Midlife Fitness

I do not like to think of myself as having reached “midlife,” but it is true that I will turn 40 next year.  Whether or not this birthday accurately reflects “over the hill,” it can often be the cause of strange behavior in people nearing this age.  For myself, the looming birthday has given me impetus to register for a marathon.  Now, many other librarians at Taubman would call me a “runner”, so I’d like to clarify this for you.  I’m a “jogger”.  I never ran in high school.  In fact, I avoided it at all costs.  In fact, I would say I avoided any type of regular exercise from the time I entered school through my mid-30s. It wasn’t until 3 years ago that a fellow librarian cajoled me into “running” the relay at the Detroit Free Press Marathon.

Fast forward 3 years, and I have, in fact, reached the stage of my marathon training plan where I have begun to doubt the sanity of my decision to engage in a 26.2 mile trek.  I know I have reached this point when I cannot stop whining about all aspects of running…er…jogging.  The good news is this: a recent New York Times article highlighted a research study in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrating that fitness in midlife was significantly associated with a lower risk in developing chronic disease later in life.  So as I continue to whine about the longer runs, the shorter day light, the colder temperatures, and if you see me huffing and puffing on the sidewalks (or streets), remind me that it’s better late than never to be healthy and keep your fingers crossed that I’ll make it across that finish line.

Reposted from the New York Times:

The Benefits of Middle-Age Fitness
by Gretchen Reynolds
September 5, 2012

Americans are living longer, with our average life expectancy now surpassing 78 years, up from less than 74 years in 1980. But we are not necessarily living better. The incidence of a variety of chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, has also been growing dramatically, particularly among people who are not yet elderly.

The convergence of those two developments has led to what some researchers have identified as a “lengthening of morbidity.” That means we are spending more years living with chronic disease and ill health — not the outcome that most of us would hope for from a prolonged life span.

But a notable new study published last week in Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that a little advance planning could change that prospect. Being or becoming fit in middle age, the study found, even if you haven’t previously bothered with exercise, appears to reshape the landscape of aging…

Read the full story here.

Full citation for the research study:
Willis BL, Gao A, Leonard D, Defina LF, Berry JD.  Midlife Fitness and the Development of Chronic Conditions in Later Life.  Arch Intern Med.  2012 Aug 27: 1-8.
PMID: 22928178
doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3400

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