Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Growing Old

I'm not the one growing old. Not yet, anyway.

When I was getting my Bachelor's degree in Psychology, my professor for Adulthood and Aging showed us a study (I couldn't find it online) that had been done on college football players (presumably in the off-season). They took these in-shape guys and subjected them to three weeks of bedrest, during which time their vital functions and other medical things were examined.

By the end of three weeks, these guys had aged (as I recall) over ten years. They experienced bone loss, nasal congestion, blood pooling on the bottom-side of their bodies, aching joints, and some muscle atrophy. But the result that surprised me most was that their insulin levels went haywire, and they showed signs of pre-diabetes.

There were other results that I don't remember, but the net result was that these in-shape football players had the symptoms we normally associate with old age. And my professor's point in showing us this study was that the "ravages of old age" are really the ravages of inactivity. We improve our chances of having a healthy retirement by getting off our rear ends now and staying off them.

One of the prime examples of this is a lady I know from my church. She's a sweetheart who I met several years ago when I led a GriefShare group not long after my friend's husband died while we were all on vacation together. This lady had lost her husband about the same time.

She's now coming up on her 83rd birthday, and she keeps busy. She goes to ukelele class at the senior center and has recently learned to tap dance.

For her 80th birthday, she went skydiving. (Better her than me!) And she plans to celebrate her 83rd birthday by taking trapeze lessons. Yes, the circus kind of trapeze.

By comparison, I'm the old lady, and she's not.

So let that be a lesson. Growing old is a state of mind--and a stillness of body.


janice said...

Very interesting.

Well, I think I'll take Hershey for a walk now. It'll do us both some good.

Malott said...

great advice.

In the "Complete Book of Running" Jim Fixx tells a story of an 80 year old woman that could barely walk... Had to wear gloves because her circulation was so terrible that she was cold all the time.

She took up walking... Then running... And in short, she became a runner and would actually compete in races.

It's amazing how you can turn your health and world around with a little discipline.

Bekah said...

It's been a long time, but I once saw an article in a magazine that talked about how people age so much more gracefully than they used to. They used "celebrity" examples - comparing the ages of Aunt Bea on Andy Griffith and Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies (who were both much younger than they looked!) to women today who are the same age but look about 30 years younger!

This gives me hope that I won't be 85 as a 40 year old! :)

Jacob said...

I dunno. I lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle (blogging, work, TV, sleep, shower, blogging, work...) but I still seem to be all right.