Part of the traditional myth of aging is that we should decrease our physical activity as we get older. This folk wisdom is wrong. If we follow this path, it leads to the very loss of wellbeing that we desire.
A better motto than take it easy is function maintains structure or as it is expressed popularly “use it or lose it”. This advice is correct, anatomically, physiologically and neurologically. If the bones do not sustain weight regularly, they soften and weaken. If muscles are not used regularly in challenging and skilled tasks, they become weaker and less responsive. If the brains cells are not systematically involved in a variety of voluntary tasks such as learning new things, they deteriorate.
Gradually, a lack of use of the body and mind create a softening, weakening and deterioration of our resources not because of age but because of a lack of use.
Part of the reason for the lack of desire to move your body, besides the myth mentioned above is: poor diet, unaddressed toxicity from the environment, bad lifestyle practices, inadequate sleep, too much alcohol, smoking and a lack of nutritional and herbal supplementation to make up for nutritional deficiencies that occur in aging. The end result leads people to not want to move as much as when they were younger.
The irony of this is that we need to move about, do exercises and skilled movements more often as we age, not less. Moving our bodies to increase circulation to the organs and to strengthen the structures of the body is needed more than when we are younger. Those people who don’t believe in doing exercise or sports because they could maintain their body without it when they were young are missing out. Because of our highly sedentary modern lifestyles everyone should be exercising from a young age and continue to do this our entire lives.
With proper diet, supplements, good lifestyle practices and exercise, the act of growing, maturing, and settling down to life as an act of decay is not necessary to be our fate. I was at a play with a lot of people in their 60’s, my age, the other night. Sadly, very few looked and moved in a way that showed vibrant health.
Another myth is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Learning can be beneficial as a lifelong activity. The brain is also involved in use it or lose it. Learning is different as we age. There is an incredible amount of research that shows how diet and supplements can improve our brain as we age. Research has shown that people can learn absolutely new things into advanced age as long as we exercise that muscle in-between our ears.
Although moving is better than not moving, choosing the right kinds of exercises for the body and mind are important. Generally, we need exercises that energize the body and open up tissues and channels such as qigong, yoga, Hannah Somatics, and exercises that are moderately aerobic such as walking, jogging or jumping rope, exercises done weekly that strengthen the bones and muscles such as bodyweight training, Pilates and exercises that teach skilled movements such as dancing and martial arts.
The Way of Qigong by Kenneth Cohen. This is an excellent introduction. Qigong is best learned in person. The quality of instruction varies. I teach a monthly class in NYC and give private lessons gigong/somatic
Somatics: Reawakening the Mind's Control of Movement, Flexibility, and Health by Thomas Hanna
Pushing the Limits! Total Body Strength with No Equipment by Al Kavadlo- an excellent introduction to bodyweight training for men and women. I suggest this approach over weight machines as weight machines isolate muscles.