How to Be Younger Next Year

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For most of my adult life, I’ve been a fan of health and fitness.  I started running at Stanford my sophomore year, completing the 4-mile loop with increasing levels of stamina, and went on to participate in 5 full marathons in San Francisco, Honolulu and Los Angeles.  Living in chilly San Francisco over the past few years, I became a huge fan of Bikram yoga; I loved the heat and the incredible all-body workout so much that I willing put up with and took classes from*yoga nazi* Darius, owner of Funky Door (more like Funky Odor) as regularly as my schedule allowed.

Now that I live in Panama with aging parents — Mom is 72 and Dad is 91 — I am even more tuned-in to the importance of staying healthy.  Yes, I’m still terribly concerned with my figure, with being *as cute as I can be* and with staying in shape.  But I’m also newly motivated to be healthy and strong in order to enjoy the extended quality of life fitness offers.
About 10 years ago, Dad stopped exercising while living with Mom in Gardernerville, Nevada.  Since I wasn’t there, I’m not sure what happened exactly, why he decided to give up taking care of himself through exercise.  Mom encouraged him to continue his nightly walks, but being a somewhat stubborn individual, he chose not to listen.
He also stopped engaging himself in projects, stopped stimulating his mind.  For many years in St. Louis, Dad owned and managed apartment buildings which he was always busy fixing and renting.  After moving to Gardenerville, he no longer had his business to keep him occupied.  He also didn’t have any hobbies.  Dad didn’t play golf or tennis or go out with buddies to drink beer.  He was a generous person but not one to volunteer his time at non-profit or take up community activities.   Dad’s hobby was working, being up to things, making them better, and earning money.  Once he stopped doing those things, he slowly started to disconnect.
Mom, on the other hand, has always been a connector and, therefore, interested in staying connected.  She *retired* from medicine when she moved to Nevada and then started a totally new business in a new field and founded a non-profit organization here in Panama.  She witnessed Dad’s entire ageing process and made a personal commitment to create a different experience for herself.
Unfortunately, Mom fell and fractured her hip last year; she is still working very hard to recover.  Luckily her injury was not worse.  Did you know that twenty percent of women who fall down and break a hip die within one year?  Or that hip fractures kill more women each year — about 300,00 — than breast cancer?  Twenty-five percent of women who break a hip will end up in a nursing home.  And twenty-five percent will be at home, but dependent on a wheelchair or walker to get around the house, and dependent on someone else to get through each day.
I learned these facts reading Younger Next Year for Women, which I purchased because Suzanne Sieloff recommended it.  I don’t know Suzanne but came across her on BodyBuilding.com and was totally motivated by her transformation.  Here are her pics at ages 45 and 50.  Pretty awesome.

Younger Next Year stresses the importance of staying engaged as we grow older and also strongly encourage readers to exercise six days a week, two of those days reserved for lifting weights.  Through facts and anecdotes, it tries to create a sense of urgency around working out, thereby allowing us to avoid emergencies.

So start now.  Do something physical each day.  Do not give up.  If you don’t already participate in sports, find something you like to do and do it.  And go to the gym as well.  That’s where the big heavy weights are waiting to be picked up.  Don’t worry — you can put them right back down.  Yes, I know it’s not easy.  Even though I love to workout, I often struggle to fit it into my schedule or bail because I don’t feel like it.  Then I remember the alternative — eventual vascular dementia or fractures due to silent, creeping osteoporosis.

Suddenly a long walk or short run on the treadmill doesn’t seem so bad.

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9 responses »

  1. Like you Laura, this is also my passion. My mother died at age 36 from cancer and though it was a huge loss to me as I entered puberty, it forged my character and my life path. I became a doctor of medicine at a young age, but quickly realized that medicine though life saving in acute situations, as in your mother’s case, it certainly does not have the answer to chronic degenerative disease. There were too many egos and pockets to be lined, to allow honest debate about the true nature of disease.

    Fifteen years ago, after burnout I left medicine and now promote wellness and personal responsibility in all matters to do with health. I’m a few months short of 60 and each day I am grateful for my health and the gift of life as I look at people around me of a similar age with weight problems, arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, type 2 diabetes and so forth. The words of Dr Wentz Ph.D. ring so true when he says “People live to short and die too long”.

    I smile when someone tells me “Oh but I want to enjoy life” meaning I don’t want to stop drinking alcohol in excess and drink water when thirsty, follow a ‘soap’ on TV every day instead of read an inspiring book, watch sport instead of do some form of enjoyable exercise.

    Nowadays there are a host of environmental issues that compound the problems related to disease, but there are steps that can be taken to diminish the risk of degenerative disease through correct supplementation, avoidance of toxins on the skin and in food, filtering or distilling drinking water, etc. and choosing what we feed our minds and mouths.

    Health and quality of life is an active decision.
    Dr Liesbeth van Eerten

    • Hi Liesbeth. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response and for sharing your story. I agree that health is an active decision, one that seems to get harder and harder to make due to the conveniences of technology, the abundance of food most of us have access to and and the mostly sedentary and often stressful lives most of us lead.

      I’m so happy and grateful to live here in Panama and to enjoy a quality of life that was not available to me in busy San Francisco.

      Let’s go for a walk sometime? It would be great to see you soon.

      Love yourself healthy,

      Laura

  2. Sounds wonderful. Yes, I too chose a better life and Panama ticks all the boxes! My daughter arrives with her two doggies to take up residency on the 5th Feb, so it would be great to walk and talk, and introduce her to your 4-legged ‘family’.

  3. I agree with you 100%. Some time ago I happened to sit at the steps of Grace Cathedral early morning hours and what i noticed on the other side of the street was quite though provoking. There were twenty or thirty elder Asian people doing Tai Chi ~ and then it dawned to me, I have practically never seen homeless Asian person. It may sound a bit far stretched, but what I took from that notion is that until the body stays active, the mind stays active and the probability of becoming homeless is close to zero 🙂

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