An Old Myth
Getting older is a funny thing. When we’re kids all we want is to be a little older and have the freedom of adulthood. We impatiently wait our 18 years until the day comes and we’re on our own. Everything is great for a few years until one day (usually in our mid-20s) comes the realization that we’re “getting old” and the clock is ticking away.
And so this is life now…a slow descent toward irrelevance. Awesome.
This is the myth of aging.
Of all our gripes on the human experience, aging is pretty high up on the list. From a Western perspective, we have a lot of cultural issues around the finality of death. Getting old is a just a constant reminder of the end looming in the distance. We’d rather just sweep it under the rug. These hang ups have created a pervasive, negative outlook on aging.
We associate aging with a predictable decline in both movement and quality of life. As a result it’s easy to make the fundamental error that aging CAUSES our loss of mobility, strength, cognitive ability, and independence. This assumption of causation downplays the influence we have over our experience.
As kids, we move all the time — it’s expected. We’re vibrant and energetic. As we age, we’re expected to have lower energy and we move less to meet this expectation. However, decreased movement only contributes to muscular tension (stiffness), decreased range of motion, and lowers body awareness…sounds a lot like death right?
Let’s consider this for a minute. Should we really be buying into the the idea that our bodies just fall apart because they get older? That we should stop moving as a form of damage control?
How can we NOT factor in the ways we move, environmental stressors, diet, sleep, habits, and relationships? These are the sum total of our lifestyle choices that shape our health and quality of life.
Aging is inevitable. How we age is largely dependent on our choices. The common viewpoint absolves us of responsibility but dooms us to breaking down with age. We can challenge this myth and change the story. By taking ownership of our lifestyle choices we can remain strong, mobile, and mentally sharp through all the stages of life.
If you want to age gracefully, not moving is NOT the answer. Neither is crushing your body chronic high-stress training. Fitness at the expense of overall health is short-sighted. If you’re operating your body like a machine — running it hard with high-intensity training…you may just run it until the wheels fall off. Longevity comes through creating a sustainable and balanced approached to fitness.
Moving frequently at a low to moderate intensity across a broad range of human movements is a solid strategy for graceful aging. Hard work matched with building better movement habits will pay much higher dividends than just grinding it out. The key is to support your physical goals with the self-awareness to treat your body with patience and respect. This alignment creates an approach to fitness that is sustainable and evolves with you through life.
This is why I’m such a huge advocate for MovNat training. Making real world movement the focus of my fitness makes more sense to me than logging mindless time on a treadmill. Moving in sensory-rich, natural environments just makes more sense to me than being confined to artificial ones. Moving in healing ways makes more sense to me than prescription medications and medical bills.
Takeaway: Lots of movement and a sustainable approach to fitness is the secret to aging gracefully.
In fitness, it’s advised to train smarter, not harder. Let’s take it a step further and strive to train wisely.
Wisdom speaks not just to knowledge but to experience and intuition. To train wisely suggests not just applying scientifically-proven principles but to do so in a way that honors your body’s design. It requires not only an intelligent approach to training but the self-awareness to drop your ego and start prioritizing what your body needs.
If we approach training with wisdom, we can age gracefully. This wisdom allows us to recognize when we’re overreaching and chasing goals for the wrong reasons. To train wisely, we see the bigger picture. Fitness becomes a lifelong practice dedicated to improving yourself, 1% at a time.
Training wisely means recognizing the difference between what you want and what you need.
Do you constantly crave a workout that will leave you completely gassed? Or do you only move softly and slowly and rarely break a sweat? Whatever you’re naturally drawn to, you might deeply benefit from getting some of the opposite in your life. Train as you would eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
Training wisely means slowing down and applying your knowledge and experience to your unique situation.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Nor is there any substitute for personal experimentation — for sure there can be an awkward learning curve, though. At the end of the day, we each can be responsible for our own health. Active participation in the process builds a strong sense personal strength that can empower us at any age, in any situation.
From Old to Elder
In our culture, we have a modern archetype of the old person — the grumpy granddad or the absent-minded granny. These are common characters now but we’ve not completely forgotten the archetype of the wise elder. To age gracefully, softly commands honor and reverence for a lifetime worth of experience and insight.
Health is the difference between old and elder. The positive effects of sustaining a life of movement and healthy choices are only more apparent as we get older. With health, aging becomes an opportunity to step into new roles and continue our growth.
In this, we do not become merely old, we become elders — holders of decades of experience and knowledge to help guide others. Will you become an elder or just old?
Changing the Old Conversation
The aging process is real, but this appeal is about changing your perception of it. As with many beliefs, there is the story you inherit and there is the story you choose to write.
The inherited story is easier but, ultimately, bleak. The hope here is to open the conversation for the sake of empowering people to step up for their health. There is much to be gained…decades, potentially. By choosing to buy-in to graceful aging, we are choosing to rewrite an old story that isn’t making our society any better.
The passage of time is inevitable but what we do with that time is completely up to us. An alternative always exists. Sustainable fitness and natural, lifestyle-based movement practices are a solid foundation of our lifelong health. On this foundation, we can age gracefully and continue tapping into our human potential, indefinitely.
Movement doesn’t lose relevance as we age. It keeps us strong, clear, and connected. Movement keeps us fully alive.
So move wisely and age gracefully. Life only gets better with time.