible, for as long as possible.
I wrote this guide because too often I see a gap in the way public policy addresses the issue.
The following were the topics at a recent Active Aging Conference in my local area:
Overview of Retirement and Social Security; What You Need to Know
The Basics of Memory Loss
Aging At Home
Now to be sure those are all relevant topics in the discussion, and I was thrilled to see nutrition included.
But there are some glaring omissions I just couldn’t ignore.
It’s a conference on active aging that has absolutely no speakers on the subject of staying active – in other words keeping that body moving!
I am all for having an maintaining an active mind, but that head functions best when it’s sitting on a heathy body. And that requires physical activity. You don’t have to run marathons (actually please don’t), but you do need regular exercise and movement.
There are other strategies we need to consider and adopt as we work toward our best healthspan too
And many others…
The bottom line is that good nutrition and lifestyle habits - regular appropriate exercise, healthy amounts of sleep, and stress management strategies, are the best tools to improve healthspan.
The good news? Those things are in your control. While we can't always change what happens to us, we do have a choice on how we are going to deal with the mess that life throws our way.
One of my favorite words is "resilience". One definition is; "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness."
We hit the gym to build resilience in our bodies. A strong, flexible (dare I say "pliable", TB12 fans?) body is less prone to injury and recovers more quickly from injury than a detrained body.
We nourish our body with healthy foods to support that training, to promote healthy cell function, and to build a rock-solid immune system that fends of the ravages of illnesses and the stress of life.
We practice stress management, have good sleep habits, and having some fun as part of enjoying a happy, healthy life.
Resilience doesn't happen by accident. There is daily effort and struggle involved. But it is worth it.
The focus of this article series (I know, finally!) is to show you how to turn your happy and healthy on by learning to Eat Well, Exercise Smart, and Enjoy Your Best Life.
Next Article Focus:
Strategy 1: Eat Well
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