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One Expert Says We Are Not Getting Healthier. Is He Right?

Geezer Jock
Be unstoppable. This inelegantly named newsletter is the internet’s best storytelling about the willpower and triumphs of older athletes. Geezer Jock is part of the crusade to push older folks to be active. Brought to you every Saturday by a journalist obsessed with telling stories well. It’s FREE.

Golf great Gary Player, 86 years old, shows what is possible with fitness. But are enough of us following his lead?
Golf great Gary Player, 86 years old, shows what is possible with fitness. But are enough of us following his lead?
Geezer Jock takes a break this week from personal stories of fitness to give you a short manifesto (900 words). Please read.
We are not winning. We are losing.
I think. Maybe.
Dan Ritchie of the Functional Aging Institute insists the Geezer Jocks on a crusade to disrupt ageism—that’s you and me—are in a bubble. Too few graybeards and blue hairs have turned things around with their fitness, Ritchie says. We just think we have set a new standard for growing old with our walking and running and pickleball and bocce ball.
Indeed, our crowd overruns pickleball tournaments.
Several blocks away, though, a Baby Boomer cannot be unglued from the TV chair as they sit and wait for dinner… at 3 p.m.
“I don’t think we have seen a big shift where we say ‘oh my goodness, the older population is becoming super fit’,” he said. “I still think the statistics overwhelmingly support this idea that people over 55 are woefully inactive.”
Ritchie’s doomsaying is not meritless. We should pay attention.
Look back further at the data and you can see something unsettling.
In 2000, the CDC found 26.9 percent of people 65 and older were in fair or poor health. We got healthier in the next 12 years and took that number to 22.7 by 2012. Hooray!
But we were still around that mark of 22 percent six years later in 2018. It’s been four years since the CDC did an update and you have to wonder if the number is even higher than 22 percent after two years of Covid.
There is more distressing news where that came from. Of Men aged 65-74, 41.9 percent are considered obese. For Women it is 45.9 percent.
And then I see this…
The official registration for the National Senior Games in May is 11,903, which would make the 2022 Games the third largest. This is with Covid just loosening its grip and sky-high fuel costs.
And there is this:
According to the IHRSA (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association), the number of people 65 years and older going to health clubs has increased 34 percent since 2010. This data suggests older people are not peeking out of the window blinds, as the stereotype goes, but opening windows to possibilities.
A 2020 study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research using exercise app tracking data of 5,300 people found that exercise habits of young to middle age people declined during Covid while people 65 and older ramped up. 
Chris Craytor, vice-chairman of the IHRSA board, and president/COO for ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, told me Baby Boomers, and even those born before 1946, are finding much more research about the benefits of exercise than previous generations, and putting it to work.
“You go back 50 years and some people were scared of exercise as they got older,” Craytor said. “Now it is a focus for older people and there are many more options to stay active at any age.”
It’s clear we Geezer Jocks have work to do. There are always impediments and I can think of one, which is underplayed.
Stress. It is delivered daily. It can impact our motivation to exercise.
This is an excerpt from a New York Times story about stress and the body. Please read:
The human organism does not recognize the medical profession’s artificial separation of mental and physical ills. Rather, mind and body form a two-way street. What happens inside a person’s head can have damaging effects throughout the body, as well as the other way around. An untreated mental illness can significantly increase the risk of becoming physically ill, and physical disorders may result in behaviors that make mental conditions worse.
We should pay attention to this:
Mental stress can be as harmful as a broken foot. Mental stress can break us physically.
Is it any wonder that 22 percent of us Geezers are considered inactive when anxiety disorders affect 20 percent of adults? What goes on in our heads impacts everything from the neck down.
Michael Sachs, Phd., professor emeritus at Temple University with expertise in exercise and sports psychology, told me the mental/physical marriage is why the initiative Exercise is Medicine is so important. The American College of Sports Medicine developed the program, which urges doctors to do a physical activity assessment and prescribe physical activity like they would a pill.
The fact is there should be more motivation that comes from onrushing mortality, but not enough of us have the motivation.
We need to be more motivated and more stubborn. This is no time to be vague about your health, Ritchie said. Understand the consequences and get busy.
So are we establishing a new benchmark for aging, or not?
Let’s just say NOT and use it as motivation to do more and press people around us to do more.
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Geezer Jock
Geezer Jock @geezerjocknews

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