Functional Aging. For. The. Win.

No matter how old we are chronologically – we are absolutely aging every single day.  It is never too early or too late to start making some changes that can make a huge difference in how we age.

First of all, what is aging?  Aging is the gradual loss of functional ability and it varies by individual.

Our chronological age is measured by the years since our birth.  Functional aging relates to attributes: Our appearance, our mobility, our strength and our mental clarity.  We cannot change or control our chronological age, but we can absolutely make a difference in our functional age. We can functionally be younger (or older) than our chronological age.  Lifestyle choices make a Difference. The interaction of lifestyle, environment and genetics affects the aging process. The lifestyle choices we make relative to our physical activity and nutrition are up to us as well as some healthier choices within our home environment.

Some statistics:  Currently adults 65+ make up 12.5% of the US population. Projections are that by 2050 that number will be 25% or greater than 70 million individuals.  85% in that age group suffers from at least 1 chronic condition and 57% of our annual total healthcare expenditures in the US are within that age group or $12,000 for every older adult.  Many chronic conditions are greatly affected by our lifestyle choices – up to 80% according to many functional medicine physicians and researchers.   What is the most prevalent cause of death in older adults?  Heart Disease.  Coronary artery disease develops early, but symptoms do not present until later in life.  If we lead a healthier lifestyle, the less impact coronary artery disease has on us. The later in life symptoms present equals a longer life with less disability.   The earlier we adopt healthier lifestyle habits the better.

What is the number one habit you can adopt right now that will make the greatest impact?  ACTIVITY.  Be more active every single day; physically and mentally.  Sit less, move more.  Get up out of your recliner and get moving.  Take a walk.  Take a bike ride.  Sweep your leaves off your deck instead of using a leaf blower.  Make 2 trips instead of one when carrying in your groceries.  Visit your neighbor and ask him or her to go with you to Lowe’s and walk around the warehouse if the weather isn’t cooperating for an outdoor walk.  Do some bodyweight exercises such as wall push-ups or squats while you brush your teeth, prepare dinner or while you are on hold waiting for someone to answer the phone. If you do have a favorite TV show you think you just can’t miss – you can do planks for your Core strength while you are watching.   Look for opportunities – they are there.

I’m going to be blunt.  Being sedentary is a shortcut to the cemetery.  I’m not hankering to get there any quicker and I certainly want to be independent and feeling as great as I possibly can all the way to the grave.  Let’s be honest:  I want to look as great as I can too.  Why not?  Life is going on now so why spend any of it feeling less than awesome if you can do something about it?

When it comes to exercise, make it weight bearing for your heart, bones and muscles. Walking and dancing are weight bearing exercises.  Taking part in a strength training program that incorporates cardio-respiratory, stabilization, and power is vitally important throughout our life, but especially when we are over 30.  Yes, 30.   Our bone mass peaks around age 30 and starts gradually declining after that. After age 50, that decline accelerates and that significantly increases our risk of osteoporosis.  In addition to bone mass decline, we are also losing skeletal muscle each and every year unless we are doing something about it. We can put the brakes on that decline by using and challenging our musculoskeletal system: skeletal muscle, bones and joints. Without strong bones and muscles we lose our strength and mobility which means our independence; and we are at risk for injury, fractures and death.   One-Third of adults over age 65 will suffer an accident, primarily falls. 25% of older adults die within one year of sustaining a hip injury due to a fall.  WHOA!  Many of these risk factors are preventable and can be modified by exercise interventions.

With that said, you need to be smart about starting a new exercise program especially if you are an older adult and/or have medical conditions.  Seek professional guidance and training from individuals who are trained to work with older adults and will work with your healthcare provider to ensure you are training safely and correctly.

Have your own health care improvement plan and get started today so that your functional age knocks your chronological age out of the ball park.   The earlier you start the better.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It. 

How I Want To Change The World

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do” ~ Anonymous

In what crazy way do I want to change the world?  This question was posed to me in a class I was taking and I answered it this way:

I want to change the world by empowering women over 50 to become stronger physically and emotionally by embracing and loving themselves in the here and now while transforming themselves to be the very best that they want to be while serving as agents of change for younger women.

