The vicious aging cycle begins in our late teens and early 20s
This has turned into a very long post, and I haven’t even made the most important point yet! So here it is: All of these physiological changes occur as we age because of choices we make. Not because of any inevitable physical decline—but because of decisions that we make about how to live our lives.
Sometimes we’re not aware that we’re making these decisions. And when we are aware, we often feel like we have no choice in the matter.
Are these decisions based on expectation, necessity, or actual desire for how we want to live our lives? Usually, a combination of all three. As adults, we’re expected to support ourselves, so we get a job. Unless you’re able to live for free with your parents or someone else, then you also get a job out of true necessity to support yourself. And hopefully, you choose to get a job that you actually enjoy and get satisfaction from.
For most of us there is a significant shift in our daily schedule, our stress level, and our expectations for our lifestyle when we begin working full-time. It’s this shift that begins the vicious, downward aging cycle.
When we work 40+ hours a week, the time we have available to exercise is limited. We also have less energy and motivation to exercise, because we’ve been working hard all day. And even if you weren’t very physically active to begin with, working at any type of desk job will likely reduce your overall level of activity. Then there is the social expectation (or perceived social expectation) that your job should take priority over exercise or any type of self-care.
This reduction in physical activity begins the aging cycle: our metabolism slows down, we become less energetic, we gain weight, our stress level increases, our muscles get tighter, and we can’t sleep at night.
Take a moment to consider these questions:
When you began working full-time, did you become less active?
If so, what factors do you think contributed:
- Your work schedule
- Your energy level
- Your stress level
- Your personal priorities (wanting to make more money or advance at work)
- Your expectation that you were supposed to work more at the expense of other things in your life
- Others’ expectations (or your perception of their expectations)
- A true need to survive (working more hours in order to make enough money to pay your bills)
In order to for us to remain in optimal health throughout our lives, we have to answer a big question:
How do we find the balance in our lives that allows us to make enough money to support ourselves and our families, spend time with our families and friends, and still prioritize our health?
Is this balance possible, or do we have to sacrifice something? If we’re sacrificing something, why? Are we living according to social expectations, personal priorities, or true need to survive?
Sadly, optimal health is the exception rather than the norm. Our society values money, material possessions, success, work ethic, and even stress over health. The result of our skewed value system is the current state of health in our country, and increasingly, our world: rising rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, mental health disorders, and chronic pain; increasing reliance on medication and surgery to fix our problems; and rising health care costs.