Can a 55 Year Old Have More Energy Than a 20 Year Old?
I am 55. My university students are about 20. After my 8 a.m. cardio class last week, one of my students asked me how I had so much energy. What do you think I gave as my answer?
After I gave my response, I walked back into the gym and taught two more classes – one Drums Alive ; one strength training on the ball. Once I was done teaching, I started thinking further about her question. Although it was really probably a compliment with no answer expected, I did ponder it as a sort of research question. You know, in an anecdotal sense, as I haven’t done any research on myself (trying two cigarettes in 7th grade sort of counts as self-research I guess. I smoked the wrong end, as we were hiding in a dark basement, so couldn’t see. Turned it around, inhaled deeply, almost died from coughing. End of smoking career).
First, the answers I rejected as to the genesis of my energy:
* Genetically gifted
* Good luck
* Students are super listless, so I look energetic by comparison (though they do look a bit
like pale vampires peaked during mid-terms)
* I’m bionic
* Energizer batteries shoved up my … nope, that’s not it
* Optical illusion due to room lighting
* Crowd hypnosis
* Lots of caffeine (hahahah. I drink decaf coffee every few weeks, and think soda is evil)
Want to know what I told her? Three words: Exercise, Nutrition, and Willingness
Most non-exercisers will think, “Hey, wait just a sec. Exercise makes you tired, not energized. W.R.O.N.G. That is short-term thinking. In the long run (and 55 is the long run, I assure you), the cardiovascular system becomes more efficient when it is challenged with exercise. I’ve been teaching for over 30 years, plus I danced and played soccer before that, so even when I had anemia in my 20s, I still had lots of energy. This post we wrote with 7 of the top reasons people exercise will enlighten you. And this other post with the other top 7 reasons will make you smile. Or so we hope.
It’s probably an unfair match-up between my eating habits and my university students’ because they are part of a demographic famous for eating (to say it delicately) crap. I require them to eat a healthy breakfast, yet I don’t actually monitor their personal lives, nor am I all that sure that their definition of “healthy” matches mine, though I do
nag give them friendly advice about what constitutes a suitable breakfast prior to working out.
In our radio interview with personal trainer, author, and biologist Tamara Grand you can hear her excellent advice about clean eating for women over 40 (though her advice works for all ages).
I have taken her “tough love” advice about no longer being able to eat as I did in my younger years (due in part to estrogen and other hormones).
What the heck does this have to do with energy, and what do I mean by willingness? I really just mean attitude and being willing to do what it takes to be healthy and fit. I am not a of fan of the word “willpower” when it comes to moving and eating for health because it’s too easy to feel it’s a battle, and I don’t want to fight with myself. Trying to think succinctly, I’d say that I am pretty good at “If / Then” decisions. For example, I walk a lot. And when I walk I don’t actually like to sweat. But I think, “If I walk up the mountain road road for an hour, then I’ll have done my 10,000 steps (my daily goal) for the day.” Or “If I choose not to eat cookies or ice cream when I crave an evening snack, then I’ll be that much closer to my weight goal.” I think of the choices, then make conscious decisions. I essentially have a bargain with myself. Luckily, most of my bargains lead to a happy, energetic resolution!
I’m tempted to say, “Suck it, youngsters,” but I like my youngsters, and was once one myself. So I think I’ll just say, “Try to keep up. Maybe by the time you reach 55, you’ll have lots of energy too!”
For those of you above 40 (or know someone who is), do you have more energy now than you did then?