Change is an undeniable force that impacts everything. Nothing in the physical world, either on Earth or in the Universe itself, is able to resist change and ultimate decay. Supernovas, for example, are the final explosive moments of massive stars. Our own changes through life are not as dramatic, but nonetheless, they are just as meaningful, often profoundly so.
Some life cycles such as that of a leaf or butterfly are studied and appreciated as symbols of change. Yet, the physical changes we go through over the years and decades are often lamented instead of revered. We could mourn for our youthful selves, regretting our losses and wishing we could have retained what used to be, or we could return our perspective to the forces of life proceeding in and around us. In doing so, we come to realize we are not required to passively accept the march of time. In the context of physical health, we may focus our attention on the things we are capable of doing to resist the impact of the passing years and maintain and even upgrade our levels of fitness, health and well-being.
Realistically, physical structures do break down. For example, our intervertebral discs, the gelatinous shock-absorbers situated between pairs of spinal vertebras, begin to lose their maximum water content shortly after birth, owing to the ongoing effects of gravity. Thus, intervertebral disc degeneration is inevitable. But we can resist the process and slow the progression or loss, by pumping physiologic fluids back into the disc via physical activity and regular vigorous exercise. In this way, we rehydrate our intervertebral discs to the available maximum, improving our flexibility, agility and mobility as we do so.
Overall, lifestyle upgrades such as ensuring a healthy nutritious diet1,2 and engaging in regular vigorous exercise five times a week3 help us be proactive against the effects of the passage of time. We may not be able to run a six-minute mile at age 60, but that’s not the point. What we can do is become much fitter and much healthier than we have been. We can lose weight and add pounds of lean muscle mass, sleep more restfully, have more energy throughout the day, upgrade our musculoskeletal adaptability, and improve our long-term health and well-being. We have the time that is ours to have.