At 62, Jeff Lasater is dedicated to staying in shape.
He lifts weights three times a week, and he runs on the treadmill three times a week.
“I don’t want to live to be 80 if I’m not healthy,” says Jeff, who still enjoys his job in sales and was introduced to fitness a few years ago by his grown daughter and son-in-law. “They were worried about me having all that idle time at night. And I feel good. I enjoy it.”
Jeff knows that every workout is an investment in his health – the best kind of investment we can make.
A Quick Review: Exercise Slows Aging
Time and again, polls show that we value our health more than anything. Or, at least, we say we do. People over 50 say they want to maintain their independence as long as possible, to enjoy the life they want to live for as long as they can.
But we all know about the obesity epidemic in our culture. We know the vast majority of Americans and Canadians do not get enough movement of any kind.
Studies prove beyond a doubt that exercise slows the aging process. It makes us stronger and more flexible, and it gives us better endurance. It’s good for heart health, brain function, depression and social interaction.
So, while aging is inevitable, becoming frail and immobile is not.
A Broader View
The phrase “functional fitness” provides a great way of approaching exercise and diet for active adults.
“Functional fitness is the term we use to describe fitness as it relates to our body’s ability to function, performing the tasks we ask of it,” according to the Functional Aging Institute, an Indiana-based organization that advocates for healthy living for people over 50. “And it’s so much more than what we traditionally think of when it comes to fitness.”
That’s because functional fitness includes balance, mobility and emotional health, along with strength and endurance. And the goal isn’t to lose a certain number of pounds or to fit into a former dress size. It’s to help enjoy all the things you like, for as long as possible.
The institute offers a handy self-assessment that encourages users to rate their ability to do such everyday tasks as:
• Climb a flight of stairs without using a handrail for support
• Go on a brisk 20-minute walk while talking with a friend
• Pick up and carry a 20-pound toddler for five minutes
• Play your favorite sport as well as you did five years ago
• Get a good night’s sleep regularly
That’s a Sound Investment
This approach makes sense for a lot of people who want to invest in their health, whether they’ve been active their whole lives or not. Functional fitness is all about living better, by your own definition.
It requires some guidance and diversity of movement and, to a degree, thought. If you just keep doing the same few motions over and over, you’re not making a diversified investment in your health.
I'd be happy to hear about your goals for fitness. Maybe they’re about hobbies, health, family, travel or appearance.
Regardless, your health really is your most important investment. It’s never too late to start or to refocus your efforts.
Jeff Lasater says he wants to prolong his quality of life as long as possible. “I’ve watched people who aged gracefully,” he says. “And they all did some kind of exercise regularly.”