In my years as a physical therapist and restorative exercise specialist helping adults age well, I’ve realized aging well has more to do with mindset than any lack of knowledge of health. The adults I encounter who age well both view aging as a positive experience and maintain a strong mind-body connection as they age. The clients I’ve worked with have inspired me to do a lot of research over the years on healthy aging and these quotes have all inspired me along the way. I hope they do the same for you.
“Becoming an Old Person in Training makes it easier to think critically about what age means in this society and the forces at work behind depictions of older people as useless and pathetic. Shame can damage self-esteem and quality of life as much as externally imposed stereotyping. Becoming an Old Person in Training is a political act, because it derails this shame and self-loathing. It undoes the “otherness” that powers ageism (and racism and nationalism). It makes room for empathy and action. It robs the caricatures of crone and geezer of their power and frees us to become our full- our ageful- selves.” -Ashton Applewhite
There are no shortage of wise words from Ashton Applewhite on ageism and how we view age as a society. This quote was so powerful it inspired me to write a whole article on this subject alone. No matter what your age is today, you are an Old Person in Training. If you haven’t watched Ashton’s powerful TED Talk or read This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, I highly recommend kicking off your new year by doing so. Both will help you challenge your own beliefs on aging.
“Falls don’t “just happen” and people don’t fall because they get older.” -NIH Senior Website
One of the most pervasive myths of aging is that falling as we age is inevitable. I’m here to tell you that it absolutely does not need to be true. We know higher rates of falling tend to be correlated with age, but we can’t make the assumption this is because of age. Correlation does not equal causation. Rather than falling being due to something about aging itself, it has more to do with the behavior change that tends to come along with aging. And this is exactly why believing you become “too old” to keep moving in new ways and challenging yourself becomes dangerous. You’re never too old to keep trying new things, explore the world through movement, and step out of your comfort zone every day.
“We are mostly under-moved and not at all too old.” -Katy Bowman, Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility
One of my favorite quotes from a fantastic book on aging. Katy Bowman strives to challenge our beliefs on aging, exercise, and movement. It is possible to be young and weak because you aren’t moving enough, just as it is possible to be old and strong because you move often. Being “under-moved” as a society is a greater health crisis than aging. You can make the choice today to start aging well by moving well.
“Your brain and your body aren’t in separate rooms.” -The Minimalists
As I mentioned above, I’ve noted that those who age well maintain a strong mind-body connection throughout their lives. This is a powerful reminder that your movement affects your brain health and your brain health is often reflected in your movement. It’s easy to forget your brain and body were designed to work together. By impacting one, you impact the other. If you have concerns about your future brain health, get yourself moving today.
“Your body is never “out of shape”: it is always in a shape created by how you have moved up until this very moment.” -Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement
You’ve likely heard the phrase “you are what you eat”, but have you ever stopped to consider you become shaped by how you do or don’t move? In her book Move Your DNA, Katy Bowman describes the process by which your body adapts to how you use it. The more you remain in one position, the more your body becomes shaped in said position. The more variety of positions you give yourself, the more you utilize the range of movement a human should experience.
Your movement opportunities are shaped by the world around you. And this is why I harp so much on floor-sitting. One of the most impactful ways to give yourself a new “shape” is simple: start sitting on the floor more often. By sitting on the floor instead of the couch, you provide yourself with movement nutrients you wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. The options of positions while sitting on the floor are endless, and this is one of the best ways to nourish your body from head to toe.
“Aging isn’t a problem or disease. Aging is living.” -Ashton Applewhite
A few months ago, Julia Hubbel published a fantastic article titled Age is NOT a “Condition” that challenges this misconceived notion of aging as a “disease”. Aging in and of itself is not the problem. And to tie this back to the above quotes, it’s the change in our behavior that often accompanies aging that is the real issue. Our physical and mental health decline due to under-moving as we age. So take the advice of Ashton Applewhite and keep living.
“Before beginning a program of physical inactivity, see your doctor. Sedentary living is abnormal and dangerous to your health.” -Frank Forenrich
A powerful quote from Erwan Le Corre’s book The Practice of Natural Movement: Reclaim Power, Health, and Freedom that was released earlier this year. He is the creator of MovNat, an organization that encourages healthy living through natural movement. And this quote tells us just how backward we often talk about physical activity in the medical community. We scare older adults out of moving when it’s much more detrimental to your health to NOT move. The chronic conditions associated with physical inactivity are well documented.
Getting more movement in your life doesn’t need to be complicated and you can start where you are. Again, focus on more floor sitting. Walk in short intervals throughout your day to total about 3–5 miles by the end of the day. Take your shoes off and let your feet experience some texture and strengthening. Just keep yourself moving.
“We are going to age, but how we age, that’s our choice.” -Dami Roelse, Walking Gone Wild: How to Lose Your Age on the Trail
Dami Roelse wrote a wonderful book about incorporating more walking in her life as she aged, and all the powerful lessons it taught her. And she did it by embracing this mindset of choosing how she wanted to age. Like it or not, we all age and how you want to go about it is your choice. By taking on a growth mindset and a sense of ownership you have the power the age gracefully.
“We live in a world that does not challenge our balance.” -Jim Klopman
Jim Klopman is the creator of SlackBow, a system to help adults challenge their balance on a daily basis to maintain physical fitness and form new neural connections. As he points out, we live in a world that doesn’t challenge us. We should be challenging our balance each and every day, but we need to make the effort to do so.
Humans are creatures of habit and we tend to stick to routines that don’t allow for much variability in our movement throughout the day. And this is where the problem comes in. It doesn’t matter how old you are, your mobility will start to decline the minute you stop seeking variety. The opportunities you have to challenge your balance daily are endless, so find something to push the limits of your physical comfort zone today.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw
And last but not least, as a society, we sadly believe that play is only for children. But healthy aging and movement should absolutely involve laughter and play. Find yourself a healthy aging community and check out Darryl Edwards of Primal Play to bring the joy back into your movement. If you aren’t laughing often, you’re doing it wrong.
I hope all of the above quotes gave you a lot to think about as we wrap up the year. Do you have a favorite healthy aging quote? I’d love to hear it.