Growing older is different for everyone. We are, of course, unique individuals. There is no one else exactly like me, or you, in the world.
Our lifestyles are unique to us, as is our home and living environment.
The aging process, our health, our propensity for illness, are also impacted by our genes.
And, I’ve learned that the timing of how and when these changes occur are unique to each of us. It’s not like we turn 55 and suddenly have the belly fat around our middle. Nope. Again, we’re all unique and acquire the fundamental changes that age brings us, in our own unique time.
So yes, growing older is different for everyone. Except for these five indisputable truths about aging. At least through my 65-year-old lens.
These changes will happen, my friend, at one time or another.
5 Indisputable Truths About the Aging Process
1 | Your stamina will decrease
Normal aging results in a gradual decrease in flexibility, endurance, and strength. We also use oxygen less efficiently as we age, which can be a direct result of our posture (yes…sit up straighter!)
While there is no magic pill we can take to bring back that energy, endurance, and stamina, we can do two things:
First, pay attention to what our body is telling us. Listen to it and respond wisely.
For me, it is most noticeable later in the day. My mornings begin much as they have for years – early, and with a healthy morning routine. It’s the other end of the day that is most noticeable for me.
In the past, I could keep going, keep working on a project, engage in some after dinner exercise, etc. without a second thought. Not any more. My body tells me on most days that it is done with the physical and mental exercise.
So I make sure that my workouts, as well as the work that must be done, are accomplished before dinner. Because, whether I like it or not, I’m done for the day except for some relaxation and perhaps a glass of chardonnay.
Second, make these 3 activities a part of our overall healthy lifestyle:
- Aerobic exercise and strength training – aerobic exercise raises your heart rate, and over time can help strengthen your heart muscle. As your blood is pumping, it’s sending oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, giving you energy. Cool. And, when we keep our muscles strong we’ll have more endurance, and can react faster when needed. Physical activity is essential, my friend.
- Stretch, stretch, stretch – maintaining flexibility as we age helps us sustain an active lifestyle and be less prone to injury. Stretching in the morning is particularly beneficial.
- Get enough sleep – if we can get 7 to 8 hours of good sleep at night, this will release hormones that build and repair muscles.
Will a commitment to these activities turn back the clock. No. But they will help us stay strong, maintain endurance and stamina at a healthy level as we experience age related changes.
We need to listen to our bodies, remember what our life stage is, and make wise choices.
2 | Your body shape will change
Some days, I wish there were magic glasses I could put on and be able to see my younger self in the mirror. You know…head to toe. Because what I see now sure doesn’t look like it did in the past.
And you know what? It doesn’t matter how much I whine to myself, or wish that my body would stop doing what it’s doing…sagging skin, bags and sags, less firm, more roundness…actually, just plain more of me than there used to be.
As much as I don’t like it, a changing body shape is part of normal aging. I am not going to use artificial means like surgeries, injections, or sculpting to change how I look. That’s a personal decision we all make, and there is no right or wrong answer.
Healthy lifestyle choices that include aerobic exercise + strength training as well as wise nutrition is the best action we can all take, with overall good health as the goal.
We will look different as we get older, so let’s embrace our life, and accept our changing appearance with grace.
3 | You will have belly fat
Yes, like it or not, at some point as you travel through midlife the belly fat will appear. These changes occur after menopause as a result of the decreasing level of estrogen in our bodies.
The fat shifts to our abdomen. If we just try to cover it up and ignore it without making the effort to control it, the belly fat will become even more pronounced as the years go by.
There are potential health issues, too. The outer fat we can see (and really, really dislike) is called subcutaneous fat. What we can’t see, though, is what can cause us health problems. That is called visceral fat, and can lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and more.
So yes, it will happen. And no, other than getting it cut or sucked out of you, it is with you to stay. How intrusive this little friend becomes is up to you.
While you can’t make it disappear and see a flat tummy again, there are some actions you can take to limit the damage:
- Eat clean, healthy foods like fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.
- Limit sugar and saturated fats
- Exercise portion control (remember…everything in moderation )
- Include aerobic exercise in your life, regularly
- Include strength training in your life, regularly
Always consult with your physician to make sure you are healthy enough to perform certain exercises, and review any dietary changes with them as well, if you have health issues. Use your common sense.
Belly fat is here to stay as we age, but we can control it with clean eating and regular exercise, and choose to minimize the look of it.
4 | You will gain weight
It is almost impossible for a healthy woman to go through her 50s and 60s, normal aging, without gaining a pound. This is the #1 response I receive from women when I ask the question, “What are you struggling with right now related to midlife and the aging process?”
Just like I whine to myself about the changing body shape and the belly fat, I can also carry quite a little whiny tune about the scale.
If I can remember that it is a normal part of the aging process, within reason, and don’t let myself get caught up in the numbers, I can actually look in the mirror and be grateful for my health. Very grateful.
Some people decide to ditch the scale entirely. And that’s not a bad idea. I’ve put it away for months at a time, except for a periodic check-in, and was perfectly fine with that.
I have to remind myself that if I am faithful and committed to a healthy lifestyle including eating properly and exercising wisely, my body will respond in kind. I may not like the number on the scale, or the size of the pants, but it is me, right now, today.
We can’t turn back the clock on our weight any more than we can with our body shape, the belly fat, or the metabolism, but we CAN make wise lifestyle choices to keep it under control.
5 | You will be a member of the older crowd
The aging process gives us some good things, too. We’re wiser, more experienced in life and all it can throw at us, and we’re mature.
We know who we are and where we’ve been. I’m okay with not being 20 again and having all those years ahead of me. And I’m okay with offering my wisdom, perspective, and maturity to younger people, should they ask.
For me, it’s not a feeling of being excluded, or being viewed as less-than, or being too old. Sure, when I read an article that is geared toward women who are younger and in a different stage of life I know that the author is not talking to me, a woman in my 60s.
Conversely, when I go to a store and it’s ‘Senior Day’, well…yep, I get that discount.
So, while the aging process results in changes to our bodies, inside and out, it also ‘qualifies’ us for a special status. That’s how I prefer to see it, anyway.
I’m not old and excluded, I’m wise, mature and special in a way that only time and age can bring.
Our Response to the Aging Process
One way or the other, we’re all going to get older as the years go by. It’s not easy at times, and things happen that we don’t like.
But, our mind set, our commitment to healthy living, our attitude and expectation of ourselves, all work together to foster a positive, mature outlook.
And that’s the best way to grow older, don’t you think?
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