It can get old hearing exhortation after exhortation about exercising. In fact, it’s almost as exhausting reading or hearing about it as doing it. After all, isn’t it just too late at this point?

This study says otherwise.

It’s Never Too Late

For those of us who are in our 60s or later, the simple truth is that no matter where we are, it’s never too late to get the benefits of regular exercise. That’s true – believe it or not – even for those of us who have totally slacked off for decades, or even for those wheelchair-bound.

This tends to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which leads too many of us to believe that once we hit a certain point, there’s no going back.

Nothing could be further from the truth. However, there are some provisos.

While all of us can benefit tremendously from regular movement, be it Gentle Yoga or just walking the block, let’s be clear. That 25” waist you and I may have sported in our youth may not come back.

It might, but in all fairness to the bodies which have carried us thus far (and in many cases, delivered one or more children), can we kindly give ourselves permission to be where we are?

It’s Not Really About Age

The real issue is health. Fitness. The ability to live a good life, a happy life, underscored by a better level of fitness.

While the study focused on folks in mid-life, the same is true for those later in life. The Internet is full of stories of women who took up running or bodybuilding or other exercises at or near 60 or later and transformed themselves.

The point is to get up and get out, as the late and great, the godfather of fitness, Jack Lalanne used to exhort us to do. Fitness is not just for the young.

It is for anyone of us who wants to have a more youthful body and the attendant attitude that vibrant health can deliver. In fact, for many, exercise may well even, in some ways, reverse or slow down our aging process.

Fitness, Your Style

Let’s be fair here. You don’t have to be like my friend Susan, who, at 67, is an international triathlete. You don’t have to be like my buddy Annie, who, at the very same age, goes rafting in the Arctic and is an avid horseback rider. You most certainly do not need to do adventure travel like I do.

It’s not about “be like.” There is no imperative to be like anyone except the best possible version of who you can be. What that looks like is completely up to you and is dependent upon your patience with your body. And, a sense of humor about how we have inevitably changed with age.

Look. As fit as I am, I still have boobs under my arms that weren’t there 10 years ago. It’s part of the price that we pay for the longer lives we live. Having a laugh at what life throws at our bodies is part of what life mastery looks like.

Someday, when women take over the brassiere industry (as they did with Spanx), they will design bras that neither create the side boobs, nor will they overemphasize what we do or don’t have. They will be uber-comfortable, especially for the aging body, and kindly accommodate whatever spillover exists.

It’s All About Movement

But I digress.

Movement gets us life. Many of us grew up with an aging Jack Lalanne, and many of our mothers sweated on the floor to his exuberant energy. He finally passed, the original fitness icon, at 96 in 2011.

His endless joie de vivre was in part driven by his exceptional health, his fitness regime, and careful nutrition habits. He tried hard to imbue a nation with his message.

Here’s one of my favorite Lalanne quotes from an interview for Alive Magazine in March of 2007:

The first thing I did when I was 40 years old, I put handcuffs on and I jumped off Alcatraz prison and swam to San Francisco handcuffed. That made national publicity. Then, there were three or four years where I would do more difficult feats.

Another birthday I towed a thousand-pound boat across the Golden Gate. On my 65th Birthday, I towed 65 boats a mile and a half in Tokyo. On my 70th Birthday, I towed 70 boats with 70 people in them, with my feet and hands tied, a mile and a half in Long Beach… My next Birthday I will be 93. I’m gonna tow my wife across the bathtub.

You and I don’t have to be Jack. Nor do we have to be Jane Fonda, who looks unbelievable at 80. (Okay, yes, she has a great surgeon, but she also is a fitness enthusiast. This YouTube video is hilarious and wise.)

Look for Joy When You Exercise

The point is to find something that allows you to enter the exercise world easily, with limited discomfort, and which gives you joy. What will you do regularly that you enjoy? It makes no difference.

The point is to move, because movement is life.

That movement gives you options as you age, which is the whole point. It’s not about being thin. It’s not about becoming a late-in-life athlete. This is not about trying to be like anyone else or to look like a fitness model at 69.

It is about reclaiming your birthright to be happy and energetic at any age, at any waist size, no matter how many extra breasts we may have sprouted (or lost, for that matter) and to have the best possible life you can imagine. With health, you and I have options. Without it, the options diminish.

Enjoy Your Best Years

Is it way too late? Never. Not at all. Find a friend. Start walking. Start the Gentle Yoga program. Rediscover the joy of movement, and with that, the joy of life and a youthful attitude.

Because these really can be your best years. That is, if you and I give up any notion of reclaiming our 20-something figure and instead concentrate on having the fittest, healthiest, happiest life we can possibly enjoy.

Not to coin a phrase or anything but, Just do it.

And I might add, NOW.

The rest of your life is waiting.

How do you engage in movement in your everyday life? Are you purposeful about it, or does it come in sporadic bursts? What can you do to make your body enjoy exercise? Which kind of exercise would you commit to? Please join the conversation and be proactive!

Let's Have a Conversation!