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The real fountain of youth and the key to aging happily

Can you answer the following question with a resounding yes: Are you getting older but not getting old?

You have probably known people in their fifties who act like they are in their 70s. Some might even be labeled as couch potatoes. (Others call them ‘dying in place.’) Or perhaps you have known people in their eighties who are more active than most people in the sixties. This writer recently traveled with a woman in her mid eighties on a combination land/cruise trip.

She had energy in her steps and was able to keep up every step of the way. You don’t often think of someone in their eighties being so spry, especially after having had knee surgery and arthritis. And, despite touring museums where there were no places to rest, she was still going strong after 8- to 10-hour days. She watched what she ate on the cruise, too. She was happy! (Maybe it was that daily glass of wine at lunch and dinner!) The cruise ship had four decks and no elevator. Indeed, the stairs on each level were a bit steep. We had to go up and down them many times each day, too. The dining and other common areas were on the deck above the one where our cabins were.

What was her secret to being so active? Writer Marilynn Marchione of The Associated Press says that “exercise may be the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth, one of the best ways to age happy [sic] and well.” Indeed, many doctors agree that exercise can prevent and treat many ailments, as well as aid in weight control. If you are always tired, exercise could be the real drug that you need to improve your sleep and your energy level. Recent studies have found that “walking farther and faster after age 65—increasing activity rather than slowing down in older age—helps…prevent heart attacks.” Even conditions like arthritis benefit from regular exercise. Avoiding exercise could be the worst choice you can make if you are looking to stay active as long as possible. Just raising your arms to brush your hair or zip a dress can be difficult when your range of motion is limited. Or perhaps your muscles are so weak that you cannot even carry a bag of groceries or pick up a grandchild.

Obviously, if you have been sedentary for some time, you should not just jump into an exercise program. Checking with your doctor, especially when you have pain or have had recent surgery, is always advised. Your doctor will likely tell you that walking is the best exercise you can do. Doing some physical exercise each day, whether it is walking or vigorously cleaning your house or taking stairs whenever you can, will all improve your quality of life.

One of the evening news show spotlighted a woman who is 95, but looked more like 75. She was moving like she was being chased. Her “secret” was daily physical exercise and walking. At 95, if she can do it, so can you.

If you sense that exercise is one of my favorite topics, then you are paying attention!