THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
A SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT TO THE MARCH 26, 1991 ISSUE OF MACLEAN'S MAGAZINE IN COOPERATION WITH PARTICIPACTION.
THIS YEAR PARTICIPACTION TURNS 20. AND THAT 30-YEAR-OLD CANADIAN (THE ONE WHO COULDN'T KEEP UP WITH THE 60-YEAR-OLD SWEDE) IS 50 YEARS OLD.
CAN IT BE TRUE? AS PARTICIPACTION WAS BUSY COAXING AND CAJOLING CANADIANS TO LEAD ACTIVE, HEALTHY LIVES, THE BABY
BOOMERS HAVE SLOWLY BUT STEADILY POWER-WALKED THEIR WAY INTO MIDDLE AGE.
♦ Now, CANADA'S BIG GENERATION IS TAKING AN INTEREST IN THE
ART AND SCIENCE OF STAYING YOUNG. CONCERN ABOUT AGING HAS SPAWNED GLOSSY MAGAZINES LIKE LONGEVITY AND MOXIE, AND A RESURGENCE IN HAIR TONICS AND CRYONICS, THE COLD STORAGE OF STILL-WARM BODIES. IT HAS INTENSIFIED THE BOOMERS' INTEREST IN THE EFFECT OF FITNESS, NUTRITION AND STRESS MANAGEMENT ON STAYING YOUNG.
♦ LAST YEAR, ABOUT 42 PER CENT (MORE THAN 10,000) OF THE
RUNNERS IN THE BOSTON MARATHON WERE OVER 40 YEARS OF AGE.
♦ OUR MIDDLE-AGED SEARCH FOR THE ELUSIVE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
HAS HELPED US MAKE A POWERFUL DISCOVERY. THE SECRET OF FEELING AND LOOKING YOUNG CANNOT BE FOUND IN MAGIC PILLS, POTIONS OR FOUNTAINS. IT RESTS UNDER OUR OWN SKIN. IT IS DEFINED IN THE DECISIONS WE MAKE EACH DAY: HOW WE THINK, EAT, DRINK, EXERCISE, WORK, COPE, REST, RELATE AND PLAY.
♦ PARTICIPACTION HAS GROWN UP OVER THE PAST 20 YEARS. WE'VE LEARNED THAT PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR HEALTH,
LIFESTYLE, RELATIONSHIPS AND EMOTIONAL OUTLOOK WILL ENABLE EACH OF US TO FIND OUR PERSONAL FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH.
♦HERE'S TO THE NEXT 20 YEARS! **mn*nmnk
♦ How TO DIE YOUNG —
BUT AS LATE AS POSSIBLE!#
rhy do we get older?" asks humorist Dave Barry in his book Dave Barry Turns 40. "Why can't we just go on and on, accumulating a potentially infinite number of frequent flyer points?"
No one has yet discovered a way to satisfy Barry's wish. Experts agree that the maximum life span of humans (about 110 years) has not increased during recorded history. What has increased is the proportion of the population that comes closer to reaching that maximum. Over the last 50 years, life expectancy for Canadian women has climbed from 64 to 80; for men it has increased from 61 to 73.
We are concerned with living life to the fullest and with adding life to our years, rather than years to our life.
As we age, our pessimistic images of midlife are changing. We now know that factors other than aging are what bring on problems like the middle-aged spread or a fortysomething sense that our careers are not enough. We have come to realize that with some effort, many of the physical and mental ills that were once blamed solely on aging can be prevented or delayed.
Social/economic factors such as education, supportive friends and family, fulfilling employment, a clean environment and a decent income are all linked to a longer, healthier life.
A 1990 report from the National Council of Welfare concluded that low-income Canadians die significantly sooner and spend more time suffering from poor health than people with higher incomes. One study found that earners in the highest income bracket live an average of 11 more years than those with the lowest incomes; they also enjoy seven times as many disability-free days.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, eating and drinking habits, physical activity and how we handle stress can also dramatically accelerate or decelerate the aging process.
