Growing old is not for sissies!


For centuries, human beings have dreaded the downside of a long life… The ancient Greek poet Homer called old age “loathsome” and William Shakespeare termed it “hideous winter.”

Perhaps people would feel differently about a good innings if we were Benjamin Buttoned (verb) at birth; born old and finish young so that we could finish strong. For these reasons, cultures around the world have always been interested in anti-aging.

Almost every culture has a story and an attempt at throwing the natural process off course. Taoism in ancient China focused on life extension through preserving ‘bodily fluids’ and Cleopatra even bathed in the milk of asses (donkey’s milk).

If plastic surgeons had one South African rand for every time someone was idle and indulged in 10 custard slices, 3.5 burgers, 7 pancakes, 1 super-sized fries AND a diet coke (because okes are watching their weight), they would have BILLIONS by now. Quacks globally are capitalizing on laziness and poor nutrition.

Anti-aging doctors promise medicines, treatments and services that all claim to increase life expectancy. These days a ‘quickie’ carries a whole new meaning; an aesthetic procedure at a clinic which requires no downtime. This procedure is also known as ‘lunch-hour’ surgery. People are obsessed with the idea of increasing their life expectancy and looking young…

En route to senior citizenship, a number of things will happen; your ears will boast slightly more hair than before, gravity will take its toll, you might be referred to as a fossil and you won’t be able to eat apples or smile broadly without supporting the good fellas at Corega.

Even worse, your heart muscles becomes less able to engineer large quantities of blood quickly through your body, which means you tire more quickly and take longer to recover. The body loses its ability to efficiently deal with damaged cells and cannot keep ahead in regenerating new cells. You begin to lose the muscle fibers that are responsible for making you move quickly. The body dehydrates more rapidly and your bones tend to shrink in size which weakens them and makes them more susceptible to fracture. And finally, you’ll forget your teeth and wallet at home.

But it’s not ALL bad, you’ll get pensioners rates at the cinemas, Gold Reef City, and the Rhino Park. The destinations are endless!

According to a report published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, one third of the world’s adults are physically inactive, getting less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Sedentary lifestyles kill more people across the world than smoking. Inactive lifestyles mean that the people who practice it now have a 20-30% higher risk of contracting life-threatening diseases than those who exercise regularly.

So imagine you’re older and something is broken, you want to get it fixed but surgery scares you. The good news is surgery has become a lot safer over the last five decades. The bad news is modern surgeries are becoming more and more accompanied by unhealthier, fragile patients. A substantial portion of older people who enter hospitals will never fully regain their physical or mental capabilities, even when the illness that brought them there is successfully treated.

The very simple answer is exercise. Some of you reading this might say that you don’t have the time but I believe you make the time. When you study part time, it doesn’t mean you study in your spare time. It really is this simple:

  • Exercise decreases the risk of premature death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, colon and breast cancer.
  • Exercise alleviates stress by burning stress-causing chemicals away. At the same time, vigorous exercise releases endorphins into the system which are are morphine-like hormones that are responsible for the feeling of elation or well-being.
  • Dopamine is released in the brain during exercise. Dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and also helps regulate movement and emotional responses. It also enables us not only to see rewards but to take action to move toward them.
  • When you exercise over a period of time, your heart will not only become stronger and more efficient, it will grow in size allowing it to pump a larger volume of blood. This allows more oxygen to be delivered to all the cells in your body.
  • Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This helps keep your brain power up and your memory loss down. Keeping physically fit helps to keep your brain in tip-top shape in later life.
  • Exercise increases muscle and bone strength, prevents osteoporosis and reduce the risks and consequences of arthritis.
  • Exercise even assists people with established diseases and helps manage their disease and further decline (e.g. lower blood pressure and elevated lipid levels).
  • Do I really have to keep telling you what you already know?


LIES. Maybe we can skip gym rather today and go pick out your favourite zimmer frame?

Not to make you feel bad or anything but a study of frail, over-the-hill, wheelchair bound nursing home residents in their 80s and 90s participated in a weight lifting program which improved their strength and overall functional ability. In other words, the kind of “aging” we’ve come to know and hate is literally slowed down and changed on the basis of exercise. When you’re 80, you’re going to wish you had been more active, you’re going to want to kick yourself and that’ll be hard to do; you’ll be super inflexible and you’ll probably break a hip.

Quite simple: Come over to the dark side… We have healthy hearts, less stress and some funky looking porno gym kit!

Mark Sham is the owner and founder of Suits & Sneakers and believes emphatically in informal learning and human development. You can like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter!

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Mark is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker. He is the founder and CEO of Suits & Sneakers and also founder of the Impello incubation hub. Mark loves to travel the world and is hell bent on disrupting education for people of all ages.