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. 

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