Don't Believe The Hype
By, Brian Tully of Better Together Fitness
As we move through life, one of our primary goals is to be able to continue to do all the things we want, need, and like to do. And being able to do all these things easier, better, and with little to no discomfort is the ultimate goal. But too often we give up this quest and begin writing things off, as unable to do anymore, simply because we are getting too old to do it. This doesn’t have to be the case. Yes, we are all going to accumulate years, but we don’t have to get “old.” Believe it or not, we actually have some control over this.
As a society we have grown to accept numerous myths, negative stereotypes, and misconceptions associated with aging and what it means to grow old. However, there is good reason to not take these as truths.
Myth #1 - To be old is to be sick
This myth centers around the belief that aging and disease go hand in hand and individuals are destined to wind up in the nursing home or suffering from a catastrophic illness once they get older. While the prevalence of chronic diseases increases with advancing age, a large number of mature adults are healthy, robust and without any significant functional limitations. Even in advanced old age there are individuals that attain incredible heights of athleticism and fitness.
Myth #2 – You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
Similar to myth #1, this is the belief that senility and dementia are not only a natural part of the aging process but are inevitable. Recent evidence regarding brain plasticity proves that the human mind retains its ability to learn throughout the lifespan and declines in cognition are largely avoidable. There are many lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity levels, dietary choices, alcohol consumption, tobacco usage and level of mental stimulation that have been shown to be important factors in how much cognitive decline occurs with advancing age.
Myth #3 - The horse is out of the barn
It is often believed that once an individual is older it is “too late” to reduce disease risk, increase health status or become fit. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence to show that this is not true. The physiologic capacity for positive adaptation is not lost even in advanced age. For example, resistance exercise studies conducted on individuals in their 90s found that skeletal muscle can still grow and become stronger. We now know that it is never too late to positively benefit from an exercise program.
Myth #4 - The secret to successful aging is to choose your parents wisely
Genetics definitely influence disease risk and longevity but their effects are grossly overestimated. There are some specific diseases that have strong hereditary components, such as some forms of cancer or familial hypercholesterolemia, and studies on centenarians show that there is a genetic influence on their longevity. However, the overall evidence is clear that the influence of lifestyle and environment are far more important factors in the determination of health and functional ability than genetics.
Myth #5: The lights may be on but the voltage is low
The implication of this myth is that mature adults become weak and uninterested in sex. Research shows that although the frequency of sexual relations declines, both men and women remain interested and active (if there is compatible partner) well into their 70’s and often beyond. The desire for relational intimacy, in many forms, can remain strong and can, in fact, be a positive factor for continued health and longevity.
It is time we stop believing the myths surrounding aging and realize that it is never has to be “too late” to travel the world, work in the garden, take up a new sport, play with the kids/grandkids and watch them grow up. It is also never “too early” to start focusing on healthy lifestyle behaviors. So, don’t believe it, continue to add the years to your life, but refuse to get old.
If you have any questions or other thoughts to share, I would love to hear from you!