For the First Time in History, We’re Living Into Our Seventies, Eighties, and Beyond
A longer life for healthy aging individuals represents an important opportunity for their families and societies as a whole. It represents a second chance for seniors to pursue new activities such as further education or a long neglected passion. All the while continuing to make valuable contributions to yourself, family, and community. The extent of these opportunities depends heavily on one factor: YOUR HEALTH. How do you stay healthy?
The World Population is Aging Quickly
The number of seniors 60 years and older will rise from 900 million to 2 billion between 2015 to 2050 moving from 12% to 22% of the total global population. This is a lot of new opportunity for living an active life the way it was meant to be lived. That is, if you are healthy enough.
There is no typical older person. There is only typical Illness, dysfunctional systems and disease. Biological aging is loosely associated with a person’s chronological age. This in turn is controlled predominantly through lifestyle.
Just look at Ernestine Shepherd; professional body builder, gorgeous, healthy, sexy, disciplined, and she’s 80 years old! Talk about aging well! With this fact established you can choose to be 80 years old chronologically and have the physical and mental capacity similar to many 20 year olds. This is largely a choice… so what would you choose?
Even though our average life expectancy now surpasses the chronological age of 78, we’re not necessarily living better. The incidence of chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, has also been growing dramatically, particularly among people who are not yet in their senior years.
This phenomenon has it own name and has been identified as a “lengthening of morbidity.” That means we’re spending more years living with-dysfunctional bodies, chronic disease, and ill health. Is this the outcome you envisioned for your prolonged life span?
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute in Dallas gathered medical records from 18,670 middle-aged men and women with an average age of 49. They were healthy and free of chronic diseases at their first check-up.
The follow-up results were not surprising. They found those adults who had been the least active and fit at the time of their middle-age check-up were the most likely to have developed any of eight serious or chronic conditions early in the aging process. These included heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and colon or lung cancer.
The adults who’d been the most active and fit in their 40s and 50s often developed many of the same conditions, but notably they appeared significantly later in life than for the less active and fit. Typically, the most aerobically active and fit people lived with chronic illnesses in the final five years of their lives, instead of the final 10, 15 or even 20 years.
It should be clear that becoming active and fit in middle age and maintaining your health and wellness will reshape the landscape of your aging life. You can choose these same end results for yourself. These results are clear.
Being active and physically fit “compresses time.” You can choose to be healthy and functional in the early post-retirement years. Who wouldn’t be attracted to the prospect of being free of serious illness and, at least potentially, imbued with a finer quality of life?
The effects of exercise and aging in this study were statistically greater in terms of delaying illness, system dysfunction, and disease. Those who exercised the most and therefore where in the fittest group did tend to live longer than the least fit. More important was the fact they were even more likely to live well during more of their senior years.
Of course, aging is a complicated process and extremely individualized. The onset or absence of illness represents only one element in the quality of life after age 65. Since it is associated with midlife activity and fitness, it is subject to change.
While aerobic fitness is partly determined by genetics, we can largely take control of it. We don’t need to rely on the old paradigm that aging well is in the luck of the universe. By middle age, much of a person’s fitness depends on physical activity. So, staying active and exercising during midlife, especially if you haven’t been, can pay enormous later-life benefits.
Let’s talk about staving off chronic disease. Improvement from the least active and fit to the second-to-the-least-fit category of fitness will deliver more benefit, than someone who moves to the highest fitness grouping from the second-highest.
Moving out of the least-fit category requires the right program and the right guidance pertaining to exercise. Do you need to become an athlete?
Yes, but an “athlete of life.” Again you make the choice to be an athlete of life, vibrant and active. Or you can choose to be a spectator of life with your aching, diseased, and depressed body. Even if you decided not to choose, you have still made a choice. You will live with that choice every second of your life.
Senior Exercise: The Foundation for Healthy Aging
According to board-certified internal medicine physician Jennifer Azen, M.D., senior patients who exercise regularly are easy to spot. They move more quickly, have better posture, and slimmer waistlines.
Regular exercise for seniors tops the list as the best way to reverse the signs of aging and prevent many of the health risks associated with getting older, such as a heart attack, stroke, and falls. We also need to mention “exercise tolerance,” which refers to how far you can walk without getting tired, becoming short of breath or having to stop.
Start your exercise program with an enjoyable activity so it can easily become part of your daily life. For many, walking is a great place to start because it requires no gym or special equipment. It also helps to prepare the body for more vigorous activity. While 30-60 minutes of daily exercise is optimal for healthy aging, starting slowly is fine. It’s always a good idea to use a heart monitor so you can know where you are.
Finding activities to engage in like walking, bicycling, rowing, or swimming, can be a good way to have fun while also getting in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day. The challenge for today’s busy senior executive or professional is finding the time to exercise on a regular basis.
How to Stay Healthy into Your Senior Years
A key point that’s emphasized, is that lifestyle choices should be easy and fun to make. Regular, moderate exercise is important for healthy aging, but is less likely to be performed if it turns out to be too much effort for too little enjoyment.
With any new exercise plan, talk to your doctor if you have specific health concerns or to determine if modifications are needed based on your health history. To reduce risk of injury, the National Institute of Aging reminds seniors to follow these basic safety tips while exercising: begin slowly with low-intensity exercises, warm up and cool down properly, pay attention to your surroundings, dress appropriately and drink plenty of water
The bottom line is light daily exercise is not only safe for seniors, It is essential for enjoying a longer, healthier, and more independent life. Regular daily exercise helps to prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke by improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, patients who introduce exercise into their fitness plan for chronic diseases have better outcomes than patients who aren’t physically active. Besides walking, good choices include swimming, dancing, and yard work for endurance, light weight training for muscle strength, tai chi for balance, and yoga for flexibility.
For those of you who I have had the privilege to serve, but it’s been awhile, go back to your last training program we designed together. Start out easy, twice a week with 50% of your intensity level where we left off. Once you’re comfortable at this level move up to 4 days per week shooting for an intensity level of 65%-75%. If you have any questions, please contact me and we can discuss.