Aging naturally affects physical health. Maintaining ones physical condition takes more effort as each decade passes by. But the benefits of taking an active approach are many. The various body systems gain from good physical health. Of course both exercise and diet are key elements needed to keep the body in tune.
Ten years ago my body was aging fast. Even though I walked two miles most days, I had gained weight and my digestive system was a mess. My gastroenterologist prescribed some medicine to treat the ulcerative colitis. But the best thing he gave me was advice. He told me my body was used to the walks around the park. He said I needed to step it up a bit. So I began training for a marathon.
I trained a full year for the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon. My physical fitness level needed all that time to get ready. The best side effect was the positive reaction in my intestinal system. Since, I was serious about the training I stopped drinking colas and other carbonated beverages. This change in diet also contributed to better physical health.
Sugar and Fat
The carbonated beverages contained lots of sugar. Please read the book review The Case Against Sugar. In addition to watching sugar, I also watch my fats. I have been drinking 1% milk for over a decade. This change from whole milk has kept my cholesterol levels in check. Now, my biggest challenge is to not eat too much cheese.
Because I am a decade older, I have personally ruled out additional marathons. In fact, I have not run a half marathon in almost two years. Unfortunately, this has had a negative reaction for my digestive system. But, my heart rate gets above where it should be if I run too far. Thus I am experiencing a bit of a Catch-22. (A good book by the way.) So, I need to find other ways to maintain good physical health.
I now keep track of my heart rate when I exercise. This leads to many run/walk outings. Fortunately, the alternation between walking and running is akin to the interval training of my track days. Since I live at altitude, my trips to the East Coast let me run a bit farther. I plan to do any future half marathons at sea level. If my heart rate gets too high, I will make myself walk part of the course.
The physical activity also helps my brain health. First, the exercise releases many hormones. For an informative article on exercise and beneficial hormone release please click here. I am particularly hopeful that the more intense workouts release enough Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor to grow some new cells. I need all the new growth I can get.
Some early studies show consistent aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippo-campus. One study by the University of British Columbia was limited to women. The hippocampal volume grew over the course of the experiment. Unfortunately, the results were mixed with respect to memory. The study cited possible interference by white matter as a cause. You can access the study by clicking here.
Regular check-ups are key. Plane travel has been affecting my right eye. It becomes blurry and a headache ensues. Recently, my annual eye exam verified my sometimes blurry right eye was a cause for concern. I have a cataract. While I am apprehensive about the surgery, I know this condition can be addressed.
Each year I have blood work done. A couple of springs ago I was surprised that my thyroid levels were off. It is a hereditary disease. But both my parents are symptom free. However, I began treatment and feel much better. Last summer I discovered my father’s brother takes the same medicine. Since my paternal grandparents died relatively young the possibility of the condition was unknown. So, it helps to know beyond just the immediate family even though the odds diminish.
Maintaining physical health can aid in the quality of life. Eating right and exercising are the two components I focused on today. Other things come into play when discussing longevity such as social connectedness and spiritual life. Both are potential topics for future posts.
Since I need to alter my workouts, please let me know your choice of exercise.