One of the biggest myths I have come across in my life so far is that we get weaker when we grow older. This is not true. Age has nothing to do with that. Our long-term bad habits make us weak and show signs of aging.
When I was working as a geriatric nurse at a rehabilitation center, I met a wonderful energetic elderly lady. She was vibrant with life, had a glow about her, had her original hair color and she was smiling all the time. You can imagine my surprise when I saw her age on her documents; she was 90 years old! She didn’t even look 60. Wanting to know her secret, I talked to her and she proudly told me “I take a long walk every day and smiling and laughing as often as you can is very important!”
The image of this remarkable lady has stuck with me ever since. She really inspired me and all the people that had the privilege to spend time with her.
This lady I just described had a roommate that was 20 years younger than her. The contrast couldn’t have been more apparent! She was frowning all the time, had a lot of ailments and never wanted to leave her room or talk to anyone. She shut herself off from the world around her. She looked 20 years older than her actual age. But I do think she benefited from her 90-year old roommate’s energy!
It made me realize that age is just a number. Physical and mental health are really what it comes down to, the latter especially being the key to longevity.
Because when you have a mindset that goes like “I’m too old for this” or “These aches and pains are just a part of getting older”, then that is really going to define you. I’m sure you all have heard stories about people that are above 70 or 80 years old and pick up a new skill like painting, learning a new instrument or another skill or activity and are actually really good at it. The world’s oldest marathoner, Fauja Singh, ran a marathon at 102 years old. He started running when he was 81 years old.
Now I know what you are thinking “Those are extreme cases” or “Those people are just lucky!” Maybe so, but that is that mindset again of thinking that could not happen to you. And that is the exact mindset that will make you age quicker.
To take an example from my own personal experience: I’ve been running regularly since 2008 and my running pace has never really improved in the past few years. My best race pace for 10 km was 58 minutes. I was pleased with that pace and thought I would never be able to improve that, especially as I got older.
I recently started running 6 days a week again, just because I wanted to improve my fitness, not necessarily to increase my running pace. But as I began to run more often and longer, my mental state also shifted. It made me into an overall more confident and happier person and as a result of that, my pace naturally increased. I am proud to say that I ran 10 km in 53 minutes yesterday! That is an improvement of 5 minutes and I’m more than 10 years older now!
I know that I am not old, being only 36 years old, but I still think this is a good example. The most important thing that I learned is that it is because my mental state shifted that I was able to run faster. I am convinced there is a direct correlation between mental and physical health. You can’t separate the two. There have been a lot of studies on this theory, but it’s one thing to read about it and another to really experience it for yourself.
And once you start, it really is a positive vicious circle; one I’m happy to be stuck in!
So, do something that makes you happy. Something you loved doing as a child. What did you love to do, what did you really look forward to all day? Maybe it was drawing or playing an instrument or dancing, it could be anything. It just needs to give you tremendous joy and make you forget about everything else around you. Whatever that activity is, go ahead and do it! It will no doubt make you feel like a child again!