♦ACTIVE LIVING AND MIDDLE AGE#
When comedian George Burns said, "You can't help getting older but you don't have to get old," he might have been referring to the unique ability of physical activity to delay or reverse some of the common effects of aging.
Is exercise an aging antidote? Consider these facts:
•The middle-age spread and creeping overweight (the tendency to gain two to three pounds each year) is generally caused by a decrease in activity, a lowered metabolism and an increased consumption of food. Regular activity, especially when combined with healthy eating habits, can help you manage your weight and prevent fat gain.
•Without regular exercise, most people begin to notice a loss of suppleness as they approach age 40. Stretching, dancing and regularly moving the joints through a full range of motion can prevent or reverse this decline.
•Weakened abdominal muscles are a major factor in the common problem of middle-aged back pain. Sit-ups and other calisthenics, and activities such as rowing can help prevent back problems by keeping the abdominal and postural muscles strong.
•Active living helps you manage the mid-life crisis by reducing anxiety and depressed feelings, and improving energy levels and sleep.
•After menopause, which usually occurs between 45 and 55, the loss of bone calcium is accelerated in women. This may lead to a thinning of the bones called osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, dancing or aerobics, and activities like calisthenics that pull on the tendons and muscles attached to the bones help to maintain bone mass and decrease chances of a fracture.
•Dr. Roy Shephard, a well-known exercise physiologist and author of Fit After Fifty, has presented evidence that regular physical activity in the fifth and sixth decades of life can delay or prevent many of the declines in fitness (such as a loss of stamina, strength or balance) that usually accompany aging. Shephard states that active people in their 50s or 60s will function "on a high plane...as though exercise had reduced their age by 10 to 20 years.”
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
In the '80s, there was a sense that only strenuous workouts gave you any benefit. High-impact aerobics, marathons and the "no-pain-no-gain" ethic were in vogue. Today, a series of well-documented studies has shifted the focus to "active living”: regular, moderate activity that you can enjoy for a lifetime.
One of these studies showed that regular, moderate exercise reduces your chances of dying prematurely of heart disease and cancer.
Researchers at the Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas, found that the death rate among extremely active men was only slightly lower than that of those who exercised moderately. Male death rates dropped dramatically between the least fit and those who performed an equivalent of 20 to 30 minutes of daily walking.
Women tested relatively the same. Steven Blair, who directed the study, said, "This is good news for those of us who aren't athletes...brisk leaf raking, vigorous vacuuming, sports or brisk walking can all have important health benefits in terms of longevity."
Ax ACTIVITY PROFILE
What activities are middle-aged Canadians most likely to participate in? Walking, gardening, swimming, cycling and dancing are the top five. Golf, home exercise, bowling and alpine skiing have increased in popularity among all ages.
Lifestyle factors such as smoking, eating and drinking habits, physical activity and how we handle stress can also dramatically accelerate or decelerate the aging process.
Jogging has dropped: in 1981, 31 per cent of Canadians listed jogging as their main physical activity, but only 18 per cent did so in 1988.
Measuring levels of activity depends on three variables: frequency, duration and intensity. The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Institute has analyzed these three factors, using data from the Campbell's Survey on Well-Being in Canada. It provides an interesting activity profile of Canadians aged 25 to 64.
Women: 5 per cent Men: 8 per cent
THE INTELLECTUALLY COMMITTED
Women: 15 per cent Men: 13 per cent
Women: 38 percent Men: 36 per cent
Women: 42 per cent Men: 43 percent
Source: Campbell's Survey on Well-Being in Canada, 1988.
The Achievers are active 30 minutes or more every other day at 50 per cent of individual capacity or greater (an intensity that causes you to breathe harder and begin to sweat). This is the level of activity most likely to give substantial health and longevity benefits. Some five per cent of women and 8 per cent of men aged 25 to 64 are in this category.
The Regulars are active at the same duration and frequency as the Achievers, but at a lower intensity. This level of activity has been linked to enhanced emotional well-being and weight management. About 2.5 million women (38 per cent) and 2.4 million men (36 per cent) aged 25 to 64 are Regulars.
