Did you know there were only about 17 million people over 65 in 1960? Currently, there are about 56 million.
Advancements in healthcare and medical technology all but guarantee you’ll live longer than your great grandparents. If you’re going to live that long, you should be healthy and have a great quality of life, right? As Clint Eastwood said, “…you've gotta ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” (By the way, my friend Clint, turns a spry and eternally-cool 84 this week!)
Sure there's some element of luck in genetics, but mostly you have to be intentional about your health – and even more so as you age.
Here are 8 tips to help you stay active as you age….
1. Don’t believe the lie.
Mark challenges the popular belief that aging people have to stop doing the things they love. He says, “When people say you’re going to have to take who you are and put it on a shelf, it’s just not true and who wants to live like that? If you take the time and you’re intentional about what you do as you age, you won’t have to give up the things you enjoy so much.”
2. Use it or lose it.
Did you know your bones and muscles become stronger when you use them and weaker when you don’t? “People worry about their bone density tests, but the best way to impact your bone density is to use your bones! Bodies respond to what we ask of them. If you sit on the couch all day and don’t use your muscles and bones, your muscles become weaker and your bones lose density – it’s that simple.” Of course, there are now plenty of drugs on the market your doctor can prescribe to help. Mark notes, “Many physicians have given in to pharmaceuticals because their patients just won’t stay active. If your doctor doesn’t see you being active, they’ll probably resort to pharmaceuticals.” A recent study followed a group of active seniors over 7 years – it found that, not only did they not deteriorate, they continued to get better over the entire 7 years because of their consistent activity. Many of Mark’s patients note that they can start to feel it when they’ve been away for as little as two weeks saying, “Wow, I really miss this – I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me.”
3. Don’t wait.
What finally gets most people in motion is a scare. For some seniors, it’s usually a fall that moves them to action. But for others, there’s a goal in mind – to travel, work in the yard or play with their grandchildren. One of his patients just wanted to be able to put up and take down his own Christmas decorations. “No matter how old you are, you have the ability to regain your strength and independence, and your ability to enjoy life. That’s how God made us – our bodies want to heal and will respond to our efforts to improve. And it happens relatively quickly: within only 3 to 4 months, you’ll recover at least 10 years of your strength and ability to function.”
4. Get a partner.
Mark suggests exercising with a partner. “At Active Rx, you book a spot or make a reservation – this small commitment pushes people to show up. So few of us have the willpower to do it on our own, so who’s going to make you get out of bed on the day you don’t want to do it? Having a partner or system in place to hold you accountable and encourage you is really important.”
5. Have fun.
Do something you like, in a place you like, for the amount of time you like. We’re blessed with choices, so you don’t have to be surrounded by vein-popping muscleheads in some sweat-smelling gym for 2 hours a day (unless, that’s what turns your crank). But, as Mark puts it, “Go somewhere!” Have you ever felt down in the dumps and forced yourself to take a walk or go to the gym? When it’s over, you feel rejuvenated and so glad you did it, right? Mark sees this everyday with his patients. “Their entire personality changes when they become more active – they feel better, which leads to more confidence, which leads to less depression and a more outgoing attitude. I can’t begin to tell you how big a change we see. In the beginning, new patients come in timid and they think, ‘Yeah, but will this work for me?’ Then, within days or weeks, they’re a different person.”
6. Get strong.
Your strength affects your daily living activities like picking up groceries, getting out of a chair, etc. There are very specific tests that measure your strength. For instance, based on your age and sex, how many times should you be able to get out of a chair without help? “If you can’t do that, you can’t recover from an almost-fall. 30-40% of people who fall and break their hip, die within 12 months and few people return to their normal life. But, the goal is not to get back to normal. The goal is to get strong and be a whole lot better than normal.”
7. Start slow.
We’ve all seen the sedentary couch potato who decides to “get in shape” only to find themselves in mortal pain after a 2 mile “run.” Day 2 usually ends in a vow to never do that again and a few years lapse before they decide it’s time to try it again. Mark suggests getting the help of a professional to get started. “At Active Rx, we see 2 types of people. The first are somewhat active, but want to improve with some professional oversight. The second type of person doesn’t even know where to start and has tons of health issues. They’re typically referred by a physician. So, we start physical therapy with the goal of getting them into a plan they can maintain forever.”
8. Consider it an investment.
Did you just read the scenario above and ponder, “Is the expense of professional help really necessary?” As Mark puts it, “No matter how you stay active, there is NO single better investment in your life than your health. Our services are $99 - $119 a month. When compared to a lifetime of pharmaceuticals, hospitalizations, doctor visits, pain, missing out on life, etc., the cost is cheap. When you invest in your health, you save money in droves.”
Finally, Mark notes, “In my experience, it’s easy to see those who’ve given up and those who are truly living – we all have the choice to be miserable or enjoy our life.”