Monday, 19 May 2008

Does retirement mean retiring your body?

Ok, here's another one. Where is it in our ~DNA that say's when we're past 50 we just can't do what we used to do? I'm serious. I haven't found one scientific article or even one person that I've met in the gym or elsewhere that proves to me that our DNA first of all knows how old we are and second has a hard wired date that it's gonna give up on us.

No, as I've said before I've met enough people who are just as capable at 60 or 80 as they were when they were twenty. in fact I've read of several people who are fitter.

Now to qualify that, Paula Radcliffe, the olympic long distance runner is not going to post medal winning times when she's 50 (atleast not against runners of 20 or 30 years old) but who cares. What most people care about is being able to live life to a high standard.

That means getting up stairs, driving a car, walking or even running after your grand kids and playing with them. No ones really bothered about winning medals at that age.

I've been wanting to post on this for a while but making a comment on http://modernforager.blogspot.com/2007/09/benefits-of-protein-for-elderly.html inspired me. I still remember working in a gym where you see this day to day and all I ever saw in people was that your body is willing to maintain itself at any stage of life (assuming there isn't an underlying illness) it's just about whether you know how to work with it.

What do I mean work with it?
Well as I mentioned earlier about osteporosis, just like the saying that you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink, your body is the same about most things. You can give it calcium, doesn't mean it';ll absorb it or put it into strong bones, it may just pee it out. You can give your body protein, it might just pee that out too.

What it needs is a stimulus. You need to make it want to take things up. The body has inbuilt patterns to adjust to events, you just have to trigger these patterns. Basically by getting active or making sure you don't stop or reduce your activity too much you make sure your body still has a need to absorb the calcium for the stronger bones, the protein for strong muscles, and more calories meaning more nutrients and fibre all round.

The most common thing with aging is a self fulfilling prophecy. This means that we are told to relax when we are older and as a result we retire so that we can 'take it easy' and so we don't expect as much of ourselves as we used to which means we don't challenge ourselves as much as we used to.. The problem is that our bodies don't care because retirement is not part of natures plan, It quite literally is not in our DNA and so the principle, use it or lose it, still applies to our abilities and health. The result is that most people lose their ability to move a lot because they don't move a lot. The detrimental impact this has on health is now becoming clear.

So I asked the question whether there is any part of our DNA that actually makes us less healthy and capable as we age. Though I know of nothing specific it is clear that over time our body makes less and less effort to keep itself maintained. That doesn't mean it loses the ability to maintain itself it is just that when you are younger your body maintains itself for you with out much help from you to be honest. When you're older the onus seems to be much more on on you to encourage your body to maintain itself properly. A big part of this is to say hold on a minute I still want to do things and to make this happen.

So don't let retirement get tthe better of you. Be active to stay active. Tell your body every day that it needs to be stronger tomorrow. That is the only way of ensuring the maintenance systems within your body are kept in order and will keep you at your best.

The only question is what types of activity make you smile? do more of those.
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