Ms. Casey-Kirschling, who is widely considered to be the nation’s first Baby Boomer, became the first Boomer to file for Social Security retirement benefits.
What does this have to do with fitness, you ask? A lot, actually. It means that the Boomers are getting older. And, that means that in order to make the next phase of their lives as healthy and fulfilling as possible, they must do things a little differently when it comes to physical activity.
Does this mean that I’m going to recommend that you pick up a copy of Richard Simmons’s - Sit Tight: A “Sittin' Down” Workout?” “Now as you sit there, lift your can of lima beans up to the sky. Good. Good for yooou!”
No. I’m not going to do that, because the Boomers are marching into older age in far better physical shape than their parents.
First, let’s get clear on what “older” is and what it is not.
“Older” is a fact of life. Time passes, we age, and our bodies change. However, “older” is also an arbitrary designation based on an arbitrary number. Granted, sixty years ago, “older” meant “old,” because old people looked and acted…well…old. In 2007, that word has been rendered all but meaningless. Eighty-year olds are surfing and playing tennis and bungee jumping and completing the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon in 16 hours.
Here’s what “older” is not: It’s not a valid reason to avoid getting into stellar shape. It’s not an excuse to slow down, make concessions, do less -- and go gently into that good night.
Baby Boomers comprise the largest segment of the American population at roughly 80 million strong. But a recent study indicates that while Boomers may be strong in numbers, they’re not so strong in body. Injuries among Boomers -- torn ligaments, stress fractures and knee problems – are at an all time high. “Boomeritis,” as health professionals call it, cost an estimated $22.8 billion in 2003. That’s the bad news. Here’s the good: It’s easier than you think to get into great shape, and the scientifically-verified benefits of physical activity include: a better heart, a better mind, a better body and a better life.
We often forget how good it feels to have a fit and radiant body. We learn to accept less. If that sounds like you, stop that. Start demanding more, and you will experience the joy and passion of what it feels like to be fully alive. It all starts with moving your body.
Motivation Follows Movement
This may sound like more self-help ballyhooing, but it’s true: the motivation to exercise does not spontaneously occur. In fact, the less you exercise, the less you’ll want to exercise. You simply must start moving to get motivated to move. If you are out of shape, as little as three 20-minute workouts a week can have huge, positive effects on your physical and mental health.
Sometimes the notion of getting into shape after a long layoff can be so daunting that it discourages people from even starting out. Those people operate under the false assumption that it takes a series of one-hour leg-pumpin’, heart-thumpin’ spin classes to get back into shape. Here’s the trick: First, consult your physician and make sure your body is ready for a new exercise program. Then, when you start back to exercising, don’t focus on any numbers: no “workout time,” no “calories burned,” no “repetitions,” no “heart rate zones.” Just be smart, listen to your body and have fun with it. If, on your first day out there, you complete a five-minute walk, that is a terrific start. Once you generate a little momentum, it’s a difficult force to stop.
Bear the Burden
As Boomers age, it is estimated that half of women over age 50 will suffer a bone fracture caused by weakened bones, while one in eight men will suffer the same fate. While it’s important to take care of your joints and never overdo it, avoiding weight-bearing exercise, such as brisk walking, climbing stairs, resistance training, etc., can actually increase the risk of osteoporosis. Light jogging, if your knees can handle it, is a terrific activity for Boomers. Strength training is a must as well, since you can lose up to a half-pound of muscle tissue every year after age 35. Strive to incorporate some form of strength training and weight-bearing activity into your routine at least twice a week.
Your Body is Keeping Score
“You are more likely to be killed by your couch than by a stroke or an accident,” says Jim Taylor, Ph.D, author of The Prime Sport book series and a performance consultant in Greenbrae.
“There are 35 diseases, collectively known as Sedentary Death Syndrome (SeDS), associated with a sedentary lifestyle,” says Dr. Taylor. “Each year, about 250,000 Americans die from them. Since only 28 percent of Americans exercise regularly, an estimated 60 percent of the population is thought to be at risk for SeDS.”
It’s important to understand that your body is keeping score, right this moment, and every moment. Ignoring exercise is akin to accruing credit card debt; somewhere down the road your body will demand payment…with interest.
Most of us require some form of tragedy to make a positive change. We’re comfortable with the status quo. We wait until something goes wrong until we decide fix it. The
Mix it Up
Who says you have to run on a treadmill to get into shape? Not me, that’s for sure. Set me loose on
Boomers, some say you have the best years ahead of you. If you commit to staying in shape, and taking care of your body, I believe the years ahead of you can be your best ones.
Go rock it, Boomers.
For more healthly living tips and a podcast, visit: http://www.organicfoodbar.com.