As part of the Whitehall II study, 7,000 civil servants were asked when they think middle age ends and old age begins. When Hannah Kuper and Professor Sir Michael Marmot analysed the data they found that the people who thought old age began at the age of 60 or less were more likely to have serious heart problems later on than those who gave the answer 70 years or more. We may need to grant more flexibility to the aging process so that we can experience more physical flexibility.
British author, Claudia Hammond wrote the above titled article. It discusses research that is measuring the connection between a person’s mindset and their health. It was discovered that people who believe they are not doing as much exercise as their peers, died younger even though the amount of exercise being performed was equal, but not believed to be enough.
My father was a big proponent of exercise and physical activity. He was an amateur body builder and cyclist. He also enjoyed gymnastics. He made sure that his boys reaped the benefit of exercise by having us do work outs: squats, curls, and presses with free weights, three sets, twice a week. We went cycling with him. The furthest I rode was from our Manhattan apartment to our cousins’ house in St. Albans, Queens, NY. He called himself a physical culturist. My father lived to be 82 before he died from Alzheimer complications. For a black male in NY, the average life expectancy is 77.4 years.
I was not a big fan of his exercise program at the time, but I did come to appreciate that exercise was important to your health and well-being. When NYC had the transit strike in 1980, I traveled by bicycle from upper Manhattan to school in downtown Manhattan at New York University and then to my part time job on Wall St., then back home. I benefited from his program then. I do believe in the importance of exercise, but I don’t like it when it feels like work. I won’t join a gym. I get most of my exercise from walking and a free weight upper body routine.
My late partner went to the gym about three days a week, played softball and tennis regularly in the summer, a little less frequently during the winter months. He was on top of his health. His mother was a nurse. He saw the doctor on a longer and more consistent basis than I do. He had faith in the medical system. It helped cure him of Stage four, Large B cell, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. That experience of cancer in his mid-40’s impacted both of our mindsets on health. It definitely put a chink in our mindset about his health. He died at 59 from complications of a stroke.
Last month I turned 60 and the clock has been reset, again. I have been told I look young for my age. I think I look pretty good, but I am aware of the physical changes I am experiencing that aren’t readily visible. It is a constant challenge not to give in to popular beliefs about aging and what you are supposed to experience. Perhaps the study of how your mindset determines your health can also apply to aging. Chronologically you are aging but are there automatic health presets that accompany aging? We all have heard stories of people living to be 100 or older. Why is this such a rare occurrence?