As a younger woman, I really didn’t give it much thought.  “IT” being my contribution; how I may be able to make a difference in the world.  If I gave it any thought, it was fleeting or maybe I just don’t remember it since I was so busy getting my feet on the ground and wading through life.  Having strong women as mentors and guides to provide straight-up, real wisdom is so important.  Do we get enough?  All too often – no, we don’t.  Not because it isn’t out there, but perhaps it’s because of lack of access or the ability to tap into it.  With that said, I did have some amazing women when I was younger, after my mom died when I was 17, who provided me with much insight, humor, knowledge, love and glimpses at how the world works.  Our experiences in life and how we navigate through them shape us and mold us into the women we become.  Being willing and able to share our knowledge – to hand it down and pay it forward – that is where it’s at.   How can we create that circle?  That circle of love, light, knowledge and empowerment?

Maybe it starts with No Fear. Casting outside our hesitation, our Fear if you would, of opening ourselves up and sharing.  Sharing our experiences and be willing to be those mentors and guides through our actions and our words and making sure we are accessible and available.  It takes a village.  Luckily, we have a very big village; a village that encompasses neighborhoods, cities, states, regions and countries.  A village that now has very few walls thanks to technology which serves to make the very large world not such a big place after all.  It is indeed a very small world sometimes.  What experience or experiences in your life could someone else learn from, gain comfort from, gain No Fear from?  If you’ve made it through – they can too.  How did you make it through?  What did you learn from it?  Did you cry? Did you laugh? What would you do again? What would you do differently?  Often it’s not so much the content of your sharing, but the fact that you are.  My parents instilled in me many things, but the one lesson I consider to be my foundation: That I can do ANYTHING that I set my mind to.  Despite that foundation, I struggle with nagging fears and doubts sometimes and it is always so awesome to have someone that I can talk to and get my feet back underneath me again.  We all need more of that.

When I answered the question of how I want to change the world: I did so intuitively. The answer that came out is what immediately hit my mind and my fingers to type.  As I’ve reflected on it, I realize that the answer is way bigger in scope than I can even wrap my arms around and communicate effectively.  Then, it happened. I got my answer. I got my answer on how to proceed to finish up this train of thought.  It came in the form of an email.  Let me share it with you.  The subject line of the email was: OMG! I Feel So Empowered.

I grew up in the middle of the “modern feminist movement.” I guess you could call me a woman’s libber. It was a time of fighting for “equal pay for equal work” and Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs. For most of my life I’ve felt like I was a strong woman, pretty independent. The one area in my life I have never felt good about is the way I look. I’ve always felt I was too fat, too short, too this, too that.  

I have seen woman become more and more empowered, yet our young women still struggle with self-image/esteem issues. We are judgmental creatures. We assign labels: ‘the pretty one’ or the smart one’. For me it was ‘the fat one’. I have fought this label all my life.

 Today for the first time in my entire life I can confidently say “I am a strong, independent, beautiful woman!” I refuse to listen to negative self-talk. If I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would tell her she is looking good. I would encourage her to eat a healthy diet, with lots of foods that will fuel that powerful wonderful body she has. I would teach her how to lift weights so she will have strong muscles throughout her life. I would encourage her to do or be whatever she wanted, not what others thought she should or could. 

You see, it was “just” a Deadlift.  The woman who wrote me that email pulled her first set of deadlifts earlier that afternoon.  I taught her to do that.  By doing that, she found her strength; her inner power. She got in touch with part of her that had been locked away inside. She stripped away a label that she had worn her entire life.  She now feels that she can do anything that she sets her mind to doing.

I want to give as many women as possible that experience – the experience of discovering their own beauty, their strength, their power, their confidence and their ability to change the world.  We can all change the world starting with our little chunk of it.  If girls could grow into women with the knowledge that they are a total package and can absolutely do anything that they set their minds to; that they are not just their body, their hair, the clothes they wear or the love interests that they attract – how totally amazing would that be?

Life.  It is going on Now.  It is your body & your life, so ROCK IT OUT.

Deadlift.  Definitely deadlift.  I want to teach any woman, no matter her age, how to Deadlift.   Changing the world starting with my little chunk of it.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It.

“To acquire true self power you have to feel beneath no one, be immune to criticism and be fearless” ―       Deepak Chopra