The Fountain of Youth

Ch 10 A Lot of Hindrance from Our Attitudes

In one recent study, social psychologist Becca R. Levy and colleagues looked at surveys taken by 386 men and women in 1968, when they were under age 50, and then studied their subsequent health records. Nearly four decades later, the subjects who had held the most negative stereotypes about older people (answering "true" to statements such as "older people are…feeble…helpless…absent-minded…make too many mistakes") were significantly more likely to have had heart attacks or strokes than those who held more positive views. In the negative group, 25% had cardiovascular events, versus 13% of the positive group.

The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science in March, held even after accounting for other factors that can influence cardiovascular health, including high blood pressure, smoking, depression and high cholesterol. In an earlier study of Dr. Levy's, of 660 people over age 50 in Ohio, those who in 1975 viewed aging as a positive experience lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative views.

October 17,2009 The Wall Street Journal by Melinda Beck


When it comes to age, we have preconceived ideas. These exist in our minds in the form of imaginary molds or templates. They help us to approximate what people are like at given birthdays. Most often these mental constructs come from people we have known well-- people like our parents, relatives or close friends. For certain, it is always of those whose birthdays we know. For instance, our sixty year old parents give us an idea of what a sixty year old looks like; one of their fifty year old friends gives us an idea of what a fifty year old looks like; and we know what we look like, whatever age that may be. Mental impressions like these make up the criteria we use to determine the age of others.

When we think about new people, ones we have recently met, we put a transparent pattern of them over the top of our mental template to see how they measure up. That is, we place our transparent pattern of someone new over our existing mental template to see if they fit, or, perhaps, show up some glaring discrepancies. By doing so, we become better able to size up those whom we are getting to know. This can be alarming when it points up glaring deviations. But it can also be reassuring when we find congruities.

It's great when others measure up like they should but

For instance, if we guess right that a new person is fifty because they look like someone familiar, we feel like we know what we are doing. Perhaps they have the standard tell-tale love handles or fat hanging over the belt buckle, even though they are otherwise not too out of shape. The same may go for thinning hair, not yet bald. Too, they may come across as tired, or a bit less energetic than obviously younger people.

All well and good, if our new person seems pretty much the same. Our transparent pattern fits exactly over our mental mold. There is a one to one correspondence. They are congruent, so should we not be happy? The problem is that we can also start expecting that they are only a few years away from the first heart attack, the first memory lapses, etc. Why? Because that is exactly what happened to one of our parent's close friends, a person who comprises one of our mental templates.

Because we are all similar, or so we think, we start expecting the same when we turn fifty. Only rarely do we say "Yes but I am different because of these reasons." More typically we say "it's getting time to start worrying about a heart attack." Perhaps we may even suspect that other people are thinking "He's getting close to being up there so he knows what's coming." Of course, none of these thoughts need be going on at all, but we think they are. This is where most of us are at.

What if people look reasonably younger than they are

But what if the new person has a trim waistline, no love-handles, wavy hair, and seeming boundless energy? Initially we thought they were forty, but we soon learned different. That makes us wonder what they might be doing with their spare time. In other words, because they do not neatly dovetail into our fifty year old template, there needs to be some explanation for the deviation. After all, others have fit in on numerous instances. This may be especially perplexing if we also know they have children. Parenting, we believe, takes up all of everyone's free time. So, where do they get all of the extra hours to work out; or, were they somehow genetically predisposed to be the way that they are?

Why does this matter

The crucial thing here is the way we ask the question. Are we asking in a truly curious manner, thinking we might learn something good about the person--possibly something that we could use in our lives? Or, are we asking it as if they were a criminal, up to something crooked? If the former, we have a good chance of learning some things that really could enable us to turn back the clock. If the latter, we will automatically suspect that others will think negatively about us when our diets, workout and supplements begin to pay off. That anticipated  suspicion can be enough to make us go back to our old sedentary ways.

How we size up others is how we expect that we will be sized up. As mentioned earlier, us getting sized up does not always happen even if we think it does. There simply are people who have their minds elsewhere such as on the shopping list, yesterday's football game, the most recent go-around with boss. But a lot of people think about others whom they meet, so it is not unrealistic to think that they are thinking about us. If only that was all good thinking.

When it comes to us thinking negatively ( being like detectives searching for clues to criminal culpability), this comes back to haunt us--something which may make us wish we never tried to turn back the clock. In other words if he have been suspicious, we will expect that others will be suspicious of us. That anticipated suspicion can make us : 1.)forget going to the gym; 2.) find that we just cannot live without McDonalds'; and 3.) conclude that the MDs are right when they say that vitamins are just a waste of money.

Some people look older than they are

For another example, consider those who may actually be forty, but look like someone in their fifties. These types  elicit advice from longevity professionals all over the internet, and sometimes MDs as well. For the most part they are technically healthy, but just look like they have a hard life, or that everyday activities are just too much. The standard belief is that they are suffering from stress, or that they have bad genes. But it is also possible that they do not live wisely. Perhaps they eat the wrong foods, sit around all of the time, smoke, and the like.

When it comes to this forty going on fifty five group, the new transparent image does not even begin to fit the existing mold. This is upsetting. Thus, determining what makes them the way they are is a matter of urgent necessity. That is why we keep our ears perked up for every indicator imaginable. Even though it is fashionable to think that genes play such a great part, we also know know that a lack of healthiness can be due to decades of bad habits. Therefore, to make sense of it all, we need to know what their lifestyle is doing to their health.

Our detective like nature becomes especially evident when we innocently encourage them to start talking about their bad habits-- such as always taking it easy, frequenting the Golden Arches and complaining about relatively minor ailments such as sciatica. As they are prone to go on about how hard they have it, or how unpleasant they have it, we can relax and let them "hang" themselves. Generally this serves its own purpose, but it may make us start feeling guilty.

If we start feeling guilty, we may actually be setting ourselves for becoming just like them. And why not? They are taking it easy, like everyone over forty is "supposed" to do; they are enjoying a relaxed lifestyle in front of the TV or computer--a far cry from our daily trips to the gym; they are honest enough to tell us how imperfect they are, so they are easy to get along with. In short, they are likable. Who wouldn't feel guilty trying to figure out how it is their fault that they look as if they have only ten or fifteen years left?

Thinking like that is bad enough. But worse yet is what it may actually do to us. It may cause us to think that a few extra pounds and little more easy going temperament could make us more likable. Consequently, knowing these folks could result in "reasons" to let up on all of the fitness rigor. We may even find ourselves justifying that with something like "None of us are getting any younger, are we?"

Need it be said that such attitude is less than helpful in enabling us to stay with a fitness lifestyle for the remainder of our lives?

What if they are completely off the charts

So much for most people, give or take ten years on or off their expected ages. But what about the people who are a  complete surprise? Let us say we glance at a new person's driver's license, finding out they are sixty. This is startling as they have a youthful face, and no excess weight. Further, they come across as enthusiastic, or cheerful, and have no grey hair. Clearly, they would not strike anyone as grandparent material, which is why we guessed forty instead of sixty. That may make us wonder if they are doing something they "should not," namely getting a facelift or spending countless dollars on botox treatments and dying their hair. If so, what might this say about other aspects of themselves? Can they be taken seriously? Are they ultimately reliable?

The trouble is that this is how we would like to be at sixty. It is just that we do not want anyone wondering "what we have been up to." That fear can outweigh our desire to be youthful, becoming enough to make us wholeheartedly side with the "Growing old gracefully" people. Assuming that happens, it can be the very thing that will guarantee us aging right on schedule.

Practice makes a dubious perfect

Thinking like this over a few decades gets us better at sizing people up. In part, that is a good thing. It makes us feel like we know what we are doing. But it is not completely good because our success comes by way of the same old mental patterns that we have used from early on. Seldom do we ever change our assumptions of how people should be at certain ages.

Only if we decide to know them better do we start fine-tuning any of these initial reactions. That is when we get into "Really looks good for fifty, therefore must be hitting the gym regularly." Or, "Very trim for fifty, therefore must be on one of those freaky gluten-free diets." Or, astonishing for mid-sixties, so it must be that they have investments to afford Growth Hormone. Or, probably retired with loads of free time hit the gym. And, the list goes on. Almost never are we willing to say that they just plain look great. And that is the root of the problem. The deviations are almost always cause for suspicion. Excellence that does not fit our mold is strange and something to be kept distant from.

Largely, this is due to little more than prejudice, though we may call it "wisdom or street smart." We have been around, so we say, and this makes us a seasoned adult--a salt of the earth, a wise human being. One of the best parts of this "saltiness" is knowing what is inside of people (what makes them tick), which is what this mental image placing is all about. Being able to do that, and get it right, makes the difference between "seasoned adults" and " kids" fresh out of college.

Born to size others up

All of this mental imaging is somewhat of a guessing game that we simply have to do. Very seldom do we ever ask anyone outright about their age. That is, we almost never ask, "How old are you?" This is largely because we have been taught that it is impolite to do so. That is the way that we have been raised. Mom always said a woman's age is none of our business. And, Dad always maintained that just getting down to business was all we should care about.

But this does not stop us from sizing others up. We do it because we need to know what we are doing. That is true unless we have decided to forgo the whole process saying that "Age is just a number, and everyone is different; so why bother?" By the way, that is the safest thing to say and really mean. Barring that, whatever we think is almost always negative--comprising the very thoughts which come back to haunt us later.

The benchmark of youth

Nearly all of our attitudes are driven by an idolization of youthfulness. Young adults are the only people who are really OK--beyond our negative attitudes. They "have it all" like we once did. They are the norm, making all of us who are no longer young "damaged goods."

Being youthful means being attractive to others, energetic and able to do an effective day's work. Of course, there are numerous examples of young people who do not fit these criteria. But in general they do, and that is all which is really important. They have potential, which is what counts.

That is how our thinking goes relative to young people. The only sad thing is that this state is due not to what they themselves have done or how they have lived. Rather it is due to what they have not yet experienced, namely loss and/or long periods of severe stress. Nevertheless, secretly, that is how we wish we looked, felt and acted.

Can it really be that some people are just born lucky

Most of us think that if people are not young, but look young, it is because of good genes. In fact, according to the telomere experts, this is most certainly the case. Younger looking people simply have telomeres that are as long as those of others in control groups twenty years their junior. That can be clinically substantiated. People like this do in fact look unusual in a very positive sense.

The only trouble is that we assume this good condition is always the result of good fortune at birth-- great health being handed down from parents. Almost never do we think that their commitment to a fitness lifestyle has in fact altered their genes. In other words, we never guess that their fitness lifestyle over a period of years may have changed them genetically (lengthened their telomeres.) Academic work along with clinical verification strongly suggests this is the case. If only this would inspire us onto a higher level of fitness.

The problem is that we tend to devalue these older people in our imagination. Somehow they are lucky people, interesting people, but not real people like us. In other words, even though they are more healthy, younger looking, energetic and sharp, they are "different" and therefore not OK. Of course, the big difference is that they work hard at being fit, but somehow that never raises them in our estimation.

It is the negative attitude that gets us

When we encounter others like this-- judging them as strange, we only reinforce our own expectation of how others are likely to see us. When we think "How "different" is this thirty looking fifty year old" we only set ourselves up for others to think the same of us. Thus, when our workouts, diets and supplements begin to transform us, we start getting uptight over how we may be coming across to others. That is when we start wondering if it might not be best all the way around to simply join with most of our friends and grow old gracefully.

Basically, none of want to feel "different" --like someone whom others would think of as strange. But this is what happens as the inevitable result of bad attitudes. As the saying goes, our negative feelings come back to haunt us. If we had good attitudes, that is, if we had  positive responses to others, such as "that really is remarkable," things would be different.

What can we do about it

There is only one thing to do, namely replace our bad attitudes for good ones. But that is not easy. We are all pretty much convinced that after many decades of living we know what we are doing. That is, we know that "We are not getting any younger." We know that "youth is better than age except when it comes to knowing what is really going on." And, "we are all going to die anyway, so why try to prolong the agony?" This is the sum and substance of what we are so proud to say is the wisdom that has come to us over the years.

Only if we can give up this "foolish wisdom" will we really be a position to turn back the clock a little bit everyday. That is what will happen when we stop sizing up others to determine how far past the golden age of youth they have come--in other words, how close they are to chronic disease or death. It is only then that we will be able to continue on in a healthy and robust manner, expecting nothing but good in return from every person we meet. The effect of this is youth-enhancing in itself.

But it is also true that we will not be expecting the negativity from others when the effects of our fitness lifestyle start to pay off. Being relieved of this perpetual negative expectation will make it far easier to stay with the healthy habits that will turn back the clock. That will make us more able to joyously live out the years we have left. Actually, it may easily add a couple of fun decades as well.

Ch 10 A Lot of Help from Our Attitudes

In one recent study, social psychologist Becca R. Levy and colleagues looked at surveys taken by 386 men and women in 1968, when they were under age 50, and then studied their subsequent health records. Nearly four decades later, the subjects who had held the most negative stereotypes about older people (answering "true" to statements such as "older people are…feeble…helpless…absent-minded…make too many mistakes") were significantly more likely to have had heart attacks or strokes than those who held more positive views. In the negative group, 25% had cardiovascular events, versus 13% of the positive group.

The findings, published in the journal Psychological Science in March, held even after accounting for other factors that can influence cardiovascular health, including high blood pressure, smoking, depression and high cholesterol. In an earlier study of Dr. Levy's, of 660 people over age 50 in Ohio, those who in 1975 viewed aging as a positive experience lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative views.

October 17,2009 The Wall Street Journal by Melinda Beck


One of the problems in aging is that we have preconceived ideas--much like transparent patterns of what people are supposed to look like at given birthdays. When we think about people we put these pattern over the top of our mental image of new person to see how they measure up. That is, we place our mental pattern over our mental image of someone we just met to see if they fit into it, or perhaps show some glaring discrepancy.

In other words, our preconceptions are as if etched in frosted glass. This frosted glass we hold up to new people in our imaginations while getting to know them. By doing so we are better able to size up those whom we are getting to know. Generally this is most helpful when it points up deviations to the norm. But it is also reassuring when we get it right on first guess.

What if others look like they should

For instance if we guess that a new person is fifty, and they look like someone we know, perhaps our parents when they were fifty, we feel like we know what we are doing. Perhaps they have the standard tell tale love handles or fat hanging over the belt buckle, even though they are otherwise not too out of shape. Same may go for thinning hair, but not yet bald. Too, they may be a bit less energetic than when were really young, suggesting that decreasing energy goes hand in hand with age.

What if they look younger than they are

All well and good, if our new person seems pretty much the same. Our mental pattern fits exactly over our mental image of the new person. There is a one to one correspondence. They are congruent.

But what if the new person has a trim waistline, no love handles, wavy hair, and seeming boundless energy? Have we made a mistake in guessing their age? Have we brought up the wrong mental pattern? It may seem so, if we inadvertently find out that they are fifty, and not 40 like we guessed That makes us wonder what they might be doing with their spare time. In other words, because they do not neatly dovetail into our fifty year old pattern, there needs to be some explanation for the deviation. After all, others have fit in numerous such instances, so what is the problem? This may be especially perplexing if we also know that have children. Parenting, we believe takes up all of everyone's free time. So, where do they get all of the extra hours or were they somehow genetically predisposed to be the way that they are?

Why does this matter

The crucial thing here is the way we ask the question. Are we asking in a truly curious manner, thinking we might learn something good about the person--possibly something that we could even use in our lives? Or, are we asking it as if they were a criminal, up to something crooked. If the former, we have a good chance of learning some things that really could enable us to turn back the clock. If the latter, we will automatically suspect that others will think negatively about us when our diets, workout and supplements begin to pay off. That anticipated  suspicion will almost always be enough to make us go back to our old ways.

