Healthspan, Not Lifespan
A quarter of Americans are completely sedentary. They do no physical activity at all. The number of physically inactive American adults rises as people get older, with that number jumping to 26% for adults aged 50 to 64, 27% for those aged 65 to 74, and 35% for people aged 75 years and older. However, this trend is driven by the myth that it's natural for your physical activity to decrease as we age. Sport is for the young, and it's inevitable to move less the older we get. Daniel Lieberman, a professor in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, says "this may be the most damaging exercise myth."
“Before modern medicine, what determined how long you lived was actually how long you were healthy, your ‘healthspan’,” he explained. “And what physical activity does is it increases your healthspan, and your healthspan therefore increases your lifespan.” Currently, in America, the average lifespan stands at about 76.4 years. But what if your lifespan is mostly spent damaged, broken, or impaired? That's not a very fulfilling use of your lifespan. We want to be able to continue to play sports, play with your kids or grand kids, travel, and enjoy all the bounties that life has to offer. This capacity becomes critically diminished when you are not healthy.
Walk Like an Egyptian
In the past, hunter-gatherers stayed physically fit even in their old age due to their active lifestyle. Despite the common misconception that activities such as walking, bending, lifting, and carrying might harm their muscles, it actually helped maintain them. As a result, elderly hunter-gatherers today tend to avoid the frailty that affects many adults in Western societies. "Today, modern medicine, safer environments, and far better nutrition do keep people alive much longer," Lieberman adds. "But these advances don’t necessarily make them physically healthier."
It's vitally important to not cut back on exercise, especially strength training. Strength training, often found in the form of weightlifting, is essential for maintaining bone density and muscle mass. Both of which decrease considerably as we age if not kept in check. Exercise not only helps maintain strength, but also balance and coordination. This helps decrease risk and severity of injuries such as falls. Plus, exercise also helps you save time and money in doctors visits. The CDC says that four of the five most costly chronic conditions among adults aged 50 or older — arthritis, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes — can be prevented or managed through physical activity.
If you want to make sure you're maximizing your healthspan, get in touch with us and see if we can help. We offer exercise recommendations, spinal and joint assessments, nutritional advice, and recommendations for staying healthy well into your years.