Ageing and the milestones associated with it, like turning 40 or retirement, usually carry the connotations of ‘slowing down’ or ‘hanging up one’s boots’. Speaking of India specifically, after one retires or reaches ‘a certain age’, there is a social expectation to go only on religious pilgrimages or dedicate oneself completely to their children or grandchildren.
Life does not stop after 40. Ambitions, goals and the pleasure of achievement is not the sole province of one’s 20s and 30s. With the standard of living improving, people are now retiring earlier or at least, not sacrificing play at the cost of work. India is also fast becoming the world’s capital for cardiac disease and Alzheimer’s and people are increasingly taking notice and paying attention to what their body is trying to tell them.
Fitness amongst seniors comes recommended by the WHO itself. Guidelines say that 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 150 minutes of intense exercise a week comes with numerous health benefits like improvement in cardiac health, bone health and mental health. Exercise also reduces the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Increasingly, more and more adults are reporting that they feel fitter in their 40s and 50s than they did when they were younger. This is attributed to knowing your body better as you grow older and less work responsibilities and stress. People also report a shift of perspective when it comes to fitness as they get older. With age, the focus shifts from chasing run times and distances, to prioritizing pleasure from exercise and health.
A disciplined nutritional plan goes hand in hand with a fitness regimen. An increase in fitness activities also promotes the intake of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids that can significantly reduce the risk of Schizophrenia. With age, bone density and health becomes crucial. Exercising outdoors increases exposure to Vitamin D and prevent the onset of Osteoporosis. Supplementation of vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 DHA is also highly recommended to prevent such health set backs.
As more families are becoming scattered and replacing joint families, the elderly in India also report feeling lonely and isolated from family members. Fitness activities like running open up opportunities to socialize with like-minded individuals. Along with the happy hormones released during physical activity, exercise also encourages goal making and self-motivation, which contribute towards an overall positive frame of mind.
Ageing, in itself, is a celebration of one’s accumulated wisdom and life experiences. It is only the conventional expectations of restraint that restrict the participation of the elderly in fun, wholesome activities. The golden years should be looked at as a time to unburden oneself of societal expectations and explore one’s true potential. With a timeless body and a timeless mind, comes a timeless spirit; and there’s no ageing when it comes to the spirit. So, do not worry about what the neighbors will think at the sight of you in running shoes and shorts. One day, they will be secretly jealous that you can outrun them all.
Remember, they are called your ‘sunset years’ for a reason. Sunsets make for the best views.
Want to run with amazing Veteran runners? Veterun, India’s first running race dedicated to veteran runners, is happening on 5th October, 2014 in Pune. Register here. We hope to see you there.