How to Age

Emily Oster’s findings in the fitness essay I included in the previous post rest on the following premise—people exercise to lengthen their lives. I run, swim, and cycle quite a bit further and faster than the research says I should because I enjoy pushing myself. And as far as I know the research doesn’t answer this question: Are the costs of more extreme fitness habits lessened when one increases the volume and intensity of their activities over many years? My gut tells me yes. My gut also tells me cross training lessens the costs.

But I’m okay being wrong because I don’t care if I live to 100. The more familiar I get with the 80’s and 90’s, the more inclined I am to trade quality of life for quantity. Which leads to how to age.

There are two approaches, but I don’t know which is better. The first is to remind oneself on a daily basis that you’ll never be younger than you are at this very instance. