Last weekend I was out with my family and saw some youngsters rolling down the hill sideways, and then scrambling back up the hill to do it again. I remember doing this myself when I was little and my boys doing the same. Other children were generally running about, squatting down and pushing and pulling playfully with each other. Thankfully, I can still perform all these movements easily.

But how true is this of most adults today?

I think it is fair to say that when we are young we take our health for granted. Unless we are unfortunate to suffer with a disability, we bound around in our childhood without thinking much about it. When I was young we used to play leapfrog, “it” and kiss-chase (always a favourite!!) and clamber around, up in trees and climbing frames and monkey bars in the playground and parks. But as we develop into young adults we put aside these playtimes and consider ourselves far too “old” to mess about in this way. Unless we actively seek exercise such as weight training, running or classes at the gym our general movement patterns are reduced quite drastically.

Then many of us become parents ourselves. But in the throes of parenting – feeling tired, doing the chores, working etc – how many of us are “too busy” to get down amongst the children, rolling on the floor and running around the park? Or, indeed, just too unfit?

We enter our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s with the general opinion that we are now “too old” to partake in most fitness activities and accept that life now consists of aches and pains, that sitting on the floor is for the younger generation and picking up heavy objects is for those far stronger than ourselves. We think of ourselves as “past our prime” and slide into life in the slow lane.

But does any of this actually have to be the case?

In my opinion the answer is no. But we need to take ownership of our health to make sure that this “inevitable decline” does not happen in the way we are currently allowing it to. To not let it slip almost unnoticed from our fingers, but to actively take control and make sure that we continue to move as much as ever – and perhaps even more when it comes to actual structured exercise programs.

Part of the problem is that the world of nutrition has become so fraught with disagreements over what we should and shouldn’t be eating. We have lost touch with basic human foods as we move further away from nature and further towards man-made, processed garbage. This, not surprisingly, has had a massive impact on public health, from obesity to type 2 diabetes to cancers, autoimmune conditions, colitis, IBS and so on. No wonder, then, we don’t feel much like moving!

We can place the blame for the growing ill health on our modern world, but the truth is we all have a say in what we put into our mouths and how much we move our bodies. Whilst there may be disagreements amongst health professionals about what the best dietary approach may be, we all know that cutting out the junk, reducing alcohol consumption, and being active are key components to becoming healthier. A nutritionist or personal trainer can offer more targeted advice one to one, of course.

Taking back control of your health is firmly in your own hands. I often receive really glowing testimonials from clients when they have reached their goals and achieved success, for which I am of course very grateful, but really it is themselves they need to be praising, because they have put the hard work in. I can show someone what to do, I can hold their hand and offer motivation and encouragement, but at the end of the day if they don’t put in the effort themselves then they won’t achieve that success.

Mindset is key to taking ownership. If we are looking to place the blame for our poor health on someone else; the government, or society at large, then we have no hope of making positive change, because passing the buck – and expecting that there will be change made at a high level – absolves us of our responsibility. Yes we have been given information over the past 50 years that was based on flawed science and has led to an explosion of ill-health, but if we accept that ultimately WE hold the key to our health in our own hands then this is the first step in making the changes necessary to improve our quality of life.

Why should you have to accept inevitable decline as part of life? Fight against it with all your might! Seek to be your very best so that you can walk up a hill without difficulty, swim in the sea and jump about in the waves on holiday, squat down and play with your grandchildren, roll sideways down a hill with reckless abandon…whatever is important to you. These things are part of your human right and needn’t be lost as you age. Growing old (dis)gracefully can, and should be, within your reach – it just takes some effort. And it’s never too late. Research shows that 60, 70 and even 80 year olds who have started training in the gym have regained their strength and mobility back.

Our youthful arrogance often thinks “that will never happen to me” but before we know it our health and fitness has taken a tumble and we don’t know how to stand up and get back on track. The human body is an amazing machine and if we give it our attention we can help it to retain – and even increase – its abilities as we enter our golden years.

How to take ownership of your health:

  • Look at your goals in the present tense
  • How do you see yourself?
  • What difference will being fitter and healthier make to your life?
  • What practical changes do you need to make?
  • What mental attitude changes do you need to make?
  • What nutritional changes do you need to make?

If you need help with setting your goals and making an action plan then seeking advice from a professional can help you get on the right road, but remember – at the end of the day, only YOU can be the difference you want to see.

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