How we size up others is how we expect we will be sized up. Of course, this may never happen. Many of us just do not come across people who care about much more than perfunctory greetings and chit chat. But some do, and until we get to know people better, we expect that they are pretty much like ourselves in how they think, feel and act. In the case of us thinking negatively (eg. being like detectives searching for clues to criminal culpability), this comes back to us--something which may make we wish we never tried to take take off weight and years. That can make us forget to go to the gym, find that we just cannot live without McDonalds', and conclude that the MDs are in that vitamins are just a waste of money.

What if they look older than they are

For another example, consider those who may actually be forty, but look like someone in their fifties. These are type who concern the longevity people all over the internet and sometimes MDs as well. For the most part they are healthy, but just look like they have a hard life or that everyday activities are just too much. The standard belief is that they are suffering from stress or that they have bad genes. But it is also possible that they do not live wisely. Perhaps they eat too much, sit around all of the time, smoke or the like.

Determining what makes them the way they are is almost irresistible. In fact it is almost inevitable. We simply need to know what is doing that to them if for no other reason than we do not want to end up the same. But it is also true that we want to be able to predict what will come next. Thus we want to get comfortable with them.

This becomes especially evident when, for example, we encourage them to start talking about their bad habits, such as always taking it easy, frequenting the Golden Arches and complaining about relatively minor ailments such as sciatica. As they are prone to go on about how hard they have tried, or how unpleasant they have it, we can relax and get to know them better. Should we occasionally be contemplating missing workouts and weekend pig outs, we find a good reason not to do so. But we may feel guilty not liking them just as they are. That is where the problems can begin to occur.

Of course there is the other problem, namely liking them for being so easy going. That may actually make us think that a few extra pounds and little more easy going temperament just might make us more likable. Consequently we start finding reasons to let up on all of the fitness rigor, justifying it with something like "None of us are getting any younger are we." Need it be said that such attitude can turn the clock ahead.

What if they are completely off the charts

Let us say we find out they are sixty but have a youthful face and no grey hair, thus appearing much younger. That may make us wonder if they are doing something they should not, namely getting a facelift or spending countless dollars on botox treatments and dying their hair. Whatever it is, they must be doing something as they do not look their age. What might this say about other aspects of themselves? Can they be taken seriously? Are they ultimately reliable?

Younger people pose a special type of problem

Or, if they look younger, but sound mature for their age, we might wonder if their good sense is due to anything other than good academic training. In other words, we might wonder if any of their intelligence had come from the school of hard knocks--an institution that we trust more than even the finest of liberal arts colleges.

Practice makes a dubious perfect

As work at this over the decades we get better at sizing people up. But this is with the same old mental templates that we have used for decades. Seldom do we ever change our assumptions of how people should be at certain ages. Therefore, if they look like our aunt at forty, they must be forty. If they look like our kids when they started their first major internship, they must be thirty. If they look like our grandparents when we are thirty five then the must be over sixty. In most cases that is enough.

Only if we decide to know them better do we start fine-tuning any of these estimates. That is when we get into "Really good for fifty, thus must be up to something." Or "Very sure of themselves for thirty, therefore cannot have experienced any setbacks as yet." And the list goes on. Almost never are we willing to say that any deviations from our conceptions of normal are OK, which is the root of the problem. these are almost always cause for suspicion. What does not fit is strange and something to be kept distant from.

Largely this is due to little more than prejudice. We have been around, so we say, and this makes us a seasoned adult--a salt of the earth, a wise human being. One of the best parts of this saltiness is knowing what is inside of people (what makes them tick), which is what all of this template placing is all about. Being able to do this and get it right makes the difference between seasoned adults and "some kid" fresh out of college.

A normal 50 or a strange one

Most often this image will serve us well. Interestingly, at fifty most everyone in our society looks much like everyone else who is fifty. That is, they all exhibit the same characteristics, which makes our job of getting to know them all that much easier. Only rarely does this not occur. That is, there are some fifty year old people who simply look like other people who are perhaps in their thirties. This may startle us when we find out the shocking truth.

All of this is somewhat of a guessing game. Very seldom do we ever ask anyone outright. That is, we almost never ask, "How old are you. This is largely because we have been taught that it is impolite to do so. This is the way that we have been raised. Mom always said a woman's age is none of our business. And Dad always maintained that just getting down to business was all we should care about.

But this does not stop us from sizing others up. We do it because we want make accurate predictions about them. That makes us feel secure, as if we know what we are doing. Unless we have decided to forgo the whole process saying perhaps that "Age is just a number" whatever we think is almost always negative unless they fit our template meaning that they are just aging normally or "right in schedule". That means that they are "playing by the rules" and thus deserve our respect.

The advantage of youth

Being youthful means being attractive to others, energetic and able to do an effective days work. Of course, there are numerous examples of young people who do not fit these criteria, but in general they do, and that is all which is really important. They have potential and that is what counts. By this it is assumed, for example, that they have good health, are enthusiastic, can find a suitable partner and can start a family. They can have everything as is so often said. That's what makes older people jealously so fond of saying "That youth is wasted on the young."

Nevertheless, being young can be a disadvantage when it comes to a young professional. Here experience counts more than looks. If there is not enough of seasoning, trust is difficult. Even with advanced degrees from reputable institutions, a young doctor on a first unsupervised operation is at a disadvantage. The same would be true for a young lawyer representing a first client or a clergy person beginning the care of a congregation.

But mostly younger people are desirable (OK) because they have good health, think clearly, sound optimistic and have great reserves of energy. In short they have great potential. That is what makes them different from those who are older like the fifty year old above. It is also what makes them into prototype of the

So our thinking goes relative to a young person. Mostly this state is due not to what they themselves have done or how they have lived. Rather it is due to what they have not yet experienced, namely long periods of severe and prolonged stress. As a result they appear youthful and are easy to spot.

Finding odd characteristics will probably be alarming

There are occasional examples in today's world that defy the odds. If we look at their driver's license we may be shocked. Granted this is not a prevalent phenomenon but it more common today tha twenty years ago. Some fifty year old people jsut do not look our parents when they were fifty. Why?

Most of us think that it is because of good genes. In fact if the telomere experts are right this is most certainly the case. Younger looking people simply have genes that are as long as control groups twenty years younger let us say. That can be substantiated.

The only trouble is that we assume this good condition is the result of good fortune at birth or being handed down great health from parents. Almost never is the obvious affirmed, namely that a fitness lifestyle has in fact altered their genes.

Consequently, we tend to devalue these people in our imagination. Somehow they are lucky people, interesting people, but not real people like us. They just do not fit our preconception of what they should look like at their age.

Thus, even though they are more healthy, younger looking, energetic and sharp, they are different and therefore not OK. And this is the problem. We have a negative attitude about them. They are just not the way they should be, which makes us suspicious about other aspects of their lives.

It is the negative attitude that gets us

When we encounter others like this-- judging them as strange, we only reinforce our own beliefs of how others are likely to see us. When we think "How unusual is this thirty looking fifty year old" we only set ourselves up for others to think the same of us. Thus when our workouts, diets and supplements begin to transform us we start getting uptight over how we may be coming across to others. That is when we start coming  across as thirty five, we may suspect that others are wondering if we are going through a second childhood. Chances are we may then expect that their perception of us is no more than a veneer, meaning they see us as inauthentic or phony.

This is a sad condition. None of want to feel like others do not like us. But this is what happens as the inevitable result of bad attitudes. Our negative feelings come back to haunt us as the saying goes. If we had good attitudes, that is if we had positive beliefs about aging,it would be different.

But all too often this is not the case It is based on our erroneous conviction that we know what is right--how things are supposed to be. Of course, anything that helps make life more understandable is good. But it is not good for us if it limits our ability to turn back the clock. This will almost certainly follow if we devalue others for not looking like we think we should.

How? the minute we start thinking that we are coming across as inauthentic or phony, that is the minute we will be returning our old normal lifestyle. w will start forgetting workouts, start thinking vitamins are a waste of, start giving ourselves a break today at McDonalds--just like all of our friends. And why not? Life is too short to live in uncomfortably.

Ch 8 A New Lifestyle

It is still a radical notion that fitness will make us younger. In spite of what many of have experienced in others--how they have changed in appearance as if overnight--we still think that there is some magic in what caused it. That makes us badger them for their secret only to find out that they are merely supplementing, dieting, and exercising. Yet, strangely, this answer makes no difference to us.

Perhaps the reason that it does not is that these same people who transform before us quickly go back to their old ways. In other words, the change in how they look does not last. And why should it? What started off as the result of a regular workout routine with an impressive array of supplements in addition a fortified low fat gluten free diet, all gets given up. Why? Perhaps, like the MD recommended diet, it was supposed to get them out of  an undesired state and into a better one. It may well have done this, but as soon as they finished the process, they expected the results would stay without any further effort on their part.

Nothing could be more unrealistic. Even the MDs' diets are not like this though they seem  presented as such. We really have to stay on them or we will gain back every pound that we lost. The same is true for fitness as it relates to longevity. We have to stay at it or we will revert back to aging right on schedule. In other words, all of the toning we did, all of livening up, all of the better attitudes that everyone noticed-- all of this will go away within a few weeks of going back to the same old standard American "Good" Life.

Neither the MD's diet, nor the fitness expert's lifestyle, is a short-term extreme make over that lasts forever. For changes to remain, a switch to a new way of living to a new lifestyle is required.

What does a fitness lifestyle really do?

A fitness lifestyle turns back the clock. That does not mean it subtracts years off our driver's licenses, or that it enables us to see fewer candles on our birthday cakes. Both of those things are absurd. But, it does mean starting us to function at a  level  which is experienced by ourselves and others  as considerably younger. We perform, and start looking, the way we did when we were younger. That is because a fitness lifestyle turns back the biological clock, even though the calendar clock keeps ticking forward.

This means we become trimmer, sharper, more optimistic, and easier to get along with--whether we start at thirty or sixty. We become more proficient at whatever form of physical activity we may choose. We lose wrinkles without resorting to botox. We go from grey hair to our original color. We score far better on the biological aging tests which can be found all over the internet. We find that we  need less time off from work and require far less recovery time from unforeseen health troubles  All of these things follow from a fitness lifestyle, assuming we give it enough time. That means a consistent, non-miss, year or two.

It takes that long to really see results.

Why do some have a problem with doing what it takes?

Do not most of us want to be this way-- the way that we were-- at an earlier point in our lives?
Could it be that we do, but are afraid to admit it? If so, it could be because turning back the clock suggests hanging onto things that we think just cannot be hung onto. In other words, it suggests fighting a losing battle to maintain parts of us which inevitably fall apart or decay-- the cellular chemistry of our bodies and organs to say nothing of our minds as well. Supposedly, there is nothing that can be done to stop their decline. At least that has been the predominant thinking until just recently. 

Therefore, so it has been believed, our decline toward eventual death should simply be accepted. Moreover, it should even be celebrated, presumably with others who are open to sharing the discomfort. (Misery loves company.) This is the time-honored position of the "Growing Old Gracefully Cult."

The Growing Old Gracefully Cult

These people have had a considerable amount of clout. In deed, they have been, and, in an overwhelming number of instances, still are the philosophical inspiration for nearly every doctor, clergy person, supposedly wise professional, and seasoned senior citizen who believes they know enough about life to always be taken seriously by others.  Because they are so prevalent and powerful, we should try to see where they are coming from.

In a 2010 article on the website we find the following two scientific theories which form the intellectual background for most of these people--the ones who advocate the mere acceptance of what allegedly cannot be changed.

1.) The Neuroendocrine Theory

This theory developed by Vladimir Dilman, Ph.D., elaborates on the wear and tear theory by focusing on the neuroendocrine system, the complicated network of biochemicals that governs the release of our hormones and other vital bodily elements. When we are young, our hormones work together to regulate many bodily functions, including our responses to heat and cold, our life experiences and our sexual activity. Different organs release various hormones all under the governance of the hypothalamus, a walnut-sized gland located within the brain.

The hypothalamus sets off various chain reactions whereby an organ releases a hormone which in turn stimulates the release of another hormone, which in turn stimulates yet another bodily response. The hypothalamus responds to the body's hormone levels as its guide to regulating hormonal activity.

When we're young hormone levels tend to be high, accounting for among other things, menstruation in women and high libido in both sexes. As we age the body produces lower levels of hormones which can have disastrous effects on our functioning. The growth hormones that help us form muscle mass, HGH, testosterone and thyroid, for example, drop dramatically as we age so that even if an elderly person has not gained weight, he or she has undoubtedly increased the ratio of fat-to-muscle.

Hormones are vital for repairing and regulating our bodily functions, and when aging causes a drop in hormone production, it causes a decline in our body's ability to repair and regulate itself as well. Moreover hormone production is highly interactive. The drop in production of any one hormone is likely to have a feedback effect on the whole mechanism, signaling other organs to release lower levels of other hormones which will cause other body parts to release lower levels of yet other hormones.

2.) The Wear and Tare Theory

Dr. August Weismann, a German biologist, first introduced this theory in 1882. He believed that the body and its cells were damaged by overuse and abuse. The organs, liver, stomach, kidneys, skin and so on are worn down by toxins in our diet and in the environment; by the excessive consumption of fat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine; by the ultra-violet rays of the sun and by the many other physical and emotional stresses to which we subject our bodies. Wear and tear is not confined to our organs, however; it also takes place on the cellular level.

Of course even if you've never touched a cigarette or had a glass of wine, stayed out of the sun and eaten only natural foods, simply using the organs that nature endowed you is going to wear them out. Abuse will only wear them out more quickly. Likewise as the body ages our very cells feel the effect, no matter how healthy our life style.

When we are young the body's own maintenance and repair systems keep compensating for the effects of both normal and excessive wear and tear. (That's why young people can more easily get away with a night of heavy drinking or a binge of pizza or sweets.) With age the body loses its ability to repair damage caused by diet, environmental toxins, bacteria or a virus. Thus many elderly people die of diseases that they could have resisted when they were younger.

Most of us grew up believing that nothing could be done about these things

In all fairness, it needs to be said that these two quotes occur within the context of a website which promotes doing something corrective about each of these problems. That is decidedly different than  letting go while nature takes its course. But it needs to be kept in mind that these very theories-- the loss of hormones, and the effects of wear and tare-- are used by those who advocate doing nothing other than accepting the inevitable. They make averting the aging process into something we ought not to expect of ourselves or others.

According to the Growing Old Gracefully Cult members, we should just "Let go and let God" as some say, or "Relax, do nothing and let nature take its course." Then we are to somehow enjoy the whole downward spiral. This, they maintain, on the basis of the science above, and from their own presumed wisdom, is not just the most dignified thing to do, but the only thing to do. And, the way to make it pleasurable is to surround ourselves with others who are going through the same things. That means putting aside the good feelings, which supposedly are no longer possible.

They may not say so in so many words, but the Growing Old Gracefully Cult then insists on us  filling our last years with endless hours of bingo, volunteer work for low intensity organizations, bi-weekly gin rummy parties, and lots of sitting about not having to do anything for anyone. These are supposed to not only be pleasurable, but the well-deserved reward for decades of working for someone else and raising a family. It is what to do while waiting for death.

With the exception of the modern day "fun and games" this is not a brand new spin on what to do with old age. It has really been around for quite some time. Thus, we should look to Cicero who in 106 BC said :

Wherefore, if it is your wont to admire my wisdom - and I would that it were worthy of your good opinion and of my own surname of Sapiens - it really consists in the fact that I follow Nature, the best of guides, as I would a god, and am loyal to her commands. It is not likely, if she has written the rest of the play well, that she has been careless about the last act like some idle poet. But after all some "last" was inevitable, just as to the berries of a tree and the fruits of the earth there comes in the fulness of time a period of decay and fall. A wise man will not make a grievance of this. To rebel against Nature - is not that to fight like the giants with the gods?

