Move It or Lose It. From Fit to Frail – An Inevitable Progression?

Why is it that some older people, like these octogenarian athletes, are out running marathons, while others as young as 50 struggle just to get up out of a recliner and walk across the room? Is it merely the luck of the genetic draw? Or do we actually have a say in the condition of our body as we age?

While my daily routine certainly isn’t one of 5-mile sunrise jogs or training for half marathons, I am a firm believer in remaining active – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and have discovered firsthand that the more energy you expend, the more energy you have – particularly when investing in the activities you’re most passionate about. In my case:

  • Long or short, exploratory hikes through the woods with grandchildren or friends
  • Traveling around the world for speaking engagements or just some adventure
  • Advocating for and brainstorming with those working to redefine the future of aging care
  • Leading a team of aging care marketing experts
  • Sustainable gardening and creative kitchen exploits from garden to table
  • Engaging in the arts through study, visitation, and outreach (not to mention painting and projects with the grands)

What are your passions? List them out and implement a plan to live them out as fully as possible. That is a great first step to sparking your energy level. From there, try these practical tips to maintain it and stave off frailty:

  • Catch warning signs of frailty early. Lifestyle changes and/or medication can help in many cases with signs of oncoming frailty, such as losing weight unintentionally, weakness, exhaustion, low activity level, balance issues, and a slower or changed gait.
  • Get moving. Since loss of muscle mass is one cause of frailty, increasing activity as much as possible (with doctor’s approval, of course) can help. And it does not have to be marathons. Just parking farther away from the door to the grocery is a start. Or taking stairs instead of elevators or escalators.
  • Improve your diet. An incredible 74% of older adults who followed the Mediterranean diet were shown less likely to experience frailty. What you eat really does matter. And including plenty of protein to give the muscles a boost is crucial. The more colorful the better. The fresher and more organic the better as well.
  • Stay social – and positive. An optimistic attitude is linked to a reduced risk of frailty, particularly when combined with remaining socially engaged and continuously learning. Researchers at Johns Hopkins discovered, for example, that seniors who volunteer in elementary schools have a higher level of physical functioning and sharpened thinking skills. Find something that interests you and seek others who share your passions.

While naturally, some aspects of getting older and dealing with aging are simply out of our control, it’s encouraging to know that so much of our lives can be directly impacted by our daily and lifetime choices. And it’s truly never too late to start to improve the direction of your tomorrows.

So what will you do today to take a step away from future frailty and towards healthier and happier aging? As for me…the North Carolina mountains (and the grandchildren) are beckoning, and I must go!