The study of aging is a relatively new field of science. It wasn’t until the last century that we started to see both lifespan and quality of life extend exponentially. And it wasn’t until the last 50 years that researchers started to take a serious look at aging.
And as a physical therapist who works with older adults, aging is a topic I research often. A simple Google search provides a plethora of information on solutions that hold the supposed “cure” to aging. How should anyone know where to start to sort this information out? And what really does work?
"Aging is not a disease, otherwise living would be a disease, but you can't make money off satisfaction." -Ashton Applewhite
First of all, aging isn’t a disease that needs to be “cured”. As author Ashton Applewhite would say, aging is living. And it doesn't have to be a state of decline to be dreaded and avoided.
If any solution is touting itself as the ultimate...
We’ve all been there before. It’s the start of a new year, so you set some lofty goals for the year. You tell yourself it’s finally your time, you can be a whole new you. Then you start out full force, overhauling every aspect of your life.
But then comes the end of January. And that initial enthusiasm is starting to fizzle. Sound familiar?
I see this cycle in my clinic day in and day out. One of the most difficult aspects of my work as a physical therapist is helping my clients maintain motivation to meet their health goals.
The cycle almost always looks the same. When someone first adopts any new health practice, there is initial positive progress. And then a plateau. Which is normal.
And this is when it gets tough. Plateaus happen on our way toward reaching any goal. And they make us want to stop because the effort to change doesn’t seem to amount to anything. But the only way to get past the plateau is to keep moving forward.
“One of the most interesting study findings has to do with attitudes toward aging itself. Young middle-aged people (in their forties and fifties) with positive feelings about growing older- gaining wisdom, freedom from working, opportunities to travel and learn more- tended to enjoy better health, and better cognitive health later in life.” — Bill Gifford
I spend a lot of my day talking about how our attitudes impact our aging and health. Coming from a young person, I get a lot of dirty looks and people telling me I don't understand reality.
But this isn’t just some delusional thinking coming from what I would like aging to be. No. Our attitudes and beliefs influencing our health as we age are actually backed by research.
The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging is the longest-running study we have on aging today. It’s produced a huge volume of data that’s been sifted through by researchers to develop a...
I was listening to a podcast the other day related to business and there was one statement on the dangers of adopting a victim mentality that stuck with me.
“If you have a victim mentality, you’ll only get victim results”. -Mignon Francois
This can be applied to any area of our life, including health. And we are all guilty of adopting a victim mentality at one point or another. One of the most common pitfalls I see others making when it comes to health is holding onto this mentality with a death grip.
The reality is you’ll get out of your health what you’re willing to put in. And investing in yourself means admitting that you have control over your circumstances. This starts with shedding victimhood.
You would never expect your retirement account to grow if you aren’t making incremental investments over time. If you feel like a victim of the system you probably wouldn’t start investing in the first place. And you can’t expect your...
My years as a physical therapist specializing in helping older adults age well have given me insight into the daily habits all healthy people have in common (and all the habits unhealthy people have in common, but that’s a story for another day).
The reality is, their habits have more to do with their mindset than any specific approach they take to their health.
I’ve seen healthy people who lift, run, or have no formal movement practice. Some are yogis and some swear by Tai Chi. Some are vegetarians while others are keto or low carb.
So if the answer to health doesn’t lie in a specific approach, then where can you find it?
It’s all about the ways in which you view the world and what you have control over. Health stems from a mindset.
Here are the 7 habits all healthy people have in common:
"The less convenient, the more it pays." -Seth Godin
You can’t be healthy unless you’re willing to experience discomfort....
“Until you actually learn to fall, your nervous system will never truly know that it is actually safe to fall.” -Dr. Shante Cofield
I spend the majority of my time discussing concerns about falls with my clients, so it’s on my mind often. As a physical therapist specializing in empowering adults throughout the aging process, both the future and current risk of falls are the number one concern each of my clients express. And to guide them through this process, I have to help them analyze both the physical and psychological risk factors. Because they both play a major role.
Another one of my roles is to help all adults adopt forms of physical activity and exercise they enjoy. We’ve all heard the health benefits of physical activity, which are created by exposing ourselves to controlled stress. And this defines the actual purpose of exercise, or putting yourself in any uncomfortable situation. To allow your body to adapt by exposing yourself to...
“He or she who has the greatest capacity for discomfort rises the fastest.” -Brene Brown
I’m currently about 6 months pregnant, which is the phase of pregnancy where almost every movement starts to become uncomfortable and more challenging by the day. There are moments where it’s tempting to allow myself to seek comfort where I can. But I know making the choice to continue to move even when it isn’t an easy choice will lead to a more comfortable final few months of pregnancy and recovery post-partum.
So what does this look like?
Choosing to sit on the floor instead of curling up on the couch. Squatting to pick something up instead of bending over. Walking and taking the stairs as much as possible. Instead of looking at my ever-changing body as an inconvenience, I can see it as an opportunity for strengthening and being creative in adapting my movement.
While it sounds silly to make these small choices, they make a huge difference over time. And...
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a copy of the book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford. I keep a running list of books related to health and aging, but this one wasn’t on my list and caught my eye. I’m so happy I picked it up. The comprehensive information in the book blew me away. I will summarize a little bit below but I highly recommend picking up a copy.
The author of the book, Bill Gifford, is a journalist who became curious about aging after watching the very different aging trajectories of his great uncle and his grandfather. How could two siblings live such drastically different lives? His great uncle was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and died in his 70’s while his grandfather lived a very active and playful life, still farming into his 90’s when he suddenly passed from an infection.
Bill Gifford decided do a little investigating of his own. Why do we all age so differently? Is there a way to predict how we will...
It's a great time to start to talk about health goal-setting for the new year. So I'm here to share the 5 step process I use to set my annual goals.
Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of traditional New Year's resolutions. They set most of us up for failure and we have a bad habit of using them to shame ourselves. If this sounds like you, read on to learn what to do instead. I'll be sharing what I do to start the new year off right and reach my biggest goals.
I recommend setting aside 30 minutes to an hour to think this through and write it down on paper. Continue to review these monthly throughout the year using a shortened version of what we're doing today.
One of the most important and overlooked aspects of goal-setting is to start off by listing off what you did well over the last year. This way you don't start the process of goal setting off by shaming yourself or thinking that you need...
The other day I was browsing through the comments in a Facebook group of women over the age of 50 discussing fitness. One caught my eye, and it’s not because it was the first time I had read the sentiment being expressed.
It was a woman frustrated with the amount of conflicting information coming at her from the diet and fitness industry. She couldn't decide where to start. Keto or intermittent fasting? Should I buy books on these approaches? What are macros? What fitness program should I follow? CrossFit or Orange Theory?
The underlying issue was too much information to make a decision. The overwhelm in her plea was clear. And within the comment, she also mentioned feeling the need to purchase a bunch of equipment and supplements before she could even get started.
And therein lies the problem. Our lack of health isn't due to a lack of information. Instead, information overwhelm leads us down a path of not taking action. And that is the most dangerous path of all.