The New York Times health section ran this article about “middle aged spread” in men by Gina Kolata (who looks middle-aged and looks great, by the way). The first paragraph caught my attention:
It is the scourge of many a middle-aged man: he starts getting a pot belly, using lighter weights at the gym and somehow just doesn’t have the sexual desire of his younger years.
What stood out to me IMMEDIATELY was this sentence: “…using lighter weights at the gym…”
And therein lies the problem. Yes, the facts of aging are that one’s body changes (hair color changes, hair is lost, reflexes slower, etc.). However, that decline can be mitigated and there are, in fact, advantages to aging. Whether it comes from the confidence borne of experience or the ability to see and know more due to that experience (which is not the same as one stopping active learning in life…there is NO wisdom in that).
On the physical side, it does take more work to stay fit and competitive.
And that is why I was struck by the the phrase “using lighter weights.” Anyone who is engaged in any athletics or gym activity does not reduce their challenges. Rather, they increase them. They ADD weight, they add distance, they add better competitors.
Without challenge, for sure one begins to decay. The natural buoyancy of youth eventual does give way and, sadly, many people seem to think that equates to be a “natural progression” and a signal to stop all activity. However, the transitions in aging are opportunities to expand one’s game, upping the challenges, and making a commitment to something. Anything.
Without that, for sure one can expect everything from a sagging belly to lower energy and a platonic relationship. Part of that comes from the “light weights” but most of it comes from giving up. Losing focus and the will to dictate the terms of one’s life.
There are too many examples of people who counter this myth: octogenarian marathoners, middle-aged fighters, and people of all ages who do CrossFit and other hard-core training.
So if you are suffering from “middle-aged spread,” get off that couch and pick up some weights. Go outside and find a challenge.
Just don’t give up or Nature will indeed punish you for that.