50 is the new 30

By DIANA HAINES

Sometimes, things just go my way. Fifty has suddenly become the new thirty and I’m still in my forties, putting me somewhere in my twenties, which is really strange since I have a 16 year old. Who am I to argue?

The whole age thing becomes a little confusing after a certain point. I’ve had so many birthdays; I can’t quite remember which one I’m on right now. It seems like my age changes monthly, so I’ve resorted to just repeating the year I was born. That never changes. Let someone else do the math.

It’s not that I didn’t know I was getting older, it’s just that I didn’t notice. My kids say things like, “Mom, you look good. You still look like you’re in yourthirties,” then they ask me for money, so I don’t know if I can really believe them. The years just kind of creep up on a body, and if you don’t watch it, you find yourself sedentary, overweight and, let’s face it, looking old. The great irony of aging is that about the time we become really comfortable in our own skin is also about the time it stops looking near as good. There is, however, a highly effective way to slow and even reverse the aging process.

Peggy Keel, owner of Sports Village says, “There is no pill you can take that compares to exercising if you want to fight aging.” Branda Polk is a lifetime wellness coach. She says it is never too late to start exercising. “The really great thing about the human body is that it always has the ability to make improvements. Our muscles have memory. They know how to be strong, we just have to remind them.” Polk tells the story of working with a client that was an avid tennis player and in really good shape. “She started getting injuries to her shoulders and other joints in her body. We set up a targeted exercise program for her. We set out to strengthen the areas where she was having weakness. She ended up being a better tennis player in her early 50’s than she had been all of her life.”

Brian Rumsey is a post rehab trainer and he explains the effect of exercise on aging this way, “In our 40’s, our posture starts to break down. That’s because the smaller muscles in our body get weak and can’t support the larger muscle groups. We get stuck in our day to day activities and then we do something different, like moving a piece of furniture, we get really hurt. It’s important to incorporate a training program to work smaller muscles as well as the larger muscle groups, then posture would be improved and injuries would be reduced. It’s important to keep your spine and your core strong. Don’t look at your mother and say, I’m going to end up slumped over like her, no matter what I do. Our DNA tells us what we could be, not what we have to be. Exercise makes the difference.”

The Biggest Loser on NBC has gone a long way in proving that exercise and proper nutrition can change lives. At the same time, it’s a little bit intimidating when you watch Jillian Michaels strap a locomotive to some poor guy’s back and yell, “Do you really want this? Prove to me you want this!” while he’s trying to pull the engine up a mountain. Laura McMillan has spent her life motivating people to get and stay in shape. I like her approach a little better. “It’s really simple. Put more out than you take in.”

Fitness, at any age, is not a hard sell. There’s not a medical study out there that doesn’t tout the benefits of a regular exercise regime for everybody at any age. Clearly, the hardest step is the first one – the one that gets you off the couch. Ask yourself what you like. Do you want to exercise indoors or outdoors? Do you like competition or would you prefer towork alone? Do you want to build strength or lose weight?

Fifty is not old at all, not like I thought it was when I was 10. With the innovations in the medical community, someday 60 may be the new 30. Remember, If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself is meant to be a joke, not a motto. Everyone is getting in shape and staying in shape, so it certainly must be doable. Personally, I’ll take the experience of my decades any day, as long as I have a reasonable exercise program and, maybe, the phone number of a good plastic surgeon.

• Set a reasonable fitness goal. Success breeds success. Don’t set out to run the New York Marathon two months before the race. In fact, don’t set out to run a marathon at all. Those races are really hard.

• Get a health screening. One of the best things about a health screening is that it will give you a base line from which you can measure your progress. Your blood pressure will improve or your cholesterol will get in line and you’ll have the documentation to prove it.

• Choose a qualified fitness coach. Your bad knees may not be as bad as you think. It could be that your thighs are weak. A fitness coach can help you figure out your limitations and build the supporting muscles that need strengthening.

• Start slowly. A good exercise program is like adding coats of shellac to a piece of furniture. You can’t do it all at once. It builds protection over time.

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