The fastest growing segment of the world population is the very old, with the number of centenarians projected to reach nearly 6 million by 2050. If you’re a baby boomer, the chance that you’ll be one of these centenarians is pretty good. Should all go well for me, I’ll be 94 in the year 2050, just 6 years shy of being one of those centenarians. What I find disturbing about these numbers is that life spans keep lengthening but health spans are not keeping pace, as evidenced by our skyrocketing health costs. Is there anything we can do about this or are we doomed to increased longevity without extended vitality? In other words, will we be one of the living “dead”, a situation which can last for years or perhaps even decades (perish the thought) before actually dying?
Unfortunately, we can’t stop the aging process but we can control how we age. I’ve exercised through the years because I wanted to look good. Call me vain, but exercising for good health was not the motivation for my younger self. But when I turned 60, that all changed. I tell my baby boomer personal training clients, we no longer have an option. We must exercise to enjoy living.
Our bodies are made to move. Movement is critical for loading bones and muscles. When we stop moving, we get stiff and lose muscle mass, range of motion, bone density, and balance. All of this adds up to disastrous consequences such as an early death, or worse yet, becoming one of the living “dead”. You don’t need to be a fitness junkie to stay healthy, but you do need to keep moving. If you’re one of the many suffering from a chronic disease, exercise can help you manage that disease. I’m amazed at how many of us baby boomers AND younger, abuse our bodies by not exercising and by not eating healthy foods and then run to the doctor when our bodies break down. Doctors can only do so much and eventually, you’ll end up in the living “dead” category, being kept alive by a multitude of medicines and technology, with a total loss of independence.
Virtually all older adults, including those that are currently very old or frail, can improve mobility, function, and sustain their ability to live independently with regular physical activity. Physical activity in older persons produces three types of health benefits:
- It can reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- It can aid in the management of active problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol.
- It can improve a person’s ability to function and remain independent despite health problems such as lung disease or arthritis.
And if you’re younger, exercise may help to prevent most of the above issues. (And you’ll look good, too.)
So, if you’re exercising, keep up the good work and don’t ever let up. If you’re not, are you ready to get healthy, get fit, and stay independent? I’ll make it easy for you. Start a regular walking program. Almost everyone can walk. Then when you’re ready to progress to weight training and a more structured program, hire a certified personal trainer who will assess your fitness level, develop a program suitable for you, and most importantly, show you how to properly execute the exercises.
Let’s ring in 2050 as healthy, fit, and independent very old adults!