All Tips are Equal but This One’s More Equal

Vigorous daily exercise and nutritious, delicious and only occasionally pernicious meals are a foundation for successful aging.

Exercise and a sound diet are so interrelated that they should be treated as a single topic, which is how we address this dimension of successful aging. Aging is inexorable, however, the nature, extent and timing of its effects vary as a consequence of lifestyle, especially the quality of exercise and diet habits over time. A New Scientist report found overeating a bigger global health problem than lack of food. (Source: Jessica Hamzelou, Overeating Now Bigger Global Problem Than Lack Of Food, Home News, December 13, 2012.)

The data are startling – the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 and that 52% of adults are overweight or obese. In America, these figures are surely much higher.

WHO also notes that obesity is preventable.

Nearly everyone knows that exercise and food choices are critical factors affecting how we age, but making sound choices day after day, for years and years, is regarded as too much trouble by most Americans. Those without a deeply held commitment to exercise and sound diet will not age successfully.

Yet, now that you are getting up in years, it’s more important than ever to overcome obstacles to managing both priorities. To succeed at aging, a few prerequisite steps can be immensely helpful:

  1. Find a qualified coach/mentor to guide your initial efforts.
  2. Do what you can to be ensconced within a supportive culture that reinforces healthy food choices, ensuring that you ingest the kind of nutrients you need for optimal functioning without having to go out of your way or struggle mightily to do so. This is difficult even with the best of intentions if this requires separation from long familiar customs and habits inimical to wellbeing.
  3. Identify and eliminate as many obstacles and barriers as possible (environmental and otherwise) that compromise sound exercise and dining choices.

The principal options are starkly different now—you can either take (or remain on) the path that leads to thriving and flourishing—or succumb much sooner to the frailties associated with old age. Bodies are affected by gravity and devolution much faster if left to decay from inattention and neglect.

Want to guess what percentage of middle-aged and older adults in the Western world exercise at even a minimal level? For those over 65, the consensus answer among exercise scientists is about 10%! One recent study of older men and women revealed that those who exercised regularly enjoyed less stress and illnesses and better reflexes, memories, balance and metabolic profiles. How much better? Hold your hat – their wellbeing levels were closer to 30-year-olds than to their sedentary peers. (Source: Ross D. Pollock et. al., An investigation Into the Relationship Between Age and Physiological Function in Highly Active Older Adults, The Journal of Physiology, January 2015.)

A follow-up study focused on muscles and T cells, which are key infection-fighting components of the immune system. The findings gave further support for the potent value of nature’s greatest drug – regular exercise. The 75+ exercisers were healthier and biologically much younger than expected for men and women of their chronological years.

Biological age, it’s clear, is more consequential than actual age and, unlike the latter, is modifiable with health-enhancing initiatives. The tip in this case is self-evident – get moving and eat wisely. Be athletic, even if you never compete. Some exercise is better than none, but don’t settle for the mediocrity of dabbling workouts like a fitness dilettante.