The Intellectually Committed (about 15 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men aged 25 to 64) are in a hurry. They are active every other day but for less than 30 minutes. While activity of any duration can be beneficial to health, longer periods are more effective.
The Procrastinators (some 42 per cent of women and 43 per cent of men aged 25 to 64) exercise irregularly and for less than 30 minutes at a time. Most in this group believe in the importance of being active; some have an assortment of dusty exercise machines in their basement. It's moving from theory to practice that is the problem.
♦PUMPING IRON -
AT ANY AGEf
If you frequent a health club, you probably don't expect to see an 85-year-old woman lifting weights next to you. But recent studies involving people up to age 96 confirm that appropriate strengthbuilding exercises can counter the loss of muscle mass that usually accompanies aging and produce gains in strength comparable to that experienced by much
Muscular strength normally declines 30 to 40 per cent over the adult life span. This is partly a function of an unavoidable, biologically determined decline that happens even to competitive athletes as they age. The second cause is inactivity: muscles quickly atrophy when they are not used regularly. A well-designed weight-training program can counteract this aspect of strength loss.
If you are interested in weight training, go to a reputable fitness club, municipal facility or YM/YWCA where qualified instructors help you design a program and learn proper lifting techniques. Weight lifting is not recommended for people with high blood pressure or arthritis.
♦ BITTING OUT FOR GOOIH
Sometimes, in the midst of the smoke-free '90s, you get the sense that hardly anyone smokes anymore. Look again. According to the 1988 Campbell's Survey on Well-Being in Canada, 41 per cent of men aged 25 to 44 are smokers (the national average for males over age 10 is 32 per cent). In total, over 2.5 million men age 25 to 64 still smoke. The picture for middle-aged women is somewhat different. Some 28 per cent of women aged 25 to 64 are current smokers (the national average is 28 per cent). Among younger women aged 20 to 24, however, 40 per cent are smokers. Once hooked, they will have a hard time quitting when they reach middle age.
Despite some people's claim to have an 85-year-old uncle who still smokes, smokers, on average, have a far shorter life expectancy. One recent study found that smokers at age 30 can expect to live to age 65 if they continue to smoke, while non-smoking 30-year-olds could expect to reach age 83. That's a difference of 18 years and a reduction of life expectancy by nearly one-third.
But here's the good news! Even if you have been smoking for 20 years, it is still worthwhile to quit.
Middle-aged smokers can expect almost immediate health benefits when they quit (not to mention all that extra cash).
According to recent research, much of the tobacco-related risk of heart disease disappears within a few years, even in longtime smokers who already show signs of heart disease.”
In the U.S. Coronary Artery Surgery Study, 807 longtime male and female smokers over age 54 quit smoking and stayed smoke-free for six years. They had fewer heart attacks and substantially lower death rates than those who continued to smoke.
Experts in addiction agree that there is no such thing as failure when you quit moking, even if you have to quit four or five times before you kick the habit for good. "Quitting smoking is a process," says Lyn Taylor of Health and Welfare Canada's Tobacco
Despite some people's claim to have an 85-year-old uncle who still smokes, smokers, on average, have a far shorter life expectancy. One recent study found that smokers at age 30 can expect to live to age 65 if they continue to smoke, while non-smoking 30year-olds could expect to reach age 83.
Programs Unit. "Every time you try, you will increase your quitting skills. Eventually you will find the method that works best for you."
And other secrets for coping with stress and the mid-life crisis
In Dave Barry Turns 40, the author describes a man in the throes of a mid-life crisis. "He will destroy a successful practice as a certified public accountant to pursue a career in roller derby. He will take up hang-gliding and wear designer fragrances...like Musqué de Stud Hombre: For the Man Who Wants a Woman Who Wants a Man Who Smells Vaguely Like a Horse.”
Kidding aside, mid-life may be the most demanding and stressful time in your life.
You may be considering a career change or taking on more at work. At home you may be pressed with the
responsibilities of growing children, aging parents and community involvement.
