Be Like A Shark

Did you know that a shark can’t stop moving like most fish? They can’t stop to rest, or to sleep, or just to take a moment to enjoy their surroundings. Most fish breath similar to the way you do so they move water past their gills. Sharks can’t do this, so if they want to enjoy the benefits of oxygen they can never stop. They have to keep moving to move water past their gills. In other words they move or they die. Of course, you are not a shark. But…

When we get older it gets harder to stay physically active at just the time when it is more important than ever to consciously work at it.

There comes a time, usually about the time we are thinking seriously about retiring, when we can no longer fool ourselves about our ability to maintain the quality of physical activity that we had when we were young.

It might come from a realization that you can no longer walk very far without getting a bit winded, or in the new struggle involved with getting up out of an armchair or climbing stairs.

This age is not the same for all of us, and it’s impact is varied, but it will come nonetheless. If you have been physically active all your life and maintained a healthy weight you may well fare better than the rest of us. Perhaps your realizaton will come with reduce marathon times or more time to recover from mountain climbing.

The fact is that muscle mass tends to decrease with age at the same time and at a similar rate to our tendency to gain weight. It doesn’t take a lot of math skill to see where competing trends like this lead.

The generation that is now retiring at a rate of ten-thousand a day is the first generation that was raised at a time when technological advances finally lead to the realization of the age old dream of automation putting an end to a working career comprised of years of long hard physical labor. Not for everyone, of course, but for many.

This easing of the physical burden came at the same time as a huge increase in the number and type of entertainment distractions that involve passive consumption of media. Video games, VCRs and social media came along just in time for us to compliment our days spent doing paperwork with evenings spent watching 57 channels or catching up with people all over the world on social media.

That means that as a group we tend to be facing longer lives that might not be as fulfilling as we would hope.

Looking at the best examples of people living retired lives, and that is what we tend to do, might give the impression that most older folk live vigorous lives doing the things they didn’t get around to when they were young. That is a possibility, of course, but not if your retirement plan involves more of the same sedentary activities that you thought of as relaxation.

Some recent studies have tended to show that along with increased life expectancies comes increased infirmity. That is. that while we might be living longer on average, we are not living healthy active lives longer than before, but that we are managing to hang on longer after we start to go downhill.

Of course there is good news. Both decreases in muscle mass and increases in weight are things that can be adressed. One answer to not being able to walk without getting winded is to get out and walk. Walk a bit today. Walk a bit more tomorrow. Similarly, you can learn how to eat healthier and eat less.

The boomers are classically referred to as the group that refuses to get old. And that is great. So much of living well starts with attitude. But if your desire when you retire is to live a long, active and healthy life, you had better plan on just where staying in shape is going to fit into your plans.

Move or die.

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