Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Retirement - Living A Dream


As time goes by I realize that what I do at the gym is not the norm.  I look at folks over 50 and see lots and lots of guts.  No, not like the guts it takes to work out hard - the guts that stick out in front of folks and create medical issues. 

 Our country does not have a health-care crisis - it has a fat crisis.

I do my best to follow the current topics in the medical world – recently read about tests that can now identify 79 genetic reasons folks tend to put on weight.  Reminds me of comments that I hear pretty regularly, about how so many folks are overweight because of their genetics. 

Hmmm – given that our genetics don’t change in mere years, decades, or even centuries, perhaps it would be informative to look at the incidence of folks that were overweight and/or obese in the 1800’s. 

What I found was that, back in the 1800’s, around 70% of the population in America was in the “normal” weight range.  Specifically, they referenced folks with a BMI of 18.5 to less than 25.  Today?  Well, instead of 70% of the population being normal, we now find 70% are overweight, with roughly half of those being obese. 

WOW.  And Hmmmm.  If being overweight is the result of genetics – what’s happened in the last couple of hundred years?  Have the genetics of the American public mutated to increase our fat genes?  Highly unlikely that.  As in no, that is not what has happened.  Folks today simply eat too much, eat too little fiber, and don’t exercise enough. 

So, what the heck does this have to do with living a dream in retirement?  I suspect it can best be summarized by a couple of things that happened at the gym over the last two weeks.

One day I was showing a very fit young man how to do novel chin-ups.  When done a lady in her 50’s who was doing lat pull-downs commented that she was amazed I could do something that someone much younger couldn’t do.  I said it was because I was older.  The look on her face was, to say the least, surprised, incredulous perhaps? 

To her age and decline go together.  She, like most folks, expect to be decrepit when they get old.  So, getting weaker by the time they are 50, maybe manage to hold out to 60?  But, gads, but 70 – suddenly golf is considered exercise! 

Then, yesterday, I invited a very fit young man to join us in our ring workout.  This young man was able to do a muscle-up on the rings on his second try.  He is truly very strong.  After about 30 minutes with me he said:  “I have to ask – just how old are you?”  He guessed I was in my 40’s, and was sort of disbelieving when I told him I am about to turn 63. 

Aging, like being overweight, is something that most of us don’t do nearly enough to prevent.

Back to the 1800’s.  At that time being overweight was viewed as a sign of being very prosperous.  As in, one had enough money to over-indulge.  Interestingly, from my research on the web about 1% of the population was obese.  Versus what, around 35% today?  

The diseases that plague America are often referred to as “Diseases of Affluence”.  Wikipedia does a good job of defining this term:  “chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other physical health conditions for which personal lifestyles and societal conditions associated with economic development are believed to be an important risk factor — such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, obesity, hypertension, cancer, alcoholism, gout, and some types of allergy”. 

Yup, today we too can be just as fat as the wealthiest folks in the 1800’s, and pay the same price!

There is no question that our genetics impacts our aging.  But, in most cases, the primary culprit is not the genetics we inherited from our parents – I am talking about the changes that occur in our genetic code that are related to life-style.  Specifically, I am talking about epigenetics and about the telomeres (a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes) which protects our genes from the deterioration that occurs naturally when we age.

Rather than try to explain epigenetics and telomeres, I will simply say that eating a whole-foods diet, lite on any kind of animal product and heavy on foods that contain soluble fiber (did you know that animal products contain no soluble fiber?) will both help one keep their weight in check and minimize damage to ones genes.  Exercise is the critical second element.  And no, I am not talking 30 minutes, 3 days a week, all that  will do is help you live longer (cardio benefit) but you will not be losing weight – which is critical for becoming younger.  You will not be getting younger – just continuing to get old and likely fatter.

 Nope – I am talking 5 times a week, and, if you are retired – you need to be talking at least an hour a day.  With plans to build up to longer workouts. 

How would you feel if you knew you were going to be weaker next year?  Is that an exciting thought?  I suspect easily 95% of America over the age of 40 falls in this category. 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Just think about how much better it would feel to know you are becoming stronger, both physically and metabolically?  Exercise, and diet – you truly can turn back the biological clock and look, and feel, younger next year. 

Retirement – being told over and over I look 20 years younger than I am.  That is truly living a dream.

OK – I apologize if the above is pushy, obnoxious, presumptive, un-caring, and refuses to accept your lame excuses for getting weaker each year (be real glad I don’t go into a discussion of the idea that riding a golf cart and swinging a club is exercise).  We have become an overweight nation, heading for the time when over 50% of America will be both obese and diabetic. 

It’s up to each of us to find our retirement dream.  Mine?  Yesterday I worked out with a hyperactive 10 year old who had previous gymnast training, 3 kids in their teens – each of which are very fit, a 30 year old who is phenomenally fit, and my lovely wife - who folks figure is around 40.  I also took a moment to show a couple of other folks some exercises that will benefit them.

Is this your picture of a 60 year old man?  It is my living dream.