Fighting Aging: Baby-boom generation is likely more physically active than the previous ones

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Fighting Aging: Baby-boom generation is likely more physically active than the previous ones
By Melissa Ruggieri

At nearly 50, Madonna’s sculpted triceps are almost superhuman.

At 65, Paul McCartney’s jowls might be more prominent, but his strict vegetarian diet has kept his lanky, youthful figure intact.

And at 64, Mick Jagger, this week’s Parade magazine cover boy, still possesses the serpentine moves and physical vitality he had in the 1960s prime of The Rolling Stones.

But celebrities aren’t the only people making a noticeable effort to remain fit.

Experts believe that the baby-boom generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, and even those older are likely to be more physically active than previous generations.

According to the Census Bureau, about 78 million boomers currently reside in America.

“Part of it is awareness, knowing the importance of physical activity on health,” said Ayn Welleford, the chairwoman and associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Gerontology.

“There’s also the negative attitudes about aging. A lot of boomers now have that ‘I am not going to age’ mentality. As a gerontologist, that’s frustrating for me to hear because there are so many positive things about aging that people ignore because they’re so fearful of the changes that can occur,” Welleford said.

She stresses the importance of a balanced diet and a holistic approach to exercise that includes focusing on strength training, cardiovascular activity and balance.

Although many people blame a genetic predisposition as a reason for an unsatisfactory body type, Welleford agrees with that only to a point.

“Mick Jagger and Madonna probably started with good genes, but at some point, it stops being about genes and starts being about lifestyle,” she said.

Dr. Madge Zacharias, the founder and CEO of Richmond’s Easterling Zacharias Health Institute, works with groups of people, most in the 40 to 65 demographic, to adjust their lifestyles to include nutrition and fitness.

The institute offers a 10-week Make It Personal program that includes a lecture series about how the body works, and group exercise sessions three times a week.

“With the boomer generation, they’re dying to learn. They so appreciate the knowledge,” Zacharias said.

“Most people who come to the program do it wanting to get some weight off. Then about three or four weeks in, they’re feeling so much better, most of them are coming off medications, and then it becomes about how you feel, the quality of your life, and people move away from the image of wanting to be a size 6.”

Zacharias agrees with Welleford that boomers seem to be making a concerted effort to incorporate physical activity into their lives. But more people, they say, need to commit to sticking with a program.

“There are definitely more people making the effort, but it’s going to require you waking up and realizing and putting forth the effort to stay involved,” Zacharias said. Staying healthy “is a combination of nutrition and exercise, but the exercise itself becomes so key as a person is aging.

“We don’t really want to be sitting around in our 60s, 70s and 80s.”

â–  Melissa Ruggieri writes for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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