This is a question that is often pondered when individuals are entering a stage of their lives where friends and family are developing ailments and recognizing physical challenges. I am in the same boat personally suffering a debilitating leg injury many years ago that left me with severe neuropathy and a change in mindset as to what might be possible for me to accomplish physically.
There are constant reminders surrounding us to physical ills – which can lead to excuses and a behavioral acceptance of limitations. More and more people use mobility carts when they shop in stores despite not being disabled, yet that act alone is surely putting them on a path to disability.
Age is often cited as a reason for slowing down however there are numerous examples of individuals in their 80’s and 90’s who remain physically active almost to their very end.
What is their secret to health? Is it diet, exercise, mental outlook, social connections, faith? It is probably a combination of all of these however science has cast a light on these aged mobile marvels that simply should not be ignored.
First, the law of physics stating that a body in motion tends to stay in motion certainly holds true for human beings. If you are one of the lucky individuals that hold a job that keeps you active during the day, you are more fortunate than you may realize. Take note of the physical health of individuals your age who spent their occupational years at a desk job and it becomes readily apparent that not using the body translates to losing its abilities.
Staying active has significant ramifications for the mind as well and has already been shown as one of the most effective ways of dodging ailments such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. Staying sedentary has as you might guess the exact opposite corollary.
So, if you are 40 years of age or older and have been sedentary more than half of your life are you doomed to mental and physical challenges? Science says no as long as you are pro-active and implement changes in behavior that prevent the ill effects of sedentary lifestyles.
We are biased toward treadmill desks obviously, however it has been shown that short “movement breaks” every 15-20 minutes for as little as two minutes yields tremendous health benefits.
Studies at the University of Illinois showed significant “brain benefits” for previously sedentary elderly individuals (65 years or older) who walked 10,000 steps per day. Over a 6 month time frame they exhibited a 15% increase in mental abilities such as memory and cognition and brain scans showed and amazing 43% increase in small capillary production in the brain as well.
Walking feeds the brain. Walking feeds the body. Walking is essential, even for those who attend the gym regularly but are stuck at a desk for the rest of the week.
The study out of the University of Illinois should be proof enough that is never to late to improve one’s health and that it does not require an expensive gym membership or gold plan health insurance plan.
Don’t fall victim to the predominant wisdom that age cannot be beaten. If physical challenges prevent walking, find a pool and get moving. Seek out friends that are more physically active or volunteer for causes that require movement. Except in extreme cases of physical misfortune there is something that almost everyone can do to signal to their body that it is not yet time to throw in the towel.