Who can fault the Growing Old Gracefully Cult with a patriarch like Cicero? How about us!

In the light of modern science, and our own aspirations, we can say "There is a better way to rack up birthdays." We just do not have to sit about any more waiting to fall like berries off our trees. We really can devote an hour or two to exercise; we really can do an intelligent job of supplementing; we really can get on a healthy diet and make it taste better than our beloved standard American one. And, we can just smile when the Cultists demand that we"Grow up" or "Act our age." So... where is the problem?

The issue is in our heads, and it is kept there by what passes for everyday wisdom. It is kept there in spite of recent studies stressing the goodness of exercise even for seniors, the true helpfulness of supplements and the decided superiority low fat low sugar diets. And all of this is made worse by the Growing Old Gracefully people who get angry at us for just wanting something better.

If they were not this way, we might have a far easier time of it. If only they would say "Turning back the clock might be OK for you, but I don't care to change my old ways. I would rather sit back and cheer myself as I try enjoying my decline." If they said this, things might go on a bit easier. In other words, if they could admit that bucking the system--the standard American lifestyle with its aging right on schedule set of expectations-- is just too much work for them,  then it would be easier to get on with our lives. Their humility would at least suggest that they acknowledge another way to be equally as respectable as their own.

But they do not think so and probably never will. Why? Because in most parts of the country today, they have the social power. That is more important to them than shaving a couple of decades off their lives!

How did the Cult ever get this opinionated?

It is likely that most in the "Growing Old Gracefully Cult" have tried to beat the depressing experience of aging, but have failed. Perhaps they have tried one too many diets, signed up at a health club filled with considerably younger people, and/or righteously refused to try any type of supplements because their doctors convinced them they were a waste of hard-earned money. Maybe they even stooped once to dying their hair. Or, maybe they are newly single having encountered a new flame, but felt too out of shape to enjoy allowing it to proceed along its normal course. Any or all of these in the same senior person most likely will cause a strong preference for just giving up the battle.

Will any of the Cult's advice really be taken seriously in the near future?
In other words, will there still be a significant number of people who would rather be getting less vigorous by the year, continually in need of caffeine for mental sharpness? Can it be that so many who would still rather watch sports than participate in some appropriately modified form of them? Will so many still refuse to believe in the wonders of muscle tone underneath otherwise aging skin? Will there still be so few still really believe that a body which is growing will in fact not have an easier time recovering in the case of the normal aches and pains to say nothing of unforeseen major problems? Will there really still be so many who have not at least heard about the difference between biological age and chronological?

Probably the answer for the next few decades is "Yes" to all of this rhetoric. And, that is unfortunate.

Perhaps the chief reason that the Growing Old Gracefully Cult remains so persuasive is that so many have simply not had any success with the known ways of dealing with age. A rather common reason is that fitness does produce any significant results fast enough (albeit by their timeline.) Perhaps they have tried aerobics but only stayed at it for two weeks. Perhaps they ignored all of the recent literature on supplements, stopping them when only a few weeks worth had been tried. Perhaps they tried cutting back on calories but did nothing to eliminate sugar, fat and sodas. Of course, any one of these errors will sabotage a fitness program. But the Cultists always know better.

Living proof is right in front of us

That more of us cannot see the positive, life rejuvenating effects of a fitness lifestyle is truly unfortunate. It is as if we cannot see others who are currently transforming their lives. Too, it is as if we refuse to believe, or just do not know, that there was a Jack Lalanne. At ninety-six he had the energy levels of a person in their thirties and physical abilities that are too phenomenal to even mention. (Readers are encouraged to Google these for themselves as proof of what staying at fitness can do.) The same can be said for Jane Fonda, someone hardly her calendar age. Her website and materials should be looked at as well.

Fitness works, whether we start at thirty or sixty--as if overnight, as long as "overnight" is not taken literally. Six months is safe figure. In this amount of time it really enables us to start becoming what we were prior to turning thirty; and others can see it as it happens.

How can we possibly still have trouble believing the obvious? All we really have to do is to get into a fitness lifestyle and experience what others say about us after only a few months. Why this is not enough to get us going and to keep most of us at it, always doing the right things, is curious.

Neither a boot camp, nor a biggest loser contest, nor a doctor's diet

Possibly we are thinking that getting fit is a one season painful austerity endeavor, kind of like the old going on a doctor's diet to get our BMI back to where it should be. If so, we are too heavily involved with the MD model of optimal health, expecting that his or her recommendations will be enough to get us back on track so that we can go back to our old supposedly safe ways. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Fitness is not a one time thing followed by a return to the American Good Life. Rather, it is a replacement of the American Good Life by a fitness lifestyle. That means it is  a commitment to a new way of living with the intent of never turning back. That is the only thing that will take off the years and make us glad we did it.

The sooner we get to thinking like that, the better.

Ch 7 Stop Putting It Off

Just as the over fifty people are prone to finding excuses for not following through on an established fitness lifestyle, so do the under-fifties put off getting into a fitness program to begin with. In a way, this may seem like the same problem of not doing what we know is best, but the underlying motives are different.

In the case of the over fifty crowd, there is always something more important than following through on a fitness lifestyle. In the last chapter, this was talked about in terms of workouts. There is always the report that is due or the recital that has to be attended, etc. Any of those can make a workout seem like an irresponsible diversion from the demands of adulthood.

Of course, this type of thinking could extend to diet. In this case, there is always the social gathering where we cannot refuse the homemade pie or the third helping. Then too there is the hard week that is not complete without a TGIF happy hour a la beers, pretzels, etc.

Or, in the case of vitamins, there is always a place for the money being spent on pills which do not seem to produce observable results fast enough. That is true even if we have been told about how long to wait for physical changes : they can take up to six months of regular usage to become effective.

What does not work for younger people

In Dr. Mercola's (PeakFitness/ article from October 19, 2012 there is excellent (though ineffective) advice for younger people. If only all of his colleagues would come up with some truncated version at every office visit! Anyway, here is what Mercola has to say.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute in Dallas followed 18,670 men and women for almost 40 years in a first-of-its-kind study.1 They compared fitness levels at middle age with overall health later. The men and women who'd been the least fit in their 40s and 50s developed the most chronic conditions early in the aging process, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, COPD, kidney disease, and lung or colon cancer.

There are many studies showing physically fit people have a lower risk of dying than those who are unfit. But this is the first study to examine the relationship between chronic disease in the elderly and fitness earlier in life.2 Essentially, being physically fit "compresses the time" you are likely to spend being debilitated during old age.

It makes a difference in your quality of life. If you want to spend more of your Golden Years on golf courses than in hospital rooms, the time to start making better lifestyle choices is NOW.

In reference to the study, the New York Times writes:3

"The adults who'd been the most fit in their 40s and 50s often developed many of the same conditions, but notably their maladies appeared significantly later in life than for the less fit. Typically, the most aerobically fit people lived with chronic illnesses in the final five years of their lives, instead of the final 10, 15 or even 20 years…

Interestingly, the effects of fitness in this study statistically were greater in terms of delaying illness than in prolonging life. While those in the fittest group did tend to live longer than the least fit, perhaps more important was the fact that they were even more likely to live well during more of their older years."

But as good as this advice is, even if appropriately shortened, and said over and over again, it will never be enough for anything positive to happen. Why?

In the case of the under fifty group, there always seem to be more years before anything really bad is going to happen. For instance, it feels that there is no need at thirty to start worrying about keeping illness at bay when we turn seventy. That is at least three decades off, probably more. This is true, even though studies show that those who have been living a healthy lifestyle from early on tend to be far less illness prone as they age. It is further corroborated by insurance company studies, which show that fit people get fewer colds, take less time off, have fewer trips to the hospital and the like-- especially for those with healthy BMIs.

Who wants to be sick really?

Simply being less prone to common illness should be incentive enough to start doing something proactive early on, like long before fifty. But it most likely will not be. Why? It is expected that colds will be gotten during the cold season and flu during the flu season. That just happens to everyone, so why not us? Besides, there are sick days built into the employee scenario, so why not just take advantage of them? Same goes for whatever other minor problems might come up.These are easily taken care of by insurance, and they are one of the chief reasons for holding down a job in the first place.

In short, the incentive to do something about health is just not there. By having a job and a health plan, everything is taken care of. Besides a paycheck, that is one of the chief reasons for having a job. Thus, some unforeseen major problem, such as type two diabetes, passed on genetically, should not make that much of a difference. That is supposedly true even though an increasing number of professionals believe that excess weight triggers the onset of this condition in the first place. But how can you blame a person for having a few extra pounds? Everybody does nowadays anyway, or so it seems.

This type of thinking does little more than put off doing something proactive. The expectation is that there will always be a job to be had and a health plan to be part of. This is in tandem with some unforeseen occurrence such as a maverick gene--something which can happen to anyone. The long and short of it is that standard work environment expectations create a relaxed atmosphere, lulling us into the belief that we are completely taken care of.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Every day we put off getting fit, we increase our exposure to the standard problems, and we decrease the likelihood that we will find our golden years enjoyable. The above studies from the Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute in Dallas demonstrate this provocatively. Following nearly nineteen thousand people for forty years they found dramatic differences between those who started a fitness program before forty and those who did not. The former spent far less time recovering from major problems and enjoyed decidedly fewer says off for minor illnesses.

That is the good news of fitness. But until we actually hear this (so that it sinks in), we must look elsewhere to get sufficiently motivated. Where?

Motivation for those in their thirties

If nothing else the "thirty something scenario" ought to have some clout. This is the condition which appears at, or around, the thirtieth birthday in our culture. It is typified by minor weight gain, decreased vibrancy, possibly a little less optimism coupled with a newly acquired sense of ever increasing responsibility. All of this totals up into feeling weighted down--a sensation not part of our twenties set of experiences, when life seemed so much more fun.

Lately, there has been quite a bit of study done in an attempt to understand this change. Most researchers have attributed it to a decrease in metabolism. Perhaps they are right to some degree. The thinking goes something like this : once the body hits the thirty mark it starts to slow down at a rate of five percent per decade, making the conversion of food into energy more difficult. This results in less stamina for sports that were supposedly so much a part of the good old days of youthfulness. Therefore, weight gain follows-- at a very modest one or two percent per year. But. a modest one or two percent gets to be devastating if carried out beyond the five year mark. All of this is supposedly inevitable.

How to get out of aging

Granted, it may seem as if the deck is stacked against us, but it really need not be. If we want to beat the odds, the first thing to do is stop listening to what passes for common sense. That may feel like a dangerous thing to do. It sounds as if it is going counter to the our society's first great commandment, namely "Thou shalt always consult thy doctor."

For the most part, fitness people find doctor type advice dangerous, even if it is documented by degrees and research. With the exception of Dr.Mercola (above) and perhaps a very few others like him, doctors tend to recommend rest and relaxation for everything-- encouraging us to take it easy in lieu of our adult responsibilities and the like. Further, they  advise us to just settle back and accept the fact that we getting older by the day. And, they use the slowing down of the metabolism studies to buttress their position as if they were the final authority.

What your doctor will not tell you

To accept that an internal slowing down of the body causes decreasing fitness may be mature adult-like resignation, but is that really the only option? For instance, if it is not, why were we never advised to make the necessary adjustments to begin with? That is mature too; is it not? Does the MD really not care about how depressed we are going to get every time we look in the mirror? Or is that supposed to go away because we know it's coming?

In other words, why do we not get told to make a two percent calorie reduction to compensate for the decrease in calorie burning? Or, why do we not get told to add a few extra minutes each year to our exercise routine? Or, even better yet, why do we not just advised to get some Jillian Michaels books and videos so that we can beat the whole game and end up looking better than we ever dreamed possible?

The MDs' slowing metabolism advice, with it's grin and bear it response, is like a lifetime prison sentence. It says we are locked into an inevitable decline with no chance of parole, making us feel we can do little more than start looking for a new, but boring wardrobe. This may sound like just a bad spin on graceful aging advice. But it passes for "right." All that then remains is to ask if it really does any good. It certainly is not not something which will get us into a fitness lifestyle--something that would really make our futures considerably brighter.

Fortunately, to some degree, the under fifty group does not really respond to this type of advice. That is true even if it comes from someone with more degrees on the wall than paint. Younger people believe that the gloom and doom routine is for their parents--those older people now in their sunset years.

That is why listening to someone like Jillian Michaels makes a lot more sense. For instance, in her October 24, 2012 newsletter, she promotes the following:

Start SHREDDING with
these 4 killer moves:
TIP: Imagine you are pulling your belly button up toward the ceiling.
TIP: Keep your chest out, shoulders back, and spine straight.
TIP: Keep your chest out, shoulders back, and spine straight.
TIP: Keep your legs straight the entire time.
How to Boost Results
If you really want shredded abs, you need to do more than just a few exercises a day. By joining my online weight-loss program, you'll get a daily meal plan, workout regimen, and advice to guide you every step of the way.

The above exercises may not look like much, but taken with the rest of her newsletters, intent on making us all (guys included) as much of a hard body as she, it has significant potential. This is what works for us whether we are under fifty, actually, or just in spirit. We want to look as good as she does. That is a far more appealing sales pitch than one of starting something now to avoid heart disease or diabetes later.

What do Jillian's colleagues have to say?

Fitness people know that after college and grad school we just slow down, lifestyle-wise. Getting into adult living is by far more deadly than the slowing down of our metabolisms, which we supposedly have to accept. In fact, allowing ourselves to slow down may be one of the chief reasons that our metabolisms slow down in the first place. That is, it may be more due to us getting ourselves into more serious matters of adult living than being broadsided by the inexorable power of our biology. To put it another way, a slowing metabolism may have more to do with nurture than nature.

Acting grown up is what our parents, relatives, friends, and of course our MDs, expect of us. Starting in our late twenties, we are expected to drop the student status, get a job, begin raising kids, thereby acting as we should. This really means settling for excessive commuting and spending countless hours at a desk subject to stress--all without daily workouts for which we have no time. That all increases cortisol production which leads to a number of problems, including fat accumulation.

As if that is not enough, we eat the same as we did in college--pizza beers, snacks and microwaved meals thrown in as if that would keep us from malnutrition. That is helped along by an occasional trip back home to pig out on mom's cooking. This we do all the while hearing voices in our heads saying that none of us are getting any younger and it is time to just start acting sensible. Then, one day, we wonder why we are starting to look different in the mirror. It must be the slowing down of the metabolism, or so the experts have tried to convince us.

Will new advice ever be coming?

Why do our MDs not blow the whistle on the evils of adulthood early on. They have no problem writing prescriptions and getting testy when our BMIs say we are obese. Why wait until, things get to this point? Why not get more proactive? Why not simply advise the twenty year-old group to start getting fit now, so that the thirty something depression never becomes a reality?

To accept the standard advice is wise, or so we have been taught to believe. Going with its flow has been called growing old gracefully-- and growing old gracefully is the supposed grown up thing to do. All due respect to the medical community, but, is what they are telling us really all that good?

Other professionals are getting some clout

Today there are other voices being heard from. The family MD is no longer the only game in town. Fitness clubs staffed with trainers are springing up all over. There is a NIH (National Institute of Health), and even AARP  has a fitness department with a former Davis Cup tennis champ as spokesperson. A quick perusal of the internet will show almost every health authority like these are advocating at least two hundred minutes of exercise per week. That is for people of all ages.

Of course, little is said about how intense this should be, but that should not really matter. A heart rate monitor can tell us whether today is more productive than yesterday, and suggest where we might be at tomorrow. This is no more than do it yourself training, but it should not be scoffed at. The thought of having to pay a personal trainer may be enough to keep us from doing anything at all. Getting into something for two hundred minutes a week, with the intent of making constant improvements, will eventually lead to currently unimaginable fitness levels.

