In my opinion our society places way too much emphasis on how many years we have been in the world. Yes the truth is we all have years in the rearview mirror, some few and some many. But instead of focusing on the amount of years that have passed, we should be focusing on the now and beyond years.
There is a picture floating around on the Internet of two 74-year-old women side by side. One is buff, strong and looks amazing and one looks like an old granny. Supposedly they are the same age but for sure, if that is true, they have very different biological ages. The caption says "the choice is yours." These women took different paths. And because of that path their body systems have aged very differently inside and out.
Ten or so years ago I had a friend from the JSU HPER (Health, Physical Education and Recreation) department come give a volunteer group from my YMCA fitness classes a body age test. They had a laptop with computer software to figure all this out through a series of tests and questions. We did push up tests, ab strength tests, grip test and flexibility tests, plus more. Also they asked us a lot of questions like: do you wear a seatbelt, have you had a colonoscopy, do you do self-breast exams. Then they put all the calculations and answers into the program software and gave us all our biological age.
All of these ladies that tested with me are very fit minded and we all scored better than our chronological age. What we were doing was paying off. That is really what we were hoping. We wanted to see it in writing that what we were doing was working. This process was really eye opening. Because as the questions are asked, you start to evaluate your choices. And you may realize you CAN make better choices.
Trying to recreate that test, I found a website called biological-age.com. The 25 questions asked consist of what is your age, where do you live, gender, education, sleep habits, stress levels, happiness level, how many friends you have, if you are in a happy relationship, blood pressure, hydration, activity, etc.…
I am 57 and scored a biological age of 37. But of course that does not consider the genetic components which weigh very heavy in my family.
Since we cannot control the genetics we were dealt at birth, let’s focus on what we can control to make ourselves feel younger and live a better quality of life. Our daily habits and lifestyle are just as important. For instance if we don’t do weight bearing exercises we may have a better chance of developing osteoporosis, which in many older folks can lead to a hip or leg break that can start the process of going downhill.
Or if we eat a fatty diet for 50 years we may develop a fatty liver that doesn’t work properly. And since the liver provides hundreds of important functions such as regulating blood clotting or converting glucose into the glycogen, which is the storage form of glucose, we want it do all of its jobs well.
The most important thing in life is our health. We should recognize that without it, our life has little quality. But also recognize our choices are how we make those changes today and tomorrow.
Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. And she’s over 50. "Fitness over 50" is published the third Sunday of each month.