I’m rapidly approaching a big milestone birthday (no, not that one. The one after that).
As with many of us (or so I hope), approaching another decade makes me look back on the path behind me, take stock of the present, and look at the path before me with the wisdom and knowledge acquired since the last milestone.
It brings me to gratitude for so many things. My relatively comfortable life compared to most people around the world comes to mind. Where I live allows me to enjoy many privileges that others unjustly have no access to. I have a life partner I don’t feel I deserve, I have meaningful friendships and I am, according to my doctor, in excellent health.
But what about the supposedly inevitable decline that we are taught from early childhood on is to be expected from here on in?
Naturally, worries about the future are normal and no one is immune to this, but one area that I’m not overly concerned about is aging itself. Why? Other than the fact that it’s inevitable, it’s because of three life priorities:
1. High-quality Nutrition
3. Ignore the B.S.
In that order.
Anyone who’s ever started a fitness journey could tell you that not every day on it is wonderful. It has its ups and downs like any other path we choose. That’s part of what makes it so rewarding. But sometimes even though we know deep down that the rewards are many, the task before us is tough. And sometimes when results slow down while you’re still giving it your all, the feeling of “Am I doing this for nothing?” may start to creep in.
When you’re pushing yourself for one more rep at the gym or making a healthier choice when ordering take-out (and let’s face it – for the vast majority of us, neither will always feel like a party), know that you are never making a bad decision that’s devoid of benefits.
Many of us will look for motivation in things like before and after pictures of body transformations. We may scroll through social media to see the latest selfie that a fitness model posted along with some words of wisdom and quite likely with a link to the one magic supplement that seems to be the only reason they’re fit.
Our society is obsessed with visuals and speed. We want to look and feel amazing with minimal effort and in practically no time. This is why we have advertisers who claim that their product will help you lose 30 pounds in 30 days or put on 20 pounds of solid muscle in 2 weeks, and other absolutely laughable claims. You are being seduced out of your money by having a product presented as something that gets you everything for nothing.
Sadly, many people fall for this, often due to lack of better motivators. But there is a fantastic motivator with far more meaning and impact than what any of those crunchy models could produce. One that could also lead you down the path of gratitude and less anxiety about the future.
This motivator is the shift of focus from the flashy ‘here and now’ results to the less-perceptible but far more powerful long game.
This one is not easy in our world. But like all things that aren’t easy, it’s usually the right way.
Allow me to explain.
We generally learn from previous generations that after a certain age you have to accept the fact that fragility and illness will now be part of your life. Please step aside and make way for the young and the healthy. You are now part of the background.
However, when you choose to embrace physical activity and a healthy way of eating, you are choosing to make your future a more comfortable, happier one. I do not accept for a second when an otherwise healthy individual in their 40s, 50s or beyond chalks up body aches and creaks as “signs of aging”.
It’s a sign of neglect.
I’ve had family members who lived by these beliefs and never took exercise and nutrition seriously. I’ve seen them respond very poorly to health consequences that arose as a direct result of complete acceptance of this faulty philosophy.
One glaring exception was my grandfather. He was always a physically fit man who was a champion Greco-Roman wrestler in his early years and kept his focus on fitness and nutrition throughout his life. I have to this day never seen a man in his 70s and 80s look as fit and flexible as he did.
He was and still is an inspiration for me when it comes to aging well.
His example was what first made me wonder why many of us buy into the idea that aging equals fading. My best guess is that is takes about 3 seconds to say the words “Oh that’s probably just due to age” but a lifetime commitment to shift the course to optimal health.
Aging (both as a fact and a convenient excuse) will probably be around for the foreseeable future, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we should grab it and run – or slowly shuffle – with it as a reason to make ourselves unworthy of self-care.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not a naïve “let’s all never age” call to arms. The fact is that there will come a point as time goes on where you will have more trouble with physical activity that you were able to do without a second thought in the past. It will likely just happen much later than you think.
There are 2 things that I would love for everyone to just toss aside (a.k.a. ‘The B.S.’):
- The belief that health and fitness is only to look shredded/muscular like the young fitness models on your social media
- The echoes of your ancestors telling you it’s time to quit and fade
It’s wonderful when people compliment you on how fit you appear but it feels even better when your doctor looks up at you from the results of a health exam and tells you that you are in remarkable health.
Scientific research has consistently and increasingly shown that physical activity has clear benefits against many types of health problems. This becomes especially crucial as we get older.
I’d like to conclude this post with a quote from Dr. James Sallis who is a professor emeritus at UC San Diego’s Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health. Dr. Sallis is the co-author of a recent study that showed far better COVID-19 outcomes in physically fitter, more active people. When asked to comment on this study, he said the following:
“Physical activity is one of the most powerful producers of health that exists, and yet it’s basically ignored in most medical care.”
Don’t ignore this.
Your future self will look back and thank your younger self for it. One of the greatest motivators to move you forward is when you reach a new year on this planet and can look back with gratitude.
Happy Aging Everyone!
- Sallis R, Young DR, Tartof SY, et alPhysical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes: a study in 48 440 adult patientsBritish Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 13 April 2021. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104080