The same is true for following Jillian Michaels advice. Given a long enough time (let us say a year) of her half hour blaster workouts and consistent lean cuisine will, not may, allow us to start seeing muscle where before there was only fat. That is what it means to be a hard body. We get ever closer to looking like our doctor's anatomy chart (which, of course, is never to be used by our MD for any motivational purpose! That would be  cosmetic as they still are fond of saying.)

But Jillian is not the only game in town. There are other fitness gurus who may be more to our liking. There are more experts with programs and advice (pretty much the same in spirit) which have worked for others. Perhaps they will do the same for us. It's just a matter of finding someone to resonate with and then follow through. That is the first step--an important one, but not the biggest.

The biggest is to keep on excelling for decades thereafter. Sound like yet another life sentence? Perhaps, but that is really how we think about brushing our teeth. Twenty years from now, we will still be at it, probably with even better brushes and toothpastes. So, really, fitness is better referred to as a life plan. And, it is a good one-- far more proactive, and thus far better than doing nothing, while growing old gracefully.

Ch 6 Too Little Exercise Not Too Many Years

The thought of beginning a daily workout is hard on just about everyone; but it is even more so for those over fifty. We know that we will have to start moving and not really stop until we are done. That probably will mean an hour of less than pleasant feelings. It can also mean not knowing how we will feel afterward, or if we will even be able to keep up for the full amount of time. If we have been accustomed to sitting for the entire day, the mere thought of any of this may be intolerable.

Most often such thinking will discourage a new person long before it is time to get ready for the gym. That can make any of us find a reason for doing something which we think of as more important. Of course, there is nothing more important, if working out is thought of in the same way as the brushing of our teeth. That is something we would not neglect doing even if we knew today would be our last.

The anticipated effect on our psyches

However, we unthinkingly find other things that seem to be more pressing--things that truly are more important, or so we work at convincing ourselves and others. This is harmless enough because what seems to be more important actually presents itself as such. It would be an entirely different matter if we actually knew that we were deceiving ourselves and others. Few of us would care about admitting to that. All we know is that we are adults and thus have certain things which absolutely must be done in a responsible manner.

Unfortunately, the real reasons for not working out are almost never clear. Seldom will any of us admit to being afraid of not being able to complete our entire routine. After all there have been tines in the past when an hour of working out has been just too much, resulting in us leaving the gym in under thirty minutes. Perhaps, this time will be similar. Or, possibly we are nauseous due to our over-doing it from the night before. That can make getting up a problem, to say nothing of actually making it to the club long before having to be at work. Or, possibly we are deeply convinced that results will never come no matter how hard we work. How many times have we started in the past only to have quit when it seemed that nothing new would ever be happening?

It is hard to tell the truth

We cannot admit any of this to ourselves or anyone else.Thus, our psyches (not really us personally) construct reasons to make us look respectable both to ourselves and others. Of course, this truly is a form of deception, something we would be much better off without. No one, least of all us, wants to hear about any of our murky, less than champion-like states of being. That would slow us down if not completely stop us from getting on with our lives. Therefore, our psyches automatically come up with ways to get us off the hook.

This whole process is called rationalization. As Wikipedia has it, "in psychology and logic, rationalization (also known as making excuses[1]) is an unconscious defense mechanism in which perceived controversial behaviors or feelings are logically justified and explained in a rational or logical manner in order to avoid any true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable – or even admirable and superior – by plausible means.

We all rationalize

The reasons (better thought of as "excuses"--once we know what our psyches are up to--but never before) for missing our workouts are for the most part very persuasive. They may include, but will never be limited to, taxes being due, being unable to miss our daughter's recital, having a project deadline at work. Said to anyone on the outside, any of these will elicit an immediate "Oh, who would ever expect you to workout when that type of thing is in the way?" Said to ourselves they will elicit, "I have to be who I am, of course, and that means being a responsible adult." That is because all of this sounds grown up and dignified--so important that no one should be faulted for missing anything so comparatively unessential as a workout.

To a fitness trainer these are no more than childish excuses. They are too reminiscent of staying home from grade school because of a tummy ache. (After all, mom thought that might be an indicator of who knows what, maybe appendicitis.) Of course, this may sound harsh, but most of us are mature enough to know that if we really wanted to do something we would have exerted all of the necessary planning for it the day before. We also know that with the possible exception of actual emergencies--such as being broadsided at a stoplight--ninety nine point nine percent of our lives can be anticipated beforehand.

No day is complete without a workout

Fitness trainers know all of this and believe that workouts are as important as regularly brushing your teeth. One would never think of missing this activity in lieu of any one of the above adult activities. Thus, their question goes something like, "If you knew these things would be coming up, why did you not just get out of bed earlier?" In other words, you should have gone to bed earlier or resigned yourself to a little less sleep. There would be no further discussion after that.

In a way, the desire to skip a day is always with even the most seasoned athlete of any age. Even though we have been in doing workouts for decades, we still experience a desire to take off or not do what we know we must. We may even experience an imaginary "tummy-ache" at the mere thought of having to put out even when we do not feel like it. The same can be true of wondering  if we will ever get over a plateau, or how we will ever meet deadline at work. If we are seasoned athletes, we anticipate all of these things the day before, coming up with what to do in spite of them. Why? Because we do not want to miss a workout. We know it is better for not only us but everyone we know if we have done the best that we could have with our bodies.

It takes a while to get into the groove

Thinking like that comes naturally only after years of being at it. In other words, it may not be natural at all.  It comes from knowing that this is how your head (psyche) is going to play tricks on you. Of course, that means you have to know it is playing tricks instead of telling you the truth. That will make your better self just ignore the childish complaints. Short of having a personal trainer right next to you when you start thinking about making it to the club, this is what has to happen. But it may not, at least for the first few months, perhaps years.

To a novice, every minor bump in the road is a mountain. In the instance of a "tummy ache" the novice sees this as a product of severe indigestion (possibly the beginning of acid-reflux disorder) or an indicator of something far more serious. It may even be perceived as the result of all the new activity we have just gotten into. Of course, it is not, but knowing that it is not is the difference between making it at fitness and not making it.  Really, barring some truly major unforeseen problem, it is nothing more than the psyche amplifying little bodily indicators to keep us from doing something different--in this case working out, something far better for us in the long run. The only problem is that we do not always know that it is really better.

We know it will make us feel better, so why do we not think so?

How can we mislead ourselves so pathetically? Why do we convince ourselves of something we know to be untrue? The answer is that none of us like change. It simply is not any fun. We would rather stay in the same old rut with the same old feelings. This suggests that we are fundamentally lazy, but that may not be completely correct. Perhaps saying that we almost always prefer the tried and true is better.We may know taking off is not in our best interests at one level, but at a much deeper one, we are not so sure. Possibly there is something that really is too much for us and that we should take our feelings seriously. It is as if something very bad will happen to us if we do not "go with our gut."

Too, there is the belief that we are simply too old to start. Remarkably, this can even be heard from people in their fifties, but it is far more common in those in their seventies. The underlying belief has mostly to do with believing the body is like a car which inevitably wears out with age. Thus, it is only reasonable, so some think, that increased activity on parts about to wear out will result in injury. Most often this is talked about as "falling apart"--an alleged inevitability of getting older.

Just do it

Recent studies show that none of the above is worth the time it takes to intellectually and emotionally process it. Therefore, all of this angst is for no reason other than to persuade us to get into the gym with the idea of making it an integral part of our lives. That is true especially for people over fifty, who have been brainwashed for decades into slowing down--something which was once thought best as we age. That is why "Growing Old Gracefully" had such a long run.

Few professionals believe this anymore. In fact, the ones who do are almost impossible to find on the internet. Rather, the trend is now toward getting us into regular exercise and keeping us at it for the rest of our lives. Granted, this may be hard at first, but it is no longer thought that this is because of our chronological age--the number of birthdays we have been celebrating. Rather, it is because we have spent too many years doing nothing. That is why it is so incredibly hard to get moving and stay that way for an hour or so. But, the less than pleasant effects of this can quickly go away if only we will take the first step in getting started. The following articles substantiate this point.
___________________________________________________________________________National Institute on Health/Senior Health May 2012

Seniors Make Quick Improvements When They Start To Exercise

By , Guide

Updated May 12, 2011 Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

We all probably know of at least one senior citizen who seems to defy the laws of aging and remains in top physical shape well beyond their peers. We also tend to dismiss this person as genetically gifted or just unusual. However, research, and more and more seniors, are showing us that this doesn’t have to be the case. Many of the declines in fitness with age are due to lack of use, not just the normal aging process.

While it's true that as we age we have to work harder than we did when we were young, a lot of the declines that we attribute to aging may be reversed with fitness training.

Over the past two years, Senior has published the following headlines and research findings about benefits for senior fitness training:

Study confirms earlier finds on value of weight exercise, calcium citrate
Researchers have once again looked at the Bone Estrogen Strength Training (BEST) Study at The University of Arizona – a landmark study on how strength training affects changes in bone density in postmenopausal women. The most recent study confirms the findings that a specific regimen of weight-bearing and resistance exercises, combined with calcium citrate supplement over four years, provided significant improvement in bone mineral density (BMD) at key skeletal sites, whether or not the women were on hormone therapy (HT).

Exercise Improves Skin Healing in Elderly.
A common complaint by senior citizens is how much longer it takes for injuries and wounds to heal as we get older. The body’s ability to heal even small skin wounds is one of those things that slows as we age. A new study, however, finds that regular exercise by older adults may speed up the wound-healing process by as much as 25 percent.

Stress reduction and diet also cited as helping memory
A study released today says senior citizens can not only improve their aging bodies with exercise but that by adding memory exercises to their routine they can also preserve their memory.

Exercise Improves Quality of Life for Seniors
A new study has found that previously sedentary senior citizens who incorporated exercise into their lifestyles not only improved physical function, but experienced psychological benefits as well.

Exercise helps prevent Alzheimer’s
A new study published today adds to the growing evidence that exercise – particularly if it starts early and is maintained over time - is beneficial in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The new study focused on the physical activity levels of older people when they were middle aged and concludes being physically active in midlife can significantly decrease the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Developing Good Balance is Critical Element of Healthy Aging
Balance has less to do with strength and everything to do with an elderly person's ability to get around and live independently. Yet, few people in their later years think to practice balancing -- until it's too late. A study at Indiana University Bloomington has produced a balance improvement program that can be done at home.

Strength Training Is an Antidote to Muscle Loss In Elderly
Resistance or "strength" training has repeatedly been shown to be a safe and effective method of reversing sarcopenia, or muscle loss, in the elderly. The condition actually starts around age 45, when muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent per year. Scientists funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have been studying the factors involved in gradual muscle loss since 1988.

Boomers, Young Seniors Can Extend Life With Minimal Exercise
A new study gives people in their 50s and 60s another reason to get off the couch and be physically active — especially if they have conditions or habits that endanger their hearts, like diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking.

Elderly Women Should Worry More About Exercise Than Weight
Elderly women should worry more about exercising than about controlling their weight in order to prevent their physical decline, according to a study done at the University of Pittsburgh and recently published in Preventive Medicine.



Being Inactive Can Be Risky

Although exercise and physical activity are among the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, some older adults are reluctant to exercise. Some are afraid that exercise will be too hard or that physical activity will harm them. Others might think they have to join a gym or have special equipment. Yet, studies show that "taking it easy" is risky. For the most part, when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn't happen just because they've aged. It's usually because they're not active.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active. Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses. 


The good news and the bad news

Even if we are over fifty and never very active, there are still many good results which can come from getting into fitness. That should be clear from the above. An increasing number of professionals believe this nowadays, leaving the rest and relaxation folks on the sidelines. Interestingly, however, there are still not enough doctors who think this way. Most likely that is due to their inactive high-stress lifestyle (early morning hospital rounds, examinations and consultations during late morning, surgery all afternoon.) Whether MDs support exercise or not is immaterial. Other health professionals do, and affirm that it works wonders. That is the good news of working out.

The bad news is far less uplifting. It basically says that lack of exercise makes increased medical concern much more likely. That means if we do not exercise, we are far more prone to what we have come to expect as the result of getting older. That is, we have been conditioned to believe that disease and other health complications come with getting older. The new truth is that inactivity brings this on far more so than the passing of years.

Thus, we should be compelled to accept that exercise will have life enhancing effects, and the lack thereof will have detrimental ones. Unless we refuse to believe these assertions, how can we possibly think that a sedentary lifestyle is in our best interests?

Ch 5 Too Old To Get Young

It would be great if we all believed that the National Institute on Health and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports were right. Then we would all know that a weekly 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes was good for us even as over-50 adults. That should get us all either exercising moderately or intensely.

Working out for the required time would comprise the basics to head off heart disease, diabetes, stroke and possibly Alzheimer's. Assuming we all did this as regularly as the brushing of our teeth, there would be far fewer incidences of the chronic diseases--the biggest contributors to insurance costs.

Perhaps it is cynical to say reducing health care costs is the NIH's and the President's Council's only agenda. But that certainly would be a by-product of increased national healthiness. This is especially true in light of the fact that one baby boomer turns fifty every seven seconds. With figures like that, along with the relatively new awareness that exercise cuts down on age related health troubles, it makes good sense for all of us to focus on healthiness.

From health to fitness

However, healthiness says nothing about turning back the clock. We all know of people without chronic diseases that do in fact look their age, many times older. Those are healthy seniors, where health is thought of as the absence of persistent maladies. Healthiness for them is exemplified by the absence of diabetes, heart disease and strokes. We generally think of these folks as "having their health."

This is one thing--and huge one. But trimmer waistlines, tighter skin, healthier hair, greater enthusiasm-- the attributes of youthfulness are another. For many of us they may even be more important than we care to talk about. The unfortunate thing is that the NIH and the President's Council never talk about them at all.

Perhaps they see themselves as being into what they consider the more serious issues of national well-being. Perhaps anything more falls into the cosmetic or vanity category for them. Because of the power that alleged vanity has to motivate, this is unfortunate. Nevertheless, given the sad state of our country, anything that is an improvement is welcome.

Thus, it is only right to praise their forward strides in seeing people over-50 as capable of intense physical activity, and saying it in such a way as to preclude limits. But, it needs to be said that twenty minutes a day of moderate or ten minutes a day of intense activity (without even talking about the beats per minute or the wise inclusion of consistent weight training) is not enough to turn back the clock. Besides, how many will even stay at this for a significant amount of time--the time necessary to ward off the chronic diseases.?

Too little effort may be counter-productive

Perhaps a few will do their 10 to 20 minutes "to see how it goes." But will it be with a full set of supplements plus a low fat low sugar diet? Nutrition is essential to make any of this work for the long haul. It is also needed to make observable differences--the little rewards along the way which make "hanging in there" far superior to "hanging it up." Exercise alone will never be enough to change a mirror image.

This raises the question of how many of the new converts to exercise will still be at the 10-20 minute routine three years from now... or should this be thought of as three months? Possibly everyone would if our MDs had been saying for decades that exercise would in fact keep us out of the hospital. Of course, they have not been. Few of them have been saying much other than rest and "everything in moderation."

Too, how many times a year are we going to visit our doctors? Hopefully no more than once for the annual check up, and we just had this done 45 days ago. The point is that there has to be some significant follow up to make the bare essentials work--significant follow up that is simply not in place.

But that is not the only inadequacy. Just doing the minimum will most likely result in no observable changes. Thus, we will be faced with having to be happy with intangible benefits (such as we probably will not be getting diabetes, stroke because we are moving around like we should.) Those are never as good as the ones you can see in the mirror. Without actual physical changes, it will be too easy to fall back into old sedentary habits.

Fitness experts have a different take

People who have been into fitness for longer than a decade (as opposed to recently certified fitness gurus at the local health club) find it difficult to keep from thinking that the NIH and The President's Council do not really believe in doing more along with diet and supplements as well. Nevertheless, both organizations are silent on this issue. Perhaps that is only to minimize the amount of effort required by us.

