At what time in your life is fitness most important?
And it will be even more important tomorrow if health and longevity are your goals.
We get away with a lot when we are young. Our bodies are very forgiving. But as we age, if we want to avoid sickness, disease, immobility and dependence, fitness becomes increasingly important. Paradoxically, most of us exercise more, much more, when we are young. It’s a little easier, we have more time, and lots of it comes with play.
A recent article in USA Today by Janice Lloyd tells us that after 65, we should stay fit to stay healthier. But that applies to the after 45’s and 55’s, as well.
Ms. Lloyd cautions Baby Boomers to think again if they’re longing for a sedentary old age.
She reports that “health experts at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America shed new light on exercise‘s value as a strong tool in combating diseases often associated with aging.”
“How you live after age 65 is vitally important,” says Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “Up until then, a healthy life is dominated by your genes. After that, it’s predominantly about lifestyle. Exercise and nutrition become more important.”
Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, obesity, arthritis, and certain cancers appear more often in later life. To help fight dementia, play memory games if you want, but it might be better to “invest in a good pair of walking shoes,” says Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, the gerontology society’s president and a board member of the national Alzheimer’s Association. That thinking is consistent with a study reported by University of Pittsburgh researchers in October showing older adults who walk 6 to 9 miles a week to stay fit have a lower risk for cognitive decline later.
One session at the meeting attempted to show how physical activity fitness can restore muscular strength in the elderly. The current genome study by Simon Melov of Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, Calif., compares the genes of a young person whose leg is immobilized for two weeks in a brace with the genes of an older person who suffers from sarcopenia, a muscle-wasting disease affecting old people. Both age groups responded successfully to exercise and made improvements. But no one has to run a marathon to regain strength. Walking down a hospital wing can jump-start improvement, according to LaDora Thompson of the University of Minnesota’s department of physical medicine and rehabilitation.
She studied how physical therapy can reverse the damage of inactivity. Even standing and walking improve muscle strength.
Cancer patients have traditionally been advised to back off exercise and let their bodies rest and recover, but health experts here discussed new research that shows the benefits of exercise for people undergoing treatments.
One reason for all this emphasis on physical activity is the USA’s rapidly aging population. Life expectancy has soared to 79.9 years. Boomers currently have a 50% chance of being alive at 85. “Our job is to make use of the added years,” says Carstensen. “It would be immoral to receive this gift and squander it.”
Report-after-report, study-after-study, confirm these findings with health experts. What they don’t mention, and what almost everyone overlooks, is the overriding reason to stay fit. It could be your key to super-longevity and maybe even open-ended, disease-free youthfulness.
The reason most overlook this is they take a linear approach to the future. They assume the future will simply be an extension of the past. So they project incremental gains in lifespan, and they never consider emerging rejuvenation technologies which will translate to age-reversal. They don’t take into account the fact that progress is growing exponentially and is leading to limitless growth.
But you know better, and that’s why you’re going to hit the gym first thing tomorrow morning, isn’t it?