Willard Scott celebrates centenarians on The Today Show.

Longevity vs Healthy Aging

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

RESEARCH SHOWS THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL AGING IS MIDLIFE FITNESS

After a certain age, birthdays become a cruel reminder that the time we have in front of us is shorter than the time we have behind us. Euphemisms for growing old start to pepper our vocabulary. Aging gracefully, successful aging and active aging have actually crossed my lips already.

As I celebrate another birthday, I am once again reflecting on the aging process.

Lessons On Aging From The Century Club

I’ve learned a lot about healthy aging from the centenarians Willard Scott pays tribute to in his segments on The Today Show. (By the way, Willard turns 79 this month.) I’ve never heard a single one say they credit their longevity to following the Mediterranean Diet. Not only that, not a single one has ever admitted living anywhere near the Mediterranean Sea.

None of the smiling seniors Scott has featured in his morning interviews has ever said they did Pilates every day, or yoga, or crunches. In fact, I can’t recall any fitness tips from any of them.

No one who has celebrated their 100th birthday with The Today Show has bothered to mention that they ate only organic food their entire life or lived it without sugar, salt and white flour. To the contrary, the one thing they all had in common was eating plenty of birthday cake!

Making Healthy Aging a Way of Life

When I looked for evidence of an anti-aging formula in the scientific literature there was only one thing that was 100 percent guaranteed: It’s big business.

Sales of things that promise to slow the aging process probably jumped with the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It informs us that we are all going to live longer thanks to modern medicine and new technology that can keep us alive in spite of our bad habits, but we’re not necessarily going to enjoy those added years. The irony is we’ll be having more birthdays, but may be too weak, sick, or in pain to go to our own parties.

That is unless we take up the fitness alternative.

One thing that does help people cross the finish line on their own two feet is being active. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine last year found those who are the most fit in midlife – that’s means in their 30s, 40s, 50s – not only delay the onset of chronic diseases, they also shorten the amount of time suffering from them after the age of 65.

A key finding was that higher levels of midlife fitness don’t necessarily increase longevity, but they do reduce the number of years we might spend living with congestive heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, or colon and lung cancers. Another study published in January of this year titled, Years of Life Gained Due to Leisure-Time Physical Activity in the U.S., came to similar conclusions.

I know genetics and environment have a say in how long I’ll live and how well, but they don’t have the final word. So I’m going to pad my odds by having more fun. There are endless ways to stay fit, and as long as you’re having fun while doing them, it’s a great way to grow old.

Here are some other thoughts on longevity you might enjoy:

  • How to Predict Longevity in Women
  • Factors That Affect Life Expectancy
Posted in Aging, Chronic Diseases, Eating Right, Exercise, HEALTH GOES STRONG, Healthy Lifestyle and tagged , , , , .

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