You are never too old to get younger
This section is provided to help you set up a plan for a happier and heathier life. There is no hocus pocus here. There are no unfounded claims. The plan is based upon my own credentials, study, and passion. As I have tried to decide what is best for my own life I have leaned on my degree in Medical Technology that included in-depth courses in biochemistry, nutrition, and clinical pathology. If have studied the benefits of exercise through my Certified Fitness Trainer program. I have taken other courses in nutrition and have experience in various modes of exercise. I also have an insatiable desire to educate myself and to search for the truth rather than just claims.
With that in mind, I know from personal experience that getting older can be a literal pain. There is a time when most of us really FEEL we are getting older. We have aches and pains that we never had before – or at least never noticed before. We become more immobile and can’t walk well, much less run if we have to. We can’t get up quickly although we manage to get up many times during the night. We get stiff and can’t move as well. In my Senior Self-Defense Class we have commented on how hula hoops are manufactured differently now because we can’t seem to make them stay up. Does that sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be this way!
If you are lucky enough to read this while you are still young and before the aches and pains start, pay attention. You can avoid it!
One thing I hate to hear is “As you get older, you can’t…” or “your body begins to…” This is just a theory I have just now begun to research it, but when someone makes a statement about age, they are talking about what is “normal” for a certain age. When scientists or doctors talk about “normal,” they are referring to the statistical studies for the condition or characteristic on an age-based scale. By definition, it is based upon information from the past. That’s not bad for some subjects but I think that is a crucial problem for age-related statistics. For example, look at the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by age .
By the graph, you can see that it is “normal” for more people to die of cardiovascular diseases “as they age.” But what does this mean? I was told by my doctor, and I have found research to show that cardiovascular disease starts at childhood and progresses (2). But what is causing it and is there something we are
doing to encourage the progress of CVD starting at childhood? Is there a way for our arteries NOT to age? And have these “normal” people in the graph been living a poor lifestyle? In my opinion, we need to further segregate the population into groups who exercise, have healthy diets, and are living their lives “abnormally” in some other ways. We then need to find the “normal” for these groups and then we can compare ourselves to these sub-group norms. Remember that “normal” a few years back was that most people smoked. Normal, in the US, that is presumably represented in the graph above, still means overweight and sedentary with a bad diet. Can any healthy person strive to be that kind of normal? A lot of what follows has to do with these subgroups and my interest in being “abnormal.”
You may begin to hear more often about “age reversal.” We hear that “60 is the new 40” and we see that centenarians are breaking new records in track. Some of this is aimed at external appearance and some is regarding disease prevention. But we can change our bodies so that they work better and more efficiently as we age. We no longer have to limit our goals to looking for a quiet porch and a comfy rocking chair – or a comfy couch with an unending supply of Buffalo wings.
To be able to get ourselves into a great condition to live longer and healthier with a better quality of life, we need to approach a plan intelligently. If we have not run around a track since high school several decades ago, we shouldn’t start now. We have to prepare for it and work up to it. We need to push the envelope slowly and gently. It is too easy, if we have been sedentary too long, to tear the envelope. Ouch! I have torn the envelope in the form of a hernia, torn rotator cuff, and a couple others injuries. That is why I want to pass on this information. If we hurt ourselves, it may take us too long to heal and it will set us back in our exercise program. It is best to work up to it gradually and consistently.
So, to “reverse” our age, we need to have a plan that starts easily and then gradually builds up. I started out, after spinal surgery when I was 65, with walking as my only exercise for a year (doctor’s orders). I then was able to restart yoga and then moved on to Taekwondo that I had dabbled with decades before. Now, in my 70s, I regularly get slammed to the mat during practices. Some of these will be posted in the photo gallery. So it took about 6 years to work up to getting thrown. We need to take our time.
The first thing we need to do before starting a program is to assess our current physical status. This includes our doctor’s OK. Your plan will be different if you are in reasonable shape versus being obese or in a wheelchair. But your condition can be morbidly obese, missing a limb, in the middle of chemo, or using a walker. You can still improve your condition (later I will cite some references).If you are in your teens or twenties, you may think you are invulnerable. Be careful! You still need improve yourself gradually. Don’t injure your knee or rotator cuff when you are young and have it haunt you into your old age.
After the assessment we need a program that we can handle, given our physical status, and that will not put undue stress on our bodies until it has the time to do these things that we haven't done since our 20s. I like yoga and Tai Chi although there are others. These are “exercises” from which you can benefit whether you are a beginner or an elite athlete. For endurance you may want to start walking.
After building up our core strength and endurance we can then move on to activities we find most interesting although there is nothing wrong with delving deeper into yoga and Tai Chi, for example. My personal "extreme" activity is getting punched and thrown on the mat by people in their 30s. Sounds like maybe I need a mental assessment first? I love it because I am doing things I couldn't do 30 years ago and I am healthy enough not to get hurt (fingers crossed). You will have your own goals that may not be martial arts, although you should consider self-defense in order to stay "healthy," i.e. alive. Your "extreme" activity, if you have been living on a couch for forty years and weighing way over the limit, may be just walking around the block. That's fine. You may be in a wheelchair and the "extreme" activity may just to be able to stand or to play wheelchair sports. Those are great goals. Just give the plan a try and ask any questions on the blog page. .
The following links are the steps you should be taking in developing your own health and fitness program. This applies to people of all ages.
(1) Morbidity & Mortality: 2012 Chart Book on Cardiovascular, Lung, and Blood Diseases, National Institute of Health.
(2) How Not to Die by Michael Greger, M.D. (2015) p. 21.