Fitness people know that it takes all three--diet, supplements and exercise. We also know and admit that working for what we see in the mirror enables us to not only continually pass our check ups with flying colors, but stay at it for years on end. Its that look a little bit better than we did to months ago that keeps us doing better each day.

In short, doing the bare minimum to stay out of the hospital is not fitness lifestyle enough.

Lets be reasonable

A better approach would be to get everyone to commit to the following: 1.)at least an hour a day of sustained physical activity(even though Thomas Jefferson did two hours a day in his post-50 years. as did Jack Lalanne, and as does Jane Fonda) measured by a heart rate monitor; 2.) a well thought out vitamin, mineral,herbal supplement program; 3.) an exclusively wholesome diet supported by a low fat low sugar diet (preferably gluten free) never exceeding a pre-planned calorie level; 4.) a lifestyle devoid of all bad habits such as smoking and alcohol; 5.) a few real friends to replace the others who expect us to ease up and act our age; 6.) a reason to live--something we believe in that is good for others, something that justifies our existence (meaning that we make the world a better place by still being around). 

Granted, if there is a resistance to just adding exercise, there will be greater resistance to expecting even more. Yet, in the spirit of honesty and the best of intentions--ones which will make true and lasting differences-- that is precisely what needs to be promoted.

Most of us are intellectually certain this is good,that this will work--that if anything can, this will "turn back the clock." At least we suspect this will get us some envious looks from others in probably a year. So... why not give it a try and see what happens (after asking an MD if we really believe we must?) Do we really have anything better to do with the next 12 months?

If only that would be enough to motivate us to do it. But probably it will not. Most likely it will only trigger an "I'm too old to get young," which really means we are resisting lifestyle change. Why? Probably because it sounds like too much of an effort, something which (as common sense makes us think) should never be expected of anyone over whatever age we choose--fifty for example.That is us--the people for whom nothing more should be expected. And, that is the lion's share of the problem.

Times are changing

Fitness living for over-50 is all relatively new thinking. Prior to the last two or three years we have assumed that anything other than rest and relaxation for people who have spent their lives working at a job is simply unhealthy. No one ever came out and said this, but that was the implication. If we would breathe too hard, break a sweat, escalate our heart rate we are sure to be prone to injury or at least burnout. That translated into dying before we had to.

In other words, the way to hasten our demise was to exert too much effort. Of course, this was easy enough to do as we allegedly became less able to expend even minimal energy as we aged. That is largely because we just do not have "it" anymore. The increase of years is what supposedly makes us wear out as we get older. Everyone was expected to know this. Therefore, anyone expecting that a grandparent should do a daily workout would be problematic. Thinking that a great grandparent ought to frequent the gym would be monstrous.

Thinking like that is still with us. But thanks to the NIH and the President's Council, it is no longer the only game in town.

The older way of thinking starts with the big 4-oh

This type of thinking does not start with "not so nifty fifty." Too much exertion even for people over 40 is trouble. For whatever reason, we really have taken it to heart that we become less able to do things as we age. The worst absurdity is that whatever "happens" to us (more to the point, what we let happen) such as a large waistline, decreased energy, mental lapses, etc. are irreversible.

This fatalistic type of thinking starts with the proverbial "handwriting on the wall." Maybe it starts with our fortieth birthday party with all of our friends thinking treating us as if we are now-- this very day-- "over the hill." Maybe it comes the day we get a boss that is ten years younger. Maybe it starts after experiencing one "too hard" of a workout (as if we never had a bad day in grade or high school, or never thought that too much sugar could make us weak.) Maybe it starts the day we realize that our jeans just do not fit (largely because we have been sitting incessantly for the last decade.) Any or all of these in conjunction with a calendar date--one that "common sense" thinks of as important can start an inevitable decline.

None of this really has to happen, but it seems that it does. It is felt as if it were a sign from "beyond" that life is now something other than what it once was. Besides, we can see it in the mirror, and people we call our  "friends" make jokes about it as well. That is what happens when a certain reality coincides with certain date--one that not only us, but others, acknowledge as significant.

This leads to good-natured kidding... kidding done to help us grow old gracefully. Because it is all in good fun and for own good we are expected to laugh along with our friends. Heaven help us if we refuse.

A little bit of "help" from our friends

Some jokes from Good Housekeeping

You know you're over 40 when...
1. You decide you'd better get a rubber mat in the tub -- just in case.
2. Real estate ads have become your romance novels.
3. It's getting so hard to put on eyeliner!
4. All the birthday-party invitations you receive say "No gifts, please."
5. You can't get any of your baby-sitters to call you by your first name.
6. You'd just as soon have cereal for dinner.
7. You lose your car keys--then lose them again three minutes later.
8. You now understand that the only person who will walk the dog is you.
9. Belts have been phased out of your wardrobe.
10. Someone offers you a seat on the bus. And you don't refuse.
11. A six-year-old had to set up your DVD player.
12. You actually hear yourself say "They call that music?"
13. You're pretty sure that if your marriage suddenly ended, you'd choose lifelong celibacy over having someone new see you naked.
14. Your son's math homework is too hard for you.
15. Men with comb-overs are starting to seem attractive.
16. When you go to a movie, you always feel the need to say "You know, theaters make all their profits at the concession stand."
17. You're pretty sure your toenails were thinner the last time you checked.
18. When you eat a candy bar, you tell yourself that the peanuts have lots of fiber.
19. You've learned that a marriage can have a "rocky patch" that's five years long.
20. No one ever tells you to sit up straight.
21. You can actually gather up handfuls of your stomach.
22. You start a lot of sentences with the phrase, Life is too short to....
23. The idea of spending your next vacation at a golf resort is starting to seem kind of cool.

Words you'll never utter again
1. "Do you have this swimsuit in a smaller size?"
2. "Conan O'Brien was so funny last night."
3. "No matter what I eat, I'm still skin and bones."
4. "I can't wait for my birthday!"
5. "No complaints so far."

A few jokes from a recent webpage of may give some more of a clue.

For women

You know you're 50 when...

  • Your face has more wrinkles than an elephant's backside.
  • You can look back on your 40th birthday and wonder what all the drama was about.
  • You're thankful when someone tells you that you have lipstick on your teeth because it means you still have teeth.
  • You purchase your moisturizer by the case instead of by the jar.
  • Hair dye goes on your shopping list under "essentials" instead of "luxuries."
  • That come hither look you used to have in your eyes just doesn't look as enticing through your bifocals.
  • Your once fabulous behind now looks more like a set of mud flaps.
  • Your hot flashes result in savings on your heating bill.
  • You finally understand that being over the hill beats being planted under it.

For men

You know you're 50 when...

  • You now have more hair on your knuckles than you do on your head.
  • Your idea of getting lucky is being able to find your car in Walmart's parking lot on the first try.
  • You have to use your GPS to locate your feet because you can't see over your belly.
  • Your trick knee goes out more than you do.
  • Your idea of a hot time is putting a heating pad on your bad back.
  • You want your kids' to think you're cool, so you ask them to help set up your own page on MyFace and you can't understand what they're giggling about.
  • Getting some action means all those prunes your doctor is making you eat are doing their job.
  • You and your teeth have decided that a separation is the best thing for your relationship.
  • Getting high means it's time to take your blood pressure medication.

It gets worse for sixty 

There are no longer a men's and women's categories. There is just one for "older people."

You know you're 60 when...

  • The phrase zero to 60 means your life is flashing before your eyes.
  • Your carefully saved nest egg has flown the coop.
  • You start getting carded again, but now cashiers want to see your senior card to make sure you're old enough to qualify for the discount.
  • Instead of adding blueberries to your cornflakes, you just sprinkle them with your morning medications.
  • Your joints snap, crackle and pop more than your Rice Krispies.
  • Your ankles start sagging over the top of your anklets.
  • Your liver spots are starting to make you look like a Dalmatian.
  • Your gums have receded so far that you look like you could be the oldest cast member of Twilight.
  • You save a ton of money on shampoo, not because of your senior discount, but because you now have too little hair to bother with it.
  • You no longer need a spoon to stir the creamer in your coffee. You just pour the milk in and let your shaky hand do the job.
  • You go from wearing bifocals to wearing trifocals.
  • The 20-year-old clerk at the DMV thinks you're joking when you say you are there to renew your driver's license.

There are no jokes for 70.

Presumably, by then there is no sense of humor? Or everything is too seriously bad to joke about?

Humor is supposed to make terrible things not so bad. Making a joke about the intolerable makes it something to be more easily lived with. Examples are an enlarged waistline, or decreased mental sharpness or declining energy even though thee are really little more than proof of prolonged sedentary living (aka, being a couch potato.)

There is not one of the above jokes that is funny to seasoned fitness people. Indeed, if any of their friends ever came up with these they would not be friends for long. That is not because fitness people are mean or vindictive. It is because they are realistic. Their reality does not have any of these turning- into-a-vegetable-babbling witticisms as part of what they are all about.

Therefore, when others feel compelled to talk that way, we think they are only doing so because they are driven to do so. In other words, they are compelled to prove a falsehood, namely that we are falling apart just like everyone else. Perhaps they picked up their bad manners from their friends, relatives, or neighbors.

How can fitness people have been so fortunate? We have been doing all of the right things--those mentioned above-- for decades and have therefore not fallen into the categories we are supposed to be in. It is as simple as that. We never "let ourselves go" as the saying goes. We hung on when we were supposed to have hung it up.

Those words may seem harsh, but they are intended to change behavior--behavior which can be changed regardless of when we start. None of us have to let ourselves go just because we have hit a certain age. And, we can make up for mistakes of the past just by getting with it and staying with it. More and more experts keep saying this all of the time. None of us have to give up simply because we think we are too old.

Starting now can make a difference in six months. Starting now can transform a life within a year. In other words, none of us are too old to get young and those of us who never got old will always be happy to have a few new friends. Besides, it would be so nice to see the "Growing Old Gracefully Cult" lose some of their following for some reason other than death.

CH 4 Getting Young Aggressively

To many of us, the thought of becoming younger is completely outrageous. We know, or think we know, that is impossible. Our driver's license says when we were born, and that is as non-negotiable as we can get. Furthermore, in a year from the instant we look at it, we will be one year older.

That all talks about our chronological or calendar age-- what determines the number of candles on our birthday cake (which we should really re-think eating, unless its gluten and sugar free.) But that is not the only game in town.

There is another way to look at this. Experts call it biological age-- the age that most of us would be when we have a body and mind similar to others in a different age group. The concept is a result of observation, being honest with what we experience. For instance, we know of people who do not look their years. We might say they look "timeless" or that they "look good for their age." Somehow they have beaten the system by either turning back the clock, or by keeping it from going forward. But which is it?

Only our internet biological aging expert knows for sure

We could ask them, but seldom ever do, as it is really not polite. Besides, they might not be aware of anything they have done anything to deserve their youthfulness. As a result, about all we can actually do is experience a little envy and come up with the now commonplace "She or he sure has great genes." That will be thinking enough, unless we would like to be the same.

If we ourselves would like to come across as younger, "good for our age," or however we talk about it, we should make a better effort than playing the "good genes card," even with our self. But not doing so is hard. If someone looks younger than their years, it must be that it runs in the family. Everyone seems to believe this, even doctors.

Still, we also know that MDs do not know everything, and common sense is not always all that it is cracked up to be. Besides, baby boomers are inclined to always believe that there must be a better alternative somewhere--benignly lurking in the shadows, perhaps. Thus, we still may be curious. So how do we turn back the clock, great genes or not?

The best place to start
answering this question is with a test from a place which acknowledges that there is such a thing as biological age, knowing what makes a person come across as younger than their chronological age.There is a free biological age test at  Taking it will provide a benchmark of where we are at right now, and give a hint as to what needs to be done to turn back the clock.

What is the next step

Complete honesty... with ourselves, that is

If our chronological age is 46 and our biological age is 57, our lifestyle could stand improvement, That would mean we were a 46-year-old with  a 57-year-old body--not a good thing. Obviously, it can go the other way, providing motivation to "stay the course" well past driver's license 110. But more than likely, we will find that some shaping up is what we need to get into.

Shaping up will not happen by accident. We will have to make it happen. Everything in the above test's condensed set of questions (covering fitness, general healthiness, relationships) can be worked on. But changing the "can be worked on" into an actual daily discipline will take some effort.

It will first require a "take charge" manner--something which will only feel right if we are first into a fitness lifestyle. That is the key. Nothing else will have as powerful of an effect on the will.

The trouble is even though we may know that, we may still find it impossible to do anything.The media, what professionals say, and the things our friends, relatives and neighbors expect us to think feel and do have incredible power. All of these together add up to a virtual myriad of forces which we can think of as the "Growing Old Gracefully Cult."

That may be unkind, but it is only to help us stay clear of their influence. That, of course, assumes we are not really interested in slowing down, drawing back, and spending too much time on hobbies, bingo and pastimes that are supposed to such great fun for aging seniors. The trouble is that those who expect that we should are largely made up of those to whom we are closest, doctors and ministers included. But they are not the only ones. There are disinterested persons as well, such as the the advertising people, the media, and those who run the senior programs we are expected to join.

The "Growing Old Gracefully Cult"  is out there, forever "making it OK" for us to wind down in preparation for death. Of course, it does not come right out and say just that. The influence is far more subtle. For instance, it treats us as if we have "finally come down to earth" when we start talking about "taking it easier and letting up," because "we just can't anymore." Then too its members smile with approval when we talk warmly about "letting the younger folks have their day." Examples of their maudlin stroking go on and on. It is all supposed to make us be content of our declining years--appreciative of "how great it's all been," and all that.

How nice. But what if we do not want this?!

Be politically incorrect
Living in a society permeated with those influences makes it inordinately difficult to break away and just be the way we want. In the terms of the last chapter, it makes it  tough to be tigers instead of calico cats. Nevertheless, it is possible. We (really) do not have to grow up and start dying, even if the Cult thinks we should.

Defying the cult is not easy; though it is not impossible. We can start by Always thinking and saying that we are "Getting young aggressively" rather than "Growing old gracefully." All it takes is a huge commitment to a new ideal and a little rebelliousness (something far more admirable in older people than in grade or high school kids.)

How does a change in ideals make that possible? Thinking, talking and acting that way gets us seeing over-fifty differently. In other words, it gets us thinking outside of the box. This is crucial. It is also realistic.

The new guard

More and more studies are showing that weight training and cardio are causing significant physical improvements in older people. As a result, the 6/28/2012 report from the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports highlights the benefits of physical activities for older adults.
  • Older adults can obtain significant health benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily. A moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately intense activities (such as walking) or in shorter sessions of more vigorous activities (such as fast walking or stairwalking).
  • Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity, either by increasing the duration, intensity, or frequency. Because risk of injury increases at high levels of physical activity, care should be taken not to engage in excessive amounts of activity.
  • Previously sedentary older adults who begin physical activity programs should start with short intervals of moderate physical activity (5–10 minutes) and gradually build up to the desired amount.
  • Older adults should consult with a physician before beginning a new physical activity program.
  • In addition to cardiorespiratory endurance (aerobic) activity, older adults can benefit from muscle-strengthening activities. Stronger muscles help reduce the risk of falling and improve the ability to perform the routine tasks of daily life.
  • The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is in part caused by reduced physical activity.

Growing old gracefully may soon be on the way out

If we can be permitted a diversion, one of the things significant about this article is its discussion of vigorous activities such fast walking or stair walking. Wisely, it does so within the context of shorter periods of time--shorter in relation to longer ones doing the Cult's perennial favorite, namely "a little walking now and then at a pace we can handle." Included is mention of weight training, which, not long ago, was even discouraged for high school athletes. Further, it blames reduced physical activity for the loss of strength and stamina. Our number of birthdays has historically been attributed to decreased vitality. These are huge strides away from the prevalent thoughts of a few decades ago.

