By Dr. Jason Park PT, DPT, CFSC
Is age just a number?
If you asked Tom Brady, he would probably tell you it is.
If you asked me - a Jets fan, who was tormented many years by Tom Brady, I would tell you that I wished it wasn't. On a brand new team this year, at the young age of 43, Tom Brady is leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl.
We all know that aging is a natural part of life. But, have you ever taken the time to think about your beliefs on age and health?
Many of my patients tell me they feel mentally sharp. However, they are also quick to tell me that they feel aches & pains throughout their bodies that are slowing them down or feel dissatisfied with their physical health. Often times, it leads to frustrations as one may lose mobility and are even fearful of losing independence.
In order to answer the aforementioned question, you must consider two different types of aging. There are really two ways to age - Chronological and Physiological (Biological). Chronological meaning the number of years one has been alive and physiological (biological) meaning how old your body seems based on lifestyle factors. What we need to focus on is the physiological age. This is where effective changes can be made, in order to stay active and keep up within social circles, play with grandkids, and continue to work.
Most people starting at the age of 30 will have a 3-5% decline in muscle mass per decade. Over time, physical inactivity may cause many problems including decline in strength, decrease in mobility, and other risks such as osteopenia/osteoporosis. Despite the natural, physiological changes of aging, it doesn't mean we are all doomed! Making changes to lifestyle habits can help you stay strong, mobile, and continuing to enjoy the things you love to do.
Imagine Tom Brady just sat there with multiple injuries in his past, aches & pains, and blamed his age. He would not be one of the oldest players heading to the Super Bowl next weekend.
Instead, what he chose to do was to act accordingly - eat smarter, train smarter, and commit to improving his lifestyle factors in order to compete at a high level based off his book, highlighted in his book,The TB12 Method.
Although it may not be fair to compare yourself to one of the best football players of all time (there I said it..sigh), it starts with your beliefs. If you already feel that there is no hope, it is a hard place to start from. But if you can accept that aging is natural and that you have somewhat of a control to undergo healthy aging, you can make amazing adaptations. Yes, it takes work, but there is beauty in building positive habits and changes! Start with a plan, commitment, and consistency in order to stay active with more options to do what you love to do.
Many of my patients tell me they are upset that their doctor told them they have arthritis even at early ages of 25, 30, and 40 on their x-rays! I have older patients who tell me that their doctor told them they are in pain because of their age...
Although certain traumatic experiences and injuries can accelerate the rate of arthritis, just know that it isn't the end game and there is something you can do about it. The pain in your body isn't occurring simply "because of your age." Compensations in your movement from previous injuries and your lifestyle factors can greatly contribute to your pain and the aging process.
Let's get rid of the self limiting beliefs and stop blaming just the age. There is a healthier aging process and ways to help yourself so that you don't always "feel your age".
If you are looking to stay active and stay ahead of your physiological age, there are many ways you can achieve this.
If you are looking to get back to healthy aging and staying pain free, you may benefit greatly by getting a physical/musculoskeletal assessment by a licensed professional, such as a physical therapist. These include tests such as range of motion (mobility and flexibility), muscle strength, balance, functional testing and movement screens to help you stay active.