Longevity and The Adventure Life

It is now generally accepted that aging is plastic and that how we age is becoming more and more under our control. Many people believe that this is due to things such as better hygiene (personally and socially), better medicine, and even safer work conditions. And, while these reasons are valid and true for increasing our life expectancy, they are not the reason for humans to live longer. The most important factor in longevity is lifestyle.


"80% of all deaths are lifestyle related"

Improved hygiene greatly improved our odds of getting through childhood. Better medicine (like antibiotics) took care of diseases that got us in early adulthood. Safer work conditions even helped us get through to retirement age (barely). But for every hurdle we clear, there seems to be another one waiting to appear, like we are running through a never ending gauntlet (future post  coming soon) of diseases and ailments. But the hurdles we face now are more and more due to lifestyle choices that are completely, 100 percent, under our own control.

Our bodies evolved over millions of years to walk and run over long distances, to lift things, climb things, and most importantly, to throw things. We’ve even retained the ability to swing from things (somewhat) as a bonus. Darwin says that what doesn’t hold you back, doesn’t get lost. Don’t quote me on that. We are the most physically well-adapted creatures on the planet (humans would easily destroy any other creature in a intraspecies decathlon). Yet most of us (and the number is growing), are content to let this supercharged vessel, with all of this “god-given” athleticism just sit idle on the couch of life (trademark pending).

"The baby boom generation is the first in centuries that has actually turned out to be less healthy than their parents, thanks largely to diabetes, poor diet, and general physical laziness."

Some may argue that this is exactly what we evolved into. That this is what evolution does. We tamed our surroundings, we controlled nature (somewhat), and we created a much easier, or predictable way to survive and prosper. This I can’t argue with, but I would say that in the process, we have found newer and more devious ways to take years off our lives. I would argue that these are better years as well.

Aging
When we are born our bodies channel mass amounts of energy into incredible growth levels, puberty brings on a flood of hormones triggering that final growth push into adulthood, a leveling off during our child-producing years, then in our 40’s things start to go awry. We begin losing bone density and muscle mass. Our cardiorespiratory capacity starts to diminish, as well as our balance and walk/run pace. The ultimate destination of this process is our arch enemy, the crusher of the inner adventurers spirit and soul - frailty.

Upcoming post - What Is Aging?

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, frailty almost predictably leads to the cataclysm that I refer to as The Fall. The Fall is not just an occurrence but an event (usually a fall) that puts an exclamation point on the aging process. It is literally a fall, but it is metaphorically, that cliff our health falls off that signifies a sharper decline in our overall health and wellness. An old age smack across the back of the head. It is the point that most elderly people can point to as the event that triggered their massive decline. But what they don’t recognize or want to recognize is that that “event” began long before they ever realized.

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way
Like I said in the beginning of this post - aging is plastic and within our control if we are willing to take control of it. If 80% of deaths are lifestyle related, then adopting a lifestyle that is conducive to living longer puts us in that 20% bracket of people who die from random chance, or mountain climbing, or skydiving, or rock climbing. Remember - “Safety Third.”

But this is just the starting point because this isn’t just about putting more years in our lives, but more life in our years. And by adopting a more adventurous lifestyle, we can not only join that upper 20% but, with a few more tweaks, leap to the head of that group.


Do we slow down because we get old, or do we get old because we slow down?

It All Starts With a Choice
We can choose to accept the physical and eventually, mental decline that accompanies aging gracefully, or we can reject that outlook and choose a different path. A path where we determine not only how we will live, but how we will die as well. What do they say? “If you’re not busy living, then you’re busy dying.”

Start by taking the oath - “I will never say the words - I’m too old to do that.” Personally, I have decided that my body will decide when I’m too old to do something, not my mind.


“When we say we’re getting too old to do something, that’s when we are.”

Quick Tips to Fight Aging
Get exercising to increase your cardio capacity and strengthen your heart. Just adding a daily walk will add several years to your life. But don’t stop there, because just walking gets boring. Kick it up a notch and start hiking, or biking, or mountain biking! When you’re hiking, add a pack, and put some weight in it. Make it more challenging than it has to be, this is when you will start to really benefit from it. And by the way, this is where the adventure starts.

Get stronger by lifting weights and train with intensity to increase bone density and muscle mass. If your heart isn't pumping hard, add more resistance.

And eat more fiber. Much more. As much of it as possible. You know it’s healthy, but it may be the single easiest thing you can do to improve your long-term health. Or at least you will be very regular!

Ultimately, we need to play. Play like we did when we were children. We need to run, jump, climb, ride, explore, fall down, get banged up, scraped up, cut up, and maybe even break something once in awhile. We need to experience the pain and discomfort that comes with the adventure, so we can be reminded that we are alive, not numb and complacent on the couch. We need to bring back that inner child that we put away way too prematurely and so long ago.




See you out there!
Jim

Suggested Reads:

Spring Chicken - by Bill Giffords
Fast After 50 - by Joel Friel