Beating the clock: Fit after 50

by Hugh Kruzel | September 4, 2013
Aging Athlete 2

Dr. Gord Beange attributes a commitment to activity and keeping trim to his youthful vigour and avoidance of poor health choices. PHOTO BY HUGH KRUZEL

Doesn’t “middle-aged” mean there are still decades ahead? Well, sadly not for all. Cancer, heart conditions, conspiring genetics and general slowing down can shorten those odds of a long and happy life.

I recently attended yet another funeral for someone just on the cusp of their fifth decade. In the receiving line at the visitation, I heard some refer to it as a wake-up call. But, does the alarm ring out to everyone?

Some just give in to the idea that a little spread comes with the territory; contrarily, many tame their thighs and tighten their tummies, aspiring to once again wear that suit they got married in. Whatever the target, fitness facilities are in growth mode and the Bell Park walkway is busy with traffic.

Tone, resilience and staying power are part of the goal of some, while others want to improve mobility or flexibility. Yoga alone has increasing numbers of practitioners and I see classes taking place even at the public library as proof of a trend towards better health.

Who are those in pursuit of improving the odds? Meet Gord Beange. He is definitely pushing that golden horizon further into the future. He is motivated — his own father passed at 47 — to model good behaviour for his own three adult children.

Many across Sudbury may already know Dr. Beange from his optometry practice in Val Caron or from his office at Algonquin Square. His pursuit of nirvana on two wheels has him doing backwoods trails and long-distance fundraising rides, but mostly, he has won an improved lease on life.

“I asked my doctor why I take no medications, no cholesterol intervention, no high blood pressure pills… he says it is because I am active,” Beange said.

Competition, however, is something you should not just jump into.

Psychologist Dr. Paul Valliant offered this sage observation: “At the age of 50, men develop the impression they are invincible, especially if they have had good health and few medical incidents during their life. Rather than taking a good look at their physical and psychological health, stress levels, work schedule or diet, 50-year-olds begin to believe they will live forever. This is a big mistake because they base their health on their impression of current well-being. Fifty-year-olds need to become realistic in self-evaluation and seek out experts who can properly judge their level of fitness.”

Yes, it is important to have a professional assess and assist with a doable schedule and plan.

Noted cardiologist Dr. Chi-Ming Chow of the Cleveland Clinic and St. Michael’s Hospital Toronto is an almost participant in this cohort; at 47 he has insight beyond his professional life.

“Many times in my career, I now encounter those 60 and 70 who are as fit as those in their 40s … education and a culture of activity is key ingredient. The more active I am myself, the more energy I have.”

I dialed a trusted friend in Kirkland Lake. Dr. Richard Denton was just heading out on his bicycle for the 25-km route to his office. Last August, Denton, who is now in his sixth decade, completed a cycling tour of Japan. The 540-km ride was part of his journey to the biannual congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

This inspirational ride had me wondering also about the new frontier of retirement. For some, it is more of a dotted line. As a physician, Dr. Denton’s advice is to “…eat well; go for variety, select organic, attempt to achieve the 100-km diet (local), choose more fruit and veggies and less meat, and try to maintain a proper weight.”

Lean and ready to tackle the world, Denton reminded me that studies confirm “… skinny people live longer, but the important fact is to feel good.”

Feeling fit and being fit is a combination of so many factors; mid-life does not mean you have to get a La-Z-Boy.

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