Moreover, the best line, perhaps, is "starting with short intervals, gradually building up to the desired amount." Interestingly it specifies 5-10 minutes, but says nothing of what a desired amount might be. In other words, there is no mention of anything that would keep us from thinking that the sky is the limit. For instance, there is nothing that might discourage us (as the Cult would do-- example below,) from emulating someone like Massachussette's George Conway.

George took up exercise after retirement and is a competitive race walker at age 95. He holds the American age group record M85-89 for the 10K distance and is an outspoken athlete. Same goes for Lois Hooker, Oregon, who completed her first marathon at age 75. Active in volkssport walking in Oregon as a walker and club member. ( Stories like that are becoming more common little by little.

These people go beyond the "Use it so you don't lose it" mindset.That has been the favorite insipid piece of advice for over-fifty people, knowing full well that the "using it" would become less likely over time. George and Lois are better typified by "You get better with age--just like fine wine." The same was true for incomparable athlete Jack Lalanne who was still doing heavy 2 hour weight workouts at 96.

Dare to be different (like them)

Perhaps these people sound strange to most of us. If so, it is because we are still into that old growing gracefully mindset, which assumes the number of years is what makes us slow down. That is counter to the assumption that we slow down because we choose to do so (because we just decided one day to to shut down or hang it up.) The people above just refused to give in, or "let themselves go" as has so often been said.

If we continue thinking that growing old gracefully (in the box) is the best thing to do with our lives, we will find it difficult to really put ourselves into fitness. There is something too complacent about this whole mindset. Granted, some people in the "Growing Old Gracefully Cult" say they believe in exercise and that we perhaps should too (assuming our MD says "It's right for us," and all that.) But talking with them quickly reveals that this means "Getting a little now and then as best we are still able." Or maybe "Every other day for twenty minutes or so, takin' a little break on the weekends," and so forth.

Starting slow is no dishonor

OK, maybe that is where we are at today after having done nothing for the last twenty years. And, if so, that may be all we can handle for the first couple of months. Just getting into regular movement with an elevated heart rate can be a challenge. It may even cause a minor injury. But that should not deter us.

Things really do not have to stop there; and if we care about turning back the clock, we should never let them. Having a goal is help; in fact it is essential to have, no matter how outrageous the Cult thinks it is. An example might be aspiring to do a daily five run before breakfast--something which really is possible within a year, assuming we consistently and painstakingly work at getting there. Others have done it, so why not us?

In other words, there is reason to believe that we can function at a level far beyond where we are at today.That is what it means to "Grow young aggressively," which is something far different than co-operating with the allegedly irreversible  slow-down of our mortality.

How do we switch gears?

Just say no to the Cult

The biggest problem to deal with is their frowns. None of us like those. They are the opposite of "warm-fuzzies." But, like death and taxes, they are inevitable.

Frowns (disapproval) are best handled by ignoring them, In other words, by simply keeping quiet about what we are up to (keeping our trap shut.) With all of the emphasis on "Full disclosure" in the last thirty years, this may be impossible. Same goes for the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell." Being forthright, telling it like it is, and the like, have become the new authenticity and honesty. It is supposedly better than the "None of your business" approach from a few decades before.

But there is nothing so effective as just "playing it close to the vest" and doing our own thing (unless we expand this into "finding new friends while staying clear of the wet blanket types.")  In short, we can choose to simply go about our fitness lifestyle without saying anything--without asking permission, without asking for, or expecting, someone's approval or blessing. We really can get up before everyone else does to do our workout. We really can steer our friends into restaurants where we can get fish and salads instead of the white bread and brats. We really can keep a low profile on the vitamins, etc.

Of course, we can get caught in all of this, but we can then just refuse to comment. This may still get us a frown (unless we smile when saying, "I plead the fifth,") but one is far less than several. Silence may  make them too uptight to ever do it again. Justifying our actions should never be necessary. For that, we are too old! That is especially true within our families and with our friends.

Getting into fitness is never easy

Anyone can be hooked by the graceful aging lingo. We are especially vulnerable if we think we have some well-deserved break from life forthcoming. That can make us say "It's too late for all that." Nevertheless, we really can wake up and do something today. Hello. Our health during our "sunset years"-- the ones that are supposed to be so great-- is at stake." Why would any of us want to spend those in misery when we really could be having the best time of our life?!

Still, we may feel that the dominant culture is right. Growing old gracefully is OK (mandatory, really) and we should just co-operate with our supposed new found feelings of exhaustion (as if we have never felt lazy even in high school) basking in the great honor of being our real selves. The trouble is that even the National Institute of Health as can be seen in the June 2012 page from does not seem to agree.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of seniors who are frail, or who have diseases that accompany aging.

Don’t Be Afraid to Exercise
Exercise and physical activity are among the healthiest things you can do for yourself, but some older adults are reluctant to exercise. They may be afraid that exercise will be too strenuous, or that physical activity will harm them.

Research from the NIH shows that actually the opposite is true:

  • Exercise is safe for people of all age groups.
  • Older adults hurt their health far more by not exercising than by exercising.

And these professionals are not alone. In fact, Googling exercise for fifty and over people, reveals that the NIH's position is now more the norm. Not only the content but the tone is different. Over-fifty people are no longer seen as tired, winding-down individuals who ought to be doing all that politically correct cutting back. Rather, we are seen as people who can benefit from regularly escalating our inner metabolism.

Moreover, we are no longer seen as tired because we are "up there," but rather because we have done little more than blow out candles on sugary birthday cake for decades. So much for the new guard--experts who are impacted by the knowledge that costly chronic ailments are far more prevalent when sedentary living is the norm.

The old guard is still with us

Yet, the "Try enjoying life while letting yourself go" position (aka. grow old gracefully) still passes for political correctness. Perhaps it is best seen in a recent article by Patricia Brozinsky ,Ph.D. a keen observer of human behavior who has been a psychotherapist for seventeen years with a full-time private practice in East Patchogue, NY.

Growing old with grace' means knowing your limitations and shifting your activities when your aging body cries out "enough!" as it begs you to change from the strenuous sport your ego loves it to an activity it can more easily tolerate. And, more importantly, grace would mean that you would finally accept your new limitations. Maybe 'growing old with tolerance' would be an even more accurate way to describe what our society craves. This would mean that we would grow old and become broadminded, open-minded, lenient, accepting and patient.

Aggressive or graceful the choice is ours

Some of us will still prefer Ms. Brozinsky's position for whatever reason. There is nothing bad about that. In fact, it is very good. It has arisen from, and contributed to, the more altruistic, sincere inclinations that most of us associate with age. But, for some of us who think we can still have fun while doing something good (making the world a better place,) the NIH position and that of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports might be a bit more of a breath of fresh air.

Ch3 Lose 20 Years in Six Months

Most of us think of ourselves in terms of what we do. For instance, we see ourselves going to work, parenting our kids, or going to church.

Each of these has us doing them from a certain amount of time. This impacts how we talk about them. We have been at ABC company for thirty years; we have been parents to kids who are now ready to start driving; we have been in the same parish since 1980.

These amounts of time give us a feel for how old we are. We started at our company after undergrad, thus we are 51; she gave birth to twenty 26 old Wendy when she was 25; we are now senior members (perhaps elders) at our current church.

In these examples we see ourselves as having become mature, or seasoned. Those are dignified ways of saying that we now are older.

All of these activities can be the focus of our self perception. We think highly of ourselves as having been at an important part of our lives for a significant period. That is what makes us feel like veterans, parents, pillars--all of which are respectable.

The trouble is that there comes a point when we go beyond respectable. That is another way of saying "on the way to be being out of it." In the workplace, it might be over fifty. With families it might be becoming grandparents. In churches, it might be over being second term president of the congregation. In all of these, there is the feeling that we have gone as far as we can go.

In other words, we are soon to be ready for a few years rest before death's infinitely long one.

Accepting these end points is the same as growing old gracefully

There is nothing we can do about any of these end points. We cannot change the fact that we have been with the same company for thirty years. We cannot change the fact that we have kids of a certain age. We cannot deny that we have presided over the church board for the second year in a row. And, ultimately, we cannot change the fact we will die.

Living with these realities is not bad; in fact it is good. However, dwelling too much on them can be disastrous if we really do not want to feel old--on the way to soon being "out of it." How can we possibly feel young if in fact we are so far away from being a "newbie or rookie?!" That is enough to make anyone back off from life. The "slowing down" is what makes us begin to see ourselves as aging people.

When see ourselves this way, it is virtually impossible to keep from thinking, feeling and acting like a senior citizen. Supposedly, this is good. The cult of graceful aging tacitly dictates that it is inevitable and to be welcomed. That is, we should simply enjoy cutting back, look back on our accomplishments and know that the end is coming soon. To be any way other is absurd, or indicative of mental deficiency.

Is there a better way?

Growing old gracefully has been the ideal of older people for decades. But believing that "hanging it up" is no more than reasonable, locks us into admitting that our ultimate end is not that far off. This can, and most often does, compel us to renounce our vibrancy, enthusiasm, attractiveness. That is another way of saying "letting ourselves go." Enjoying that supposedly gives us as individuals the greatest amount of inner peace.

All due respect to this passage into what may be a much deserved  long vacation (extended leave of absence) with its daily anticipation of death. Such is the way we apparently ought to keep becoming. Therefore, after end points such as fifty in business, being grandparents or second time head of the church board, it is time to start thinking, acting and feeling like an old person. In other words, there is to be no more intentional, wholehearted, involved living (really being "with it" like "back in the day.") Rather, we should "act our age."

Daring to do something different is to be politically incorrect. It raises eyebrows. Indeed, if we persisted in being "too youthful", many of our friends, relatives and neighbors would recommend that we see therapists. That is not something most of us feel we can live with.

Nevertheless, some of us feel that we are not ready "hang it up" either. There still is something alive within us and we may even believe that we can ramp it up even more.

Therefore, we could, and perhaps should, recommend that our friends, relatives and neighbors see the therapist (for being compulsively meddlesome.) In other words, we could just say "No" to their insistence on us  enjoying the impossible, namely "loving every minute" of being "out of it." Doing so, and making it stick, could keep us involved--still influential, still a player.

We may have to be revolutionaries for a while

First and foremost, we never have to live the way we are expected to live. That is, we can say "No" to people who think we should think act and feel a certain way. Our country did it in 1776. The French did it in 1789. The Women's Movement did it starting in the seventies.

We can do the same starting today. It may be hard, but we can do it. We can be "too busy" for Christmas parties; we can have "other plans" for Thanksgiving; we can ignore emails; we can start all over at another congregation; we can trade in the weekend golf club membership for an everyday one at the health club.

All or any of those social moves will be initially painful, but they will put our immediate world on notice that we would rather be thought of as alive, instead of on the way to being dead. Such an assertion may temporarily lose us some "warm fuzzies," but it will turn out better for everyone in the long run.

No one wants to be put into a mold for any reason, least of all us, because of our age. Moreover, we have the right to be as we choose, even if the growing old gracefully cult, well-intentioned as thinks it is, does not see it that way.

Quite a few of us will still prefer acting our age

Who of us wants to start preparing for death simply because we have reached a certain point in our lives? We might think the answer is "no one," but it is not.  Why? Because none of us want to appear abnormal or obnoxious. Thus, most would say we are better off just being as we allegedly are (acting our age.) Of course, this really means being us, as we are, according to the way that others think we should be.

This raises the question "How do we ourselves really feel about who we are in the here and now?"

If we are still interested in living fully, we will be outraged by the dictum, "We start dying at 63, so that we can be buried by 85." That is what the forever young Jack Lalanne said not long before his last days. He was an example of youthful energy at 96--far superior to that of his thirty years old assistant in one of his last juicer commercials. And, that came from diet, supplementation, workouts, a good marriage, and never ceasing to campaign for what he believed in--fitness.

Living fully means being like Lalanne--"hitting on all eight cylinders" until we actually die. That is what we should do if for no reason other than it is more fun than the overrated tedium of growing old gracefully.

What kind of fun is fun?

Granted, the growing old gracefully cult thinks we should have fun too.The trouble is that what passes for fun is little more than trying to convince ourselves and others that we are really having a great time. That is a poor substitute for really being "with it" like we were back "in the day."

The internet is loaded with advice for seniors about having fun. The articles are all rather good from a "Make the most of it while you still can" perspective. It is just that most sound like training for house cats instead of jungle cats--Chesshires instead of Bengals.

One example from November 15, 2009 in is as follows.

A healthy lifestyle doesn't have to mean treadmills and salads everyday. Many activities that are fun and pleasurable are also good for you. By understanding how these activities can help you live longer and what to do to get the most benefits, you'll be putting some fun into healthy living.
1.)Drink red wine
Red wine is packed with resveratrol, an antioxidant. These work to protect your body against the effects of aging. One or 2 glasses of red wine a day can help keep your body young.
2.)Eat dark choclate
This is a wonderful food that contains a large amount of antioxidants that protect your body from aging. Find good quality dark chocolate, learn to appreciate it, and have a bit of it each day. Eating chocolate may lower your blood pressure and cholesterol while providing an energy boost.
3.)Make exercise play.Physical games and sports are a great way to keep both your body and mind healthy. Simple exercise routines are great for maintaining balance, flexibility, endurance and strength. Group games and sports can give your mind a workout as well, as you anticipate other people's actions and how to work together. Find a game and activity that suits your level of physical ability and play often.
4.)Smile. Smiling is a great way to change your attitude, connect with people and give benefit to your body. Like relaxation, smiling can work to counteract the effects of stress. By forcing ourselves to smile, we "trick" our body into believing that everything is good, thereby reducing stress. Like a switch, smiling can actually change your mood. So put a smile on, even if you don't feel like it, and pretty soon you'll be smiling for real.
5.)Spend tme with loved ones.Relationships are an important part of health. Not only do strong bonds with other people mean you will have help when you need it, being connected also means protection from loneliness, depression, and mental illness. Spend time cultivating your relationships with friends and family to improve your health and your life.

There are other points as well--from sex to sleep.

No one can disagree that these are all good for us and for those we live with. Even the chocolate and wine, which more Spartan trainer types would eschew, are probably OK in extreme moderation.

The only problem is in the tone of this article, written by a PhD, no less. It seems that he assumes we have, or should have, traded in our tiger identity for one of the Chesshire cat. (The grinning feline from Alice in Wonderland.)

Is that bad? Maybe not. Most us think that house cats are great, and that tigers are too dangerous for anyone, even the big cat him or herself, especially in the standard family and neighborhood. Thus, being the run of the mill grinning Chesshire is something that all of us, especially those who are "up there," should prefer.

Yet, we may still really prefer being our true tiger self. If so, we should ask a few questions of the writer.

1.)What is so bad about daily treadmills and salads? A treadmill at home saves money on club dues. Besides Good Morning America (or CNN if we are more of the night owl vintage) can always be watched while working out. Then, there are the salads. Can we really be so lacking in culinary creativity that we cannot outdo even the above-average restaurant?
2.)Why would drinking red wine be superior to taking a resveratrol capsule? The number of glasses we would have to drink to get what is in one capsule is horrifying.
3.)Dark chocolate? Why this, when a multi-vitamin will do the same if not better without the fat and sugar?
4.)How can a little shooting hoops now and then with touch football (presumably) with the grand-kids ever replace a daily well-planned heart rate monitored work out? Or, are we supposed to believe that this is only for high school kids who supposedly are immune to getting hurt by calibrated exercise intensity?
5.)Then there is the smiling--the Chesshire-catness. What is this all about? Trying to convince ourselves and others of how happy we are in spite of how miserable we feel? Why not just deal with the sources of our depression, leaving the smiles to the game show hosts and hostesses? Or, is this a tried and true way of winning new friends to talk about the past, while pigging out on beer and brats?
6.)And then there is always the loved ones. This is a sacred cow for the standard American good life, which means it is never to be talked about disparagingly. But... not all families are all that functional, as the seventies' therapists used to say. Would not a kindred spirit-- a real friend-- be a better bet?