Why do some people crack under the stresses of mid-life while other people seem to thrive? Why does the axiom "life begins at 40" work for some people and not for others?
Psychologists Susan Kobasa and Salvatore Maadi suggest that the key to managing stress and staying healthy is "hardiness," their term for the ability to cope. In their study of 259 business executives, they found that managers who stayed healthy perceived and dealt with stressful events better than managers who became sick.
What do these disease-resistant personalities have in common? They feel in control of their lives; they are committed to themselves and others; and they perceive stressful life events as challenges rather than problems.
Control. Commitment. Challenge. Kobasa and Maadi speculate that these three Cs are the basis of a hardy personality. Hardy people use these characteristics to avoid the strain that stress puts on the body's immune system. Thus, they are less likely to become ill.
The most important step toward becoming hardier — and healthier — is to develop a repertoire of successful coping mechanisms. Here are some suggestions.
Build support systems
Sharing your feelings and problems with family members and friends is often the most effective way of coping with stress. Other support systems, ranging from self-help groups or employee assistance programs to professional counselling, can also help. Ask your doctor or employee health department for a referral if you need to talk out a problem.
Develop a balanced lifestyle
Stress is an emotional and physical reaction, and developing a healthier-than-average lifestyle can help you be a better-than-average stress manager. Staying active, taking time for recreation and friends, eating well, not smoking, drinking moderately and getting enough rest and relaxation can help you feel better about yourself and reduce your chances of developing a stress-related illness.
People who cope well use humor to relax, to shift a perspective, to release tension and anger or to find the positive in a stressful situation. Seek out people who make you laugh; rent a funny movie; send a humorous memo. Adding fun to your life is adding one more layer of healthful hardiness.
Thinking positively is the key to approaching life — and stress — as a challenge to be enjoyed. Positive thinking is giving yourself the go-ahead to succeed. Use positive "self-talk" to
assure yourself that you can deal with the issues in your life. Rehearse how you will handle a potentially stressful situation ^ before it occurs, then formulate J a plan of action.
If things still go wrong, try to make the best of a bad situation. People who cope effectively look back on stressful events and say, "I learned from that experience; I'm better because of it."
The aging of the population and increased knowledge about nutrition have had a dramatic effect on how we shop and eat.
Middle-aged Canadians are eating more fruits, vegeta-
Mid-life may be the most demanding and stressful time in your life. You may be considering a career change or taking on more at work. At home you may be pressed with the responsibilities of growing children, aging parents and community involvement.
SELF-TALK MEANS TELLING YOURSELF WHAT YOU CAN OR CANNOT DO. POSITIVE SELF-TALK IS SAYING "I CAN," AND
SETTING YOUR MIND TO MEET THE CHALLENGE AHEAD.
bles, poultry and fish. We are limiting our intake of salt and fried foods and have reduced our consumption of red meat.
The food industry has responded to the boomers' call for products that promote vital health, high performance and disease avoidance. Currently, there are over 5,000 different edible foods in a typical supermarket.
Is your shopping bag filled with antiaging, high-performance choices? To be sure it is, try our supermarket quiz.
So you've reached that time of life when you brood about your cholesterol count and worry that your hair is turning grey (or mysteriously migrating from the top of your head). And even though you feel 17 inside, the rest of you is (how did it happen?) 40.
Somehow, you know that a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude will get you through middle age.
"Attitudes about aging have far-reaching implications," says Dr. Charlotte Matthews, past-president of the National Advisory Council on Aging. "People who are afraid of getting older are missing out on some great opportunities and challenges, like the joy of self-discovery and pursuing what is meaningful in life."
The next 20 years will likely fly by as quickly as the last 20. So stop and smell the roses.
Enjoy the healthy choices that will make middle age what you want it to be. Perhaps a Spanish proverb sums it up best: "Living well is the best revenge." It's never too late — or too early — to begin. ♦
PARTICIPaction is a non-profit, middle-aged private company that promotes healthy, active living in Canada. The text was written by PARTICIPaction staff member Peggy Edwards.
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