How to stay healthy as you age
Thanks to @easymoneyme for mentioning me in his list. I'm coming up on 57 and this has long been a priority for me. It's not necessarily about living longer, although it improves the odds, but more about being able to do what you want to do to an older age; healthspan. No one wants "oh sorry, Grandpa can't do that with you" to pertain to them.
1. Biologically younger
The right habits can make you biologically younger. This can be measured but it is expensive. Think about this intuitively, if you're at least 40 you know people your age who are in rough shape and people who look young and who can physically do anything. This is true of my age and I have long seen it among firefighters at the department where I volunteer as others have moved into their 60's.
A crucial thing to understand is just about every chronic metabolic malady can be reversed. Do the research, you will see people reverse Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, all sorts of things. Whatever you have, Google it with the word keto and I promise you that it has been studied. The right diet and exercise combo can be a fountain of youth.
As we get older, but the age is different for each of us, we lose the ability to out exercise or otherwise get away with poor diets. As a casual observation it seems like that age is collectively coming down based on obesity and T2D numbers. The condition underlying this is insulin resistance. To be healthy you want to be insulin sensitive. Cut carbs by a lot and the odds of become insulin sensitive go way up. This too can be measured by testing fasting insulin. 9 or below and you are said to have no insulin resistance. When I got this tested, I was at 7.
Lift weights. The metabolic benefits of lifting weights, even compared to other forms of exercise, appear to be endless. Go look at @mangan150 on Twitter, he posts research paper after research paper on this. We naturally lose muscle mass starting around 30. Not building up what you lose dramatically increases the odds of bad outcomes related to frailty. I know people younger than me who already show signs of frailty.
4. Body composition
The above two will transform your body composition. Bad things happen in adipose tissue (belly fat). Cut carbs and you are very likely to lose the dad bod, there's a good chance your abs will come back. Lift weights and you'll build strength and physical resilience. You will look younger. A heuristic of mine is that if you're doing the work that results in looking younger on the outside then you're probably also younger on the inside. A couple of years ago, I was described as a tall man in his late 30's or early 40's. Jerk comment from me, I'm shaped like I was in my early 20's and could probably pass for a fit 40 year old. I have no physical gifts, but I do have the ability to stick with this stuff.
High intensity interval training is great for cardio but note, lifting weights with the right intensity is a cardio workout. I do jump rope for HIIT.
6. Walk on rocks
This is how Nassim Taleb describes hiking. Hiking on steep, rocky trails is great for stamina, general activity and maintaining good balance. Quick side bar on balance; it's more productive it to think of balance in terms of maintaining athletic balance as opposed to balancing on one foot.
7. It doesn't have to take much time
Taleb had a @email@example.com/110073126516731642" target="_blank">post on Mastodon (he blocked me on Twitter) drawing an absurd conclusion about needing to train for 22 hours/wk. For a while now, my routine has been to lift weights 2x/wk for about 45 minutes per session doing 17 sets all in. Once or twice/wk I do a pretty intense jump rope routine that takes about 10-12 minutes. Saturday morning before fire training I'll do a 10 minute mini-workout; one set of jump rope and maybe 3 sets with weights. We haven't done a lot of hiking this winter but we usually hike on Sundays for a couple of hours but that is just as much leisure as it is exercise. I have been shoveling a lot of snow this winter which helps.
That's not no time spent and if you're not trying to do something potentially extreme you can get by lifting 1/x week and doing one 10-15 minute HIIT and make huge improvements.
My routine is enough for me to qualify as a wildland firefighter still. Not easy in your 50's but far from impossible for anyone putting in the work...not that much work as it turns out.
8. Live in the mountains, with trees at elevation
Plenty of research has been done on this. We lucked into this situation. We live at 6600 feet, surrounded by trees.
9. Via negativa
Removing just a couple of negative things can greatly reduce stress which is clearly a net positive on our well being. For us, we removed stress about money by living below our means for decades. In our 50's, the house we live in that was less than we could afford is paid off and our monthly nut is pretty small. I haven't had a daily commute in 20 years. A third one to add is when you can figure out how to not care what other people think about or have in their driveway, you are adding yet another element of freedom.
10. Stay curious/keep learning
Keeping the mind sharp is crucial to successful aging and continuing to learn new things and taking up new interests seem like great ways to do that. Another theory of mine is that it is kind of important to stay current on popular culture but there is also a balance between staying current versus taking on unhealthy behaviors. Playing video games is a good example. Right or wrong, I don't think there's anything productive or healthy about playing video games.
11. Don't retire
This is not about finances. Retiring, actually retiring, is an end and depending on how it's done can quickly turn in to waiting to die. Instead, I think it is much better to move on to what is next. Keep working, which doesn't have to mean getting paid but transition into something that provides purpose and meaning. Putting in 20-30 hours a week into something you love doing, regardless of whether it pays anything is the opposite of waiting to die.
12. Don't avoid variability
A theory from Mark Baker that resonates is that aging can be thought of a diminished ability to withstand variation. The example he uses, being British, is Brits moving to Spain seeking mild weather all year. An equivalent here could be moving to Florida or the parts of Arizona that don't get cold. This is about not getting too comfortable or complacent.
13. Financial component
Fidelity conducted a study years ago to determine how much a 65 year old couple can plan to spend on all health care costs in retirement. They update it every year with the current number at $315,000. If you eat right, exercise and engage with life you might have no prescriptions to spend money on and only spend one hour/yr at the doctor for an annual physical. At that rate you'll be way under whatever the Fidelity number is when you're 65 which could be a difference maker for retirement plans without much margin for error.
14. Check yourself
Can you bend down and pick up heavy things? Great if you can deadlift more than your bodyweight for reps but can you pick up a bag of concrete and do whatever needs doing?
How's your grip strength? Great if you can do farmers carry with heavy dumbbells (this is a good one by itself), can you carry 5 gallons water jugs (take something similarly relevant in your life) into your house?
Can you still walk fast? You've got 15 minutes to make a connection at the airport and you're many gates away or even in a different terminal, can you make it?
How's your height to weight ratio? It should be 2-1 or better so if you're 72 inches tall, your waist is 36 inches or smaller.
If five minutes of physical work has you sucking wind and sweating excessively, you've got some work to do.
15. It is up to us
I say all the time it is up to us to prevent or solve our own problems. To anyone else we are just an anecdote (to a neighbor), statistic (as far as the government is concerned) or another file (at our doctor's office). No one will care more about your outcome than you.
16. A great time of life
Your 50's and 60's and beyond can be a great time in your life. With some good habits, you have the benefit of experience with the physical ability to still get it done. Once you get there, you will want to stay there.
It is simple, even if not easy. Cut your consumption of carbohydrates and lift weights. That's it. I've got nothing to sell you. Eat fewer carbohydrates and lift weights.