Following common sense wisdom will help us age right on schedule.

There is an unending supply of growing old gracefully articles like this all over the internet. For the most part they are the pretty much same, highlighting relaxation and enjoyment. They strive to make enjoyable what few years we have left (but never in excess of standard life expectancy.) That is not bad. But, the presumed lack of vitality is disastrous for maximizing enthusiasm, cognitive function and simply being "with it"--the way we were, when we were really a player "back in the day."

Being the devil's advocate requires saying that for some people easing up a little (which really means entirely) is really best. The only question remaining is Who? What if it was "No one", really? After all, does anyone really want the big slow down prior to our inevitable funeral? Well...perhaps a few. But short of taking a Gallup Poll, all that can be done is to ask, "Is that enough for us?"

Most likely, trying to enjoy being "out of it" is not. Or, if it is, it may only be because we have yet to get into a fitness lifestyle--something which we could have, and perhaps should have, learned all about in high school. That could have been the best training for eating, exercising and supplementing right in hopes of placing well in the state meet. That kind of living is what we need today even if our only competitom is our self.

Turn back the clock instead of trying to enjoy the ticking

What we can do instead of lamenting over the "time is running out" phenomenon is to get into a fitness lifestyle. That should make us feel like a "kid again" (like when we were sweating dates and exams) as it will not be easy doing this. And, that is not only because it is a daily challenge, but also that we should either have kept at it or mastered the art back when we had the chance ("back in the day.")

By starting at fitness lifestyle today, we could take on the status of "rookie" or "newbie." Of course, there may be all of that "I'm too old for that now" or "That's kid stuff", but we could simply "bite the bullet" and  admit that we do not look, feel and act the same as we once did. That could and should be the same as saying that it is really all our fault (or our responsibility if we prefer.)

Looking at it in this way may be problematic in light of gene theory, which somehow makes our bio-chemistry more influential than our burger loving sedentary lifestyle. But, we can get over all this or "get on with our lives," assuming we simply accept that nothing good will happen without our complete dedication and effort. Just knowing
this and consequently doing something about it can take off at least five years from the "get go." If nothing else, it will make is far more likable than  we are as a "dues payed up senior citizen."

But will this really work? To anyone in fitness for more than a year, the question is laughable. Yet there may be some who will still require academic proof and the like. Fortunately, the proof is out there right now. It was not, thirty years ago. Back then, the experts still were not sure that fitness was all that people like Jack Lalanne cracked it up to be. Google "workouts for seniors" if you are still skeptical.

Start slow but start

We can all do worse things in the next year than perfect a fitness lifestyle. In fact, most of us will do worse. We will sit around trying to convince ourselves that being "out of it" is great because there's no stress from long commutes, tuition payments, deadlines and all of the other evils that made up our version of the American good life. We may even be able to find a few card-carrying members of the growing old gracefully cult to teach us how to "really" enjoy "what little time we have left."

If the growing old gracefully cult wins our hearts, that is what we will do. But, is that what we really want?

If we are not sure, we could devote a year to diet, supplementation and workouts and then make a decision. That might make us feel better than we did twenty years ago. That might tip off a number of other things--things we had not even dreamed of doing yesterday-- such as study, social involvement, being a better spouse, even being a better parent. After that we could look back to see if the growing old gracefully cult is "all that it's cracked up to be."

For further thought on fitness and aging order my ebook "Think and Grow Fit."


Ch2 Oh To Be Young Again

Do You want to Turn Back the Clock?
Why would anyone not want to turn back the clock? This question may make you smile. If so, it may be an indication that you believe doing so is simply unrealistic, or impossible. Perhaps you are right. After all, not everyone believed that sixteenth century Ponce De Leon had an ounce of sense; though his financial backers probably  hoped he did. He was interested in finding the Fountain of Youth, a prototype for today's wonder drug--one that does the impossible.

We have come a long way since then. We now have wonder drugs for everything. We have pills for plugged arteries, killing anaerobic bugs, etc. Thirty years ago, those were non-existent. Thus, the wonders of modern science may now be more of what we expect. But can some new product turn us into what we were twenty years ago? Perhaps that sounds too fantastic.

Yet, there is some reason to think that this just might be possible. Today, there is quite a bit of talk about long telomeres, which are protective parts of our genes. And, there is a new drug which claims to make them longer. Of course, we may not even need it. Possibly we inherited long telomeres from our parents. If so, we are lucky. Either we are going to live longer or look younger for longer--possibly both.

But if we were not so lucky, we can always take the pharmaceutical equalizer, TA 65. Most likely, it will soon become less expensive than it is today, and there will be more testimonials from people that it has helped.  That is the upside. The downside is that there are no trials over a few decades and no FDA approval, making it somewhat risky.

Therefore, at least for now, most people are not going to get into it. That may make some less trendy tactics more interesting-- lifestyle changes which head off the tell-tale signs of aging.

How do we know that we are getting old?

Of course, we can always count birthday cake candles or look at driver's license. Those are two sure ways of telling how old we are.

Then too, there is the mirror. If we have grey hair, we come across as older than someone who does not. Nevertheless, there are exceptions. Some people in their forties have grey hair, but are not considered old unless worn out by stress and worry .

And, there are attitudes. Some younger people think, talk and even act like old ones; while some older ones have not only the enthusiasm, mental dexterity and fitness of youth, but the vocal timbre as well.

Further, regardless of age, some people's bodies look worn out while others look in shape. Most often this is due to carrying too much weight for too many years. But it can also be due to inadequate nutrition.

Thus, there is more to age than number of years. No one can do anything about the number of candles on the cake or what the license says. But everyone can do something about how we come across at our birthday parties.

The tell tale signs of aging

One of the tell-tale signs of aging is cynicism. This is a general lack of faith or hope in anything or anyone. It can be typified  in two slogans : 1.) "The only thing for certain is death and taxes;" and 2.) "If it can go wrong it will." Of course, these attitudes can be found in any age group, even in the twenty-something crowd.

No drug will counter the effects of a lifelong systematic and persistent refusal to see the good in life or to be hopeful. That requires continual strengthening of basic beliefs-- mental discipline. It is something we can and should work at daily.

Another tell-tale sign of aging is poor health, either overweight and obesity themselves, or the conditions they lead to. No age reversal formula is going to take off disease-causing excess weight or eliminate diabetes, heart disease, etc.

The way to deal with these is to head them off by getting into fitness. But even though a new found youthfulness (possibly from TA 65) may give rise to the necessary enthusiasm for starting a fitness lifestyle, staying at it will never be the result of having long telomeres. Dedication and persistence are needed for that. Those are mental activities, ones which we can and perhaps should do something about right now.

Yet another indicator is an aversion to supplements.  Many older people, and a few younger ones,  have come from backgrounds where pills of this nature were completely off-limits. Most often these same people have MDs who believe that not only do we get enough from a balanced diet, but the excess just gets eliminated anyway. In short, supplements are a waste of money. Newer thinking suggests that regular dosages of B-vitamins and Vitamin D lengthen telomeres.

Cynicism, excess weight and an aversion to supplements can be worked out of our lives right now to both increase the quality and duration of life. According to researchers, doing so tends to lengthen telomeres, naturally.

Exciting as that is, it may not be incentive enough to cause a lifestyle change. If not, some relatively standard figures may do the trick.

The Grim Statistics

U.S. residents might be living longer these days, but more and more Americans have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, which decrease their lifespan and boost medical costs. Some 133 million adults — almost half the adult population — have some type of chronic health condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With such staggering statistics, you might think illness and impairment are synonymous with aging.

But experts say old age need not be marked by disease and disability. Older adults can take action, even well into their 60s and 70s, to reduce the risk of developing chronic disease and avoid injury.


This raises the question, "Do we have a chronic disease associated with aging?" Or, if we do not, what are we doing now to make sure that we stay disease free? Surely, none of us can be relying on good fortune or good genes when "almost half the adult population has some type of chronic health condition." So...what are we doing?

If there is no answer to this question, buying TA 65 may be a questionable investment. Granted, longer telomeres may help us to prolong the inevitable. It may even make us better able to recover from therapy. But, without doing something pro-active, chronic illness is still on it's way.

More Staggering stats

The number of U.S. adults aged 65 and over living with certain chronic conditions has increased in recent years.

The percentage of older adults living with diabetes has doubled, from 9.9 percent in 1984 to 18.4 percent in 2006-2008, according to statistics provided by the CDC. The number living with heart disease has risen in that same time period from 16.4 percent to 31.6 percent (although this increase could partly be due to better detection methods).

Rising rates of chronic disease have been mirrored by rising rates in obesity,
which is known to be a major risk factor for cancer, heart attack and diabetes. Since the 1960s, the number of overweight men aged 65 to 74 has increased from 10.4 percent to 33.0 percent in 2003-2006. And the number of overweight women has gone up from 23.2 percent to 36.4 percent in that period.

Our nation as a whole is suffering from an obesity epidemic, with about two-thirds of the population being overweight or obese, according to the CDC.

If there's one step you could take to improve your health and help you steer clear of chronic disease, it's exercise, experts say. And it really is never too late to start.

"I have known patients who have started exercising in their 70s and reaped great benefits from it," said Carmel B. Dyer, a geriatrician and director of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

Exercise helps control your weight, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your muscles, which in turn make you less likely to fall. And more muscle mass helps you metabolize drugs more like a young person, Dyer said, which means the drugs will be cleared from the body more effectively.

Physical activity has also been linked to a decreased risk of dementia, she said.

If you can keep your weight down, you'll decrease your risk of diabetes, which affects about 23.3 million Americans, as well as certain types of arthritis, which hinders activity for about 19 million Americans, according to the CDC.  

As a nation, we could do better when it comes to exercise — in 2006-2007, about one-third of adults over 65 said they had no leisure time physical activity in the past month, according to CDC statistics.

But older adults need not join a gym, or suffer through rigorous workouts. Instead, more mild activities, such as walking, gardening, or anything to keep moving would be sufficient, CDC's Moore said.

And a "healthy weight" doesn't necessarily have to be what you weighed when you were in your 20's, according to Dyer.

"You want to exercise enough so that you're not obese, but not too thin, so you have reserve. But you don't have to become so fanatical about it that you have to get down to your college weight," she said.

Getting a handle on this sooner rather than later

As being overweight tends to precede other conditions, it makes sense to talk about this in relation to overall health. Maintaining a healthy weight (having a good BMI) not only takes off years within a few months, but adds to the quality of life down the road.

Those who are not yet overweight are fortunate, but not necessarily safe. Studies suggest that by 2030 86% will be overweight, 42% will be obese with 11% being 100 pounds over healthy weight. That means a lot of people are going to get in very bad shape if current trends continue. Sadly, there is little going on today which would lead anyone to believe that these projections are wrong.

Experts say that nothing will change unless there is a national initiative. What this would be is unclear. It could be something like eliminating all fructose additives, but this is extremely unlikely. There are too many industries which would be affected. Another could be to eliminate the soft drink or fast food industries. But the same set of reasons would prevail.

Maybe certain manufacturers will be indicted for lacing highly caloric foods with addictive substances to induce repeat sales. Something similar happened with the cigarette industry, which changed the health of the country for the better. But no one wants to believe this could be true for FDA approved foods; and, most probably, it is not.

Perhaps something other will happen. But what, and when? Clearly, any time legislatively or judiciously "soon" is already too late for us as individuals. It is easy to add an unhealthy twenty pounds in less than a year. That is enough to make trouble with the mirror and with our susceptibility to worse problems. That is why we have to now start doing what is right as opposed to continuing what is wrong.

The question then is "Do we not know nutritionally right from wrong?" For those who do not we should be advised that parts of the standard American diet such as fructose, fast foods, trans-fats and soft drinks create fat. Fat adds pounds, which causes us to age.  And, there is a lot which comes in foods we just would never think of as culprits.That is all pretty much common knowledge nowadays, which is why really doing our homework before going to the grocery store is crucial. There is now a lot of dietary information on the labels to help.

Some of us may find thinking hard before buying to be too "austere." Eating is supposed to be fun and the food in the grocery store is allegedly safe for consumption. So... where is the problem? Too, some of us still  think "A little bit of this or that will not hurt." Many of us have heard this from indulgent parents. The problem is that it does not take much (especially when it's a day to day dietary occurrence.) The solution is to know what to get, or not get, before going to the store, and then stick to the numbers--eating only what we need to lose or maintain weight.

We are never too old to start

Experts agree that making a ten percent reduction in body weight can have a significant impact on overall health. They also agree that single most important factor affecting longevity is calorie consumption and exercise. In other words, reduce the amount of calories and work out to not only ward off illness, but add years.

Anyone can do this regardless of their age. Yet, many well-meaning people say that it is more difficult for older people. Why really? Because seniors are too frail? Typically seniors have a strong work ethic which enables them to become dedicated to fitness more quickly.

As written on the 2012 BeFitOver Fifty website (

Studies have shown that regular exercise by middle aged & elderly people can set back the clock 20-40 years when compared to those who do little or no exercise. Test results show that no matter when a person starts to exercise, significant improvement can be achieved.

Older people can achieve the same percentage gains in performance as the young, according to Dr. H.A. deVries, past director of the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California and a respected pioneer in the field.

In one study of more than 200 men & women aged 56 to 87, "dramatic changes" were observed after just 6 weeks of exercising 3 to 5 times a week. Study participants became as fit and energetic as people 20 to 30 years younger.


Diet, exercise and supplements

Of course, no one needs to be retired to start a fitness lifestyle. Getting into one from early on is best. From a national health care cost perspective, younger people would do all of us a service by maintaining a health club membership for a five year period. Assuming it were used every day, the resultant changes could be classified as as profoundly preventative (to say nothing of transformational.)

It might seem that getting younger people into fitness is relatively easy. But it is not. Younger people generally feel "immortal," as the saying goes. That translates into not having to do anything about health Too, for those who have been sedentary since high school, getting into regular exercise will not be easy. Same goes for diet if all that has been eaten is burgers and Mountain Dew.

The general assumption is that novices need to be coaxed with something like "Just walk a little and take the stairs more often, cutting back on the treats a bit." This is typical advice from concerned parent types (generally unfit themselves) who are fearful of supposed austerity measures.

Perhaps a better response is "Skip testing the pool with your big toe. Just dive in." This can always be followed by an "Ok, check with your MD if you must." But most likely that will only result in a "Do whatever you want as long as you do not overdo it." No problem. Just do like the doctor is implying, namely don't  do something like a mile swim before breakfast on day one. Work up to it; take a year or so.  Appropriately, plan a realistic workout that "works out" the unhealthiness and fat. Then, do it every day. That will take off years (though in younger people this may be talked about as "lightening up.")

"Every day" sounds too hard? Probably. After all, the supposedly sensible sages always say "Only every other day with a two day break on the weekends." OK, probably. Just remember that every day is not as impossible as it is made out to be.

That is where supplements come in for both groups. Whether we are in our thirties or seventies, everyday workouts are beneficial and doable; though, they are probably impossible on the standard American diet along with it's "pill-o phobia." To work out regularly, and reap the rewards, we need to forget what made sense fifty years ago. Vitamins work. They turn drudgery into fun. Eventually, down the road, they make doing more easier. Why? Because, supplements make food metabolize better. They cut down on the need for excess calories and they simply promote a feeling of over all well-being.

