Sunday, January 11, 2009

Boomers: Here are 4 Ways to Stay Spry

LAST OCTOBER, WITH A FEW UNREMARKABLE KEYSTROKES, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling took one small step for a woman and one giant leap for a generation.

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 U.S. medical model works this way; it depends on the appearance of symptoms to prompt action. This is no way to live. Take action now and pursue a simple exercise program, and you can be healthy and strong all the way to the finish line. Investing in your body is arguably the best investment you’ll ever make. It's also important to do our best to eat well on a regular basis. The adage "you are what you eat" is true in a very literal sense. With our increasingly chaotic daily schedules, it can be difficult to eat healthfully on the go. That's where ORGANIC FOOD BAR comes in: it is the healthiest and most delicious 100% certified organic snack in the world. Pack several ORGANIC FOOD BARS in your car and at work, so that your "fast food" can indeed be "healthy snacks!" To learn more, visit: The ORGANIC FOOD BAR Web site.

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 Mount Tamalpais, and I can scamper happily over hill and dale for three hours. Put me on a treadmill, and I start weeping after 11 minutes. We live in the world’s greatest outdoor gym: Marin County, California. You can pursue more enjoyable activities in more stunningly beautiful locations here than anywhere else in the world. Find your “fitness bliss,” and the calories burned will be a natural consequence of the fun, rather than the focus of the activity. That’s when it becomes easier, and more rewarding, to get into shape.

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.

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