I caught bits of a TV show the other night where doctors were trying to figure out the mystery cause of some weird symptoms a lady had been displaying ever since giving birth to her son. She had put on what she described as “copious amounts of weight” following the pregnancy and had been suffering from a myriad of symptoms that doctors didn’t seem to be able to associate with any particular disease. The last doctor she visited analysed her lifestyle and realised that her extremely poor diet and absolute lack of exercise were mostly to blame. It took her a couple of months of dieting, combined with exercising three times a week, and her symptoms began to disappear.
Of course it’s not always this obvious but, more often than not, the equation really is that easy. We can try to make all the excuses we want for what we do to ourselves (“I really deserve this tenth piece of brownie because I took the stairs to that second floor instead of taking the elevator”) but the fact is that a healthy lifestyle usually leads to a healthy life. It’s not really rocket science. Of course there are diseases that can happen in spite of someone taking the best care of themselves but you are pretty much guaranteed to avoid a number of issues if you just take responsibility for your health.
It’s a harsh reality, though, and we always find a million excuses. I speak for myself here. But when I started thinking about it watching the show, it hit me how painfully obvious and in-your-face this fact actually is.
Eventually, we will all start decaying before we finally die (what an upbeat post, I know). As much as modern medicine can do for us, it’s the cycle of life and the planet would really be in trouble if we all stopped dying. No matter how many artificial limbs or organ transplants you get, eventually, your machine needs to stop moving. But does that mean the process needs to be a slow painful one?
I came across this Ted talk today and it was as inspiring as it was eye-opening. Charles Eugster is right – old age has come to be synonym of a number of health problems. But does it really have to be? I mean, look at him.
The 93-year old oarsman and bodybuilder hits the nail on the head: We are over-nourished, over-medicated and physically inactive and that inactivity is a major cause of death.
“Natural healthy aging is unseen, covering by a blanket of disease. In fact, it is falsely assumed that disease is a natural consequence of aging. Lift up the blanket and there could be surprises,” he says.
He gives some good statistics and makes some great points so I highly recommend you get yourself a cup of tea and sit through the whole 16 minute video.
Eugster also goes into much deeper issues such as retirement age/ life expectancy (which has not only health but also financial consequences). I don’t fully agree with absolutely everything he says. He calls retirement a “massive health calamity” and a “future financial disaster”, I call it a lifelong dream, but I do see his point. Life doesn’t have to start ending 20 or so years before it’s actually expected to end.
His point is simple: look after yourself and those problems that we grew used to associate with aging will disappear. And if you’re going to use your age as an excuse, then quit it right there. Eugster started well into his 80s so, really, your point is invalid.
Oh damn, I feel like I’m coming across as preachy. Am I coming across as preachy? Maybe I am. Listen, I’m definitely no role model. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a family-sized bar of mint chocolate and I have no intentions of ever doing that. But, on the other hand, I’ve made a bunch of little changes to my lifestyle in the last couple of years and, even with my regular slip-ups, it all has had an amazing impact on my health. I’m millions of midnight snacks away from an actual proper healthy life but videos like this are a great use of “inactive time”.
I’ll shut up now. The point is, let’s stop sitting around. It’s killing us.
***photo source: Ted Blog For further reading on Eugster’s achievements, check out his website and this article he wrote for the Guardian.