Staying at this requires more than dropping twenty for the beach

Getting into a fitness lifestyle is more than getting into one of the overnight cures for love handles, which seem to surface every year after tax season. These are products (presumably effective for the people who created them) to make us feel proud of how we look in a swimsuit come June. Presumably they enable us to lose all of the fat  built up over the winter. All well and good, assuming one of them actually works. But, that is only just leaving the starting block. The real test is over what is still going on a year from now. That is the only type of involvement which has a chance of really beating the grim statistics mentioned above, and, ultimately, turning back the clock with or without TA 65.

The single most important thing to turning back the clock

A fitness lifestyle is where it is at for most of us who want to turn back the clock. A fitness lifestyle escalates these mental processes, ramps up self-esteem, and promotes a will to live which translates into a sense of purpose. That is something which many of us are lacking. It may be why we do not stay with a fitness lifestyle, if we even get into it all. Fitness is hard for the first few years. Philosophy (daily personal reflection on why we do what we do) makes it easier.

After having been at it for a while, fitness is fun. But we have to "pay our dues" to get to that point. Overnight results are for the naive--the ones that advertising people love! That is why we have to simply accept being at it for the long haul. That requires dedication--serious mindedness.

The biggest obstacle is the fear of being too serious

Anyone who has ever seen an interview with an Olympic athlete like Michael Phelps or Dara Torres knows that there is more to them than workouts and nutrition. You can feel their dedication from what they say and how they it. You know they are in it for the long haul and that that is what made them the champions they are. The same is true for Jane Fonda as was for the late Jack Lalanne. Their whole lives are (were) dedicated to others, not just themselves. 

Those are the types of personalities we need to emulate. Only a superficial person would say that they are (were) too serious for their own good. No one would dare to put them into the same horrific age categories that they do everyone else. They are in categories of their own. Dara is 44 going on 20...and, why not? Is that not when young women are supposed to be in their athletic peak? Jane...well... she has been called a "bombshell," but that is actually an put down for a woman over 40. How many women in their mid-seventies, or younger, actually look and act like her? And Jack? Not only did Shwarzeneggar admire his abilities, but 96 year old Lalanne had more energy on TV than his 30 year old juicer commercial counterpart. These people are (were) who they are (were) in their own right.

Maybe someday we will find out how long their telomeres are (were.) Or, maybe we will think about what TA 65 could do for us if we were also following in the footsteps of these people.  

For further thought on the benefits of a fitness lifestyle order my e-book "Think and Grow Fit."

Ch 1 Do It Yourself Fountain of Youth

About me

I am 63 and live in a way which enables me to remain youthful. That means staying fit, looking younger than my years, staying enthusiastic, always wanting to learn, convinced that I have something the world needs. Those are the opposite of being out of shape, looking 63, acting cynical or hopeless, thinking there is nothing new to be discovered or mastered, feeling expendable.

I believe that by living a fitness lifestyle in conjunction with doing what we believe in, anyone can either be or become the same. No chronological age prevents any of us from : 1.) proper diet,supplementation and exercise; 2.) thinking creatively; 3.) finding a reason to expect the best; 4.) immersing ourselves in things which we find interesting; 4.) doing something of significance for others. These characteristics of youthfulness-- things which are most often found in younger people (such as graduates in their twenties)-- can be held onto and developed by anyone, regardless of age.

By doing so, I believe that all of us can either significantly prolong the aging process or reverse it's life-draining effect. This is not only psychological (typified by "you're as young as you feel"), but physical as well. Adhering to proper dietary-supplement-exercise routine, seeking a way for all to work out for the best (reflecting on our daily existences,) continuing to learn, doing something important,  all make us think, act and feel positively toward our lives. Together they make us come across as younger than our years.

However, doing only one or two of these is never enough.

63 going on 42

I consider myself to be middle aged--neither young, nor old. Everyday I do a two hour workout at a measured intensity, gradually increasing speed and resistance at each four month interval. As a result, my performance today is better than when I was on the swim team in high school; and I can still fit into the same suits from back then, though, the chest and shoulders are tighter. Diet, exercise and supplements in conjunction with a meaningful life were all that were required to bring that about.

In a like manner, I work at the mental side of my life. This includes daily reading, thought, and presentation of my beliefs whenever they may be of some benefit. To some degree this is no more than an extension of the Socratic dictum "The life unexamined is not worth living." It is how I am; it is how I choose to be; it is how I have been for as long as I can remember. It is what I am "selling" to everyone in all that follows.

I believe that those who are younger can ward off the effects of aging by doing the same. They can start by doing fitness and thought related activities now to keep themselves from becoming out of shape, bored with their environment, mentally sluggish, feeling unimportant (used by their employer.) In other words, by starting now, younger people can avoid the characteristics and circumstances which are commonly associated with aging. As a benefit on the side, they can impress others with sense of true maturity.

Those who are my age or older can begin now to turn back the clock. All that it takes is adherence to a fitness lifestyle, a refusal to stop learning, some daily time to reflect, and a commitment to do something that is valuable to others. All of these are necessary as they influence the development of each other. That is, they are synergistic.

Granted, doing these will not make any of us look twenty-two again, but they can keep us from "aging right on schedule." They will also make some other people categorize us as ageless. That is one of the best compliments we can get.

No one is too old to start

There is a belief that after a certain point, no one can make any changes in themselves. This is something like "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Nevertheless, studies have shown that it is never too late to begin a fitness lifestyle, and that improvements can be seen in surprising short periods of time. Of course, reflection, learning, self-worth, and commitment to a social good are mental in nature. Thus, it is also assumed that those with more free time, such as retirees, will have it easier than people under 65.

I now write books for a living,  never failing to put in a solid forty hour week doing so. That is my way of making a contribution to the world. It is my form of self-expression--something from which others can benefit. Before this, before the financial meltdown, I had my white collar jobs, which I always viewed as something more than just getting a paycheck. Making a lasting difference to others has always been important to me. As I do not ever want to think of myself as a mere consumer, it will continue to be so as long as I live.

No one is too young to start

I believe that everyone needs a similar purpose in life. That goes for younger people as well. However, they may feel as if being serious turns them into great grandparents. Granted, it may seem this will happen, but it need not. Proof  can be seen in others who reward for themselves for having done something good for others. In other words, they celebrate their social victories with harmless fun (not at all an elderly pastime) Examples may include buying something affordable that they have always wanted to enjoying a care free weekend.

If you are younger, working at a real job, you can start focusing on what you are doing for the betterment of others through your current responsibilities. That will make the object of your efforts something far greater than merely cashing a paycheck. It will also make you proud of having had some direct influence over the life of another.

Knowing that we are making a difference keeps the clock from going forward. Going through the motions only to pay the bills causes little more than exhaustion--a characteristic of age. Work without our own personal sense of purpose only makes all of us long for retirement.

Even though younger people are less prone to diabetes, heart disease and the like, getting into a fitness lifestyle now should still be seriously considered. If nothing else, there is just the satisfaction of liking what is seen in the mirror--something which should never go away just for having reached thirty-something. Therefore, waiting for a doctor's order to go on a diet, or take the stairs instead of the elevator, should be completely unnecessary. Everyone knows that a fitness lifestyle is far better than the sedentary self-indulgence that the media plays up as the American Good Life.

Is there a best place to start?

It is difficult to say whether fitness, thought, learning or purpose is primary. Being fit makes us think about how to act in meaningful ways. Thinking about doing what is meaningful makes us want to be fit. Learning results in a greater passion for living. Caring enough about the world to add something beneficial to it makes us think and take optimal care of ourselves.

Where should we start? Perhaps the best place to start is wherever we are the strongest, probably where we are right now. So, there are no right answers.The only thing true across the board is that we think better if we are fit; we care more about the world if we think; we think better if we continue to learn; we want to be fit if we believe we are important. Development in one area will influence at least one other.

But is this combination of interests the Fountain of Youth (assuming such a thing can exist?) Total cynics will laughingly say "No way," never really explaining themselves Presumably they believe only in aging--that tomorrow will find you one day closer to death than today. How you will fare during your declining years is completely dependent upon genes.

Thus, they would rather wait for a formula which promised to alter their biological nature. They might even say it's the only realistic thing to do. Yet, even if such a wonder drug worked, and even if it were affordable, would it not merely create youthful bodies for old people? Would not the same be true if we were talking about plastic surgery, along with the latest skin treatments to reverse decades of insufficient water,fruits and vegetables, or, even worse, the effects of alcohol and nicotine?

On the basis of my experience, fitness, thought, learning and purpose are the basis of total youthfulness. These three together can either stop the clock or turn it backward. But yes, there may already be a new discovery or two that will actually add a few more decades of birthdays.

What is it like to be 63 going on 42?

Strangers who have not seen my driver's license think act and feel toward me as if  I am middle aged--and a little strange because of it. Presumably, I should have some grey hair and a sagging waistline. That would make me "normal," enabling  them to feel comfortable. It would mean I were much like them.These include people at church, the grocery store, the health club and the vitamin shop.

Looking younger may sound like fun, but I (and I expect most others) would rather be thought of as normal. People who do not look their ages are not normal. Most probably, we are thought of as health nuts or ones going through an identity crisis. For certain, it is more difficult for us to be taken seriously.

Many others know me only as a statistic, even if I have met them in person. Their knowledge of me comes only from data on an application, my driver's licenses, and the like. They know that I was born in 1948.  To them, that means I should come across in ways which they think are appropriate for my years. In other words, I should live up to their expectation in order to be OK. Need I say that I find excuses for leaving as quickly as possible?

Of course, when you're in a similar set of circumstances, I think you should find harmless ways of getting away from these types as well. But that's only because I think that telling people off is just too risky.

We are who we are, not our ages

Being free to be ourselves is far more important than staying in these types of relationships. Therefore, we should seek out others who are not only open-minded and fun, but respectful. These are persons who believe that age is just a number, ie. not an indication of how we should think, feel, and act. If we want to remain youthful or turn back the clock, we need to continually seek out people who are like this.  Unfortunately, the options are severely limited.

Nevertheless, failure to find compatible people can result in regression-- a state often not only associated with sedentary thoughtlessness, but erroneously believed to be an inevitable result of too many birthdays. That's why seeking out new friends is so important.

Things which make us, us

My fitness lifestyle, my thinking, my studies, and my writing are important to me. They make me, me. Similar things, I believe, should be important for you as well.

Some think that I should have outgrown these decades ago in the interests of maturity, presumably. After all, they sound like activities appropriate for a graduate student just ready to publish a thesis, or start a career. They apparently are not fitting for raising a family, paying bills, keeping a job. Thus, long ago, I should have said "Been there done that" in the interests of acting my age--the one on my driver's license. But I refused then, and continue doing so today. I would not think of giving up the doing any of these even on my birthday or Christmas.

No one should stop growing at any point. There is little so old-sounding as the platitude  "I've seen it all." Can anyone who regularly says this really deny the thrill of having seen something in a new way, having learned something different, having said something significant to make a difference in someone's life, or having made an improvement in fitness? Everyone has experienced one of these at least once. But how many work at making all of them happen as a normal course of day to day living?

What will the next ten years bring?

Unfortunately, here as elsewhere, there are no studies to help answer this question. Thus, a belief, which we all can share, may be all that can be expected.

My expectation is that in ten years, by continually working at it, all of us will become more proficient at being more fit, more contemplative, more knowledgeable, more influential. That is because we can always work at being better in all of these areas. Doing so is never curtailed by an increasing number of birthdays, except, perhaps in the minds of others. Nevertheless, with new advances in fitness and genetics, today's common sense may be on the way to being a thing of the past.

If we see ourselves as only working for others, or being a retiree filling empty hours with hobbies, or living out our days with people who seemingly never grow, we need to make a change. Ideally, this involves only looking within to find a greater over-arching purpose with more empathy toward those whom we already know. Most of what we are missing can be found inside of us, if we'll only invest some time looking. Finding it can result in an ability to put more energy into what we are good at (our work) and who we are closest to.

If we see ourselves as healthy enough, but still immersed in the standard American lifestyle, we need to immediately rethink our position. That is simple enough with all of the information on the internet. But initially, making the change will not be easy. It will be hard work.

Can we work too hard?

Many people think that too much work will leave us exhausted (burnout). As I have only increased in energy in the last four decades, I do not think they are right. Perhaps there will be studies which prove that working at what we love increases the ability to do more, but this has not yet happened. All I know is that I am not the only one who thinks this. Therefore, it should just be thought of as self-evident that labor at what we hate causes eventual exhaustion, while labor at we love results in over-all development (as if our entire self were a muscle.)

But some may wonder if the bother is all that worthwhile. After all, any of us can contract a terminal illness or simply wear out, much like a car after 250,000 miles (or a person after eighty-five birthdays.) True, that can happen even in a well-planned orderly life. But that may not happen. Counter to what the cynics really believe, it is not inevitable. As they say, "The only things certain are death and taxes." Or, "If it can go wrong, it will," as per the well-known Peter Principle from a few decades ago. Neither of these need to be the final word, if we keep growing and living judiciously.

Focusing on growth-- life imagery-- promotes a more youthful outlook. For example, it can result in life slogans such as "The only sure way to not win is to not play." Or, "If it can go right, it may." Those are decidedly different than the ones which depressed people hear in their heads 24/7.

We can control quality more than quantity

This is a book about fitness, thought and social involvement. It is more about quality of life than length of days. However, there are some new advances which may make more birthdays possible; and, I admit that I would like to be humanly effective (youthful) beyond 160, just to be the first. Perhaps that sounds frivolous, but it is a major motive in my writing. Yet, I know that is not as much under my control as is my effort to live everyday as fully as I can. Doing so has gotten me to where I am right now--not looking the age on my driver's license. The same can work for anyone, or so I believe.

But how do I know that the above is what caused it--that it is the fountain of youth? Might it not be that I come across as younger because of some genetic predisposition--one which, by itself, seems to have stopped my clock thus far?

So many nowadays never tire of confidently asserting that the positive drive of youthfulness and fitness are only the result of genes. Perhaps they are right to some degree. They cite examples of people who eat poorly,never exercise, and smoke, living beyond the normal age parameters. But, the questionable part is in their certainty that none of us can change our genes. Recent studies seem to be saying that we can change ourselves at a very deep level.

But all of that aside, who would really want to wager that being sedentary, not caring about others, eating poorly, never supplementing and waking up each morning just to play golf will not take its toll on any of us?

For me, it started with fitness

Because I have been at fitness since just before high school, approximately fifty years, I know of the positive effect that this can have of every aspect of my life. And, I know of the achievements of some athletes. Some are outstanding in just their physical achievements (records, and the like.) Others are far more exceptional.

The latter group is most important to me. I have the deepest respect for those who appear throughout the book-- the late Jack Lalanne, Jane Fonda, Dara Torres. All of these people have excelled athletically in spite of their age. They themselves might even say that they have (had) excelled because of it. They might say, "And why not : practice makes perfect." That may sound facetious until it is realized that these people simply kept at what they do--never cutting back, always going forward.

Nevertheless, there is another aspect to Jack, Jane and Dara. Some might say that this is the more important one.They are (were) crusaders in their own right. They speak (spoke) out on things which are (were)_ important to them. Dara cares about the supposed over the hill athlete (over 35, that is), Jack cared about corporate America and senior fitness. Jane continues to champion various social causes. All lecture (lectured,) write (wrote) books, make (made) public appearances. The world they live (lived) in makes (made) a difference to them.

Dara, Jane and Jack do all of what has been talked about above.

What are we doing in the here and now?

Are we putting in time fulfilling our company's purposes, believing that the long rest of retirement will make these efforts worth while? Or, are we retired, filling empty hours wondering if anything new will materialize today?

If we care about stopping the clock, or even turning it back, being fit, thoughtful, open to new things and purposeful is what we should center on for our own lives. This combination is the realistic Fountain of Youth and a great foundation for the new science which may make turning back the clock actually possible.

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April 2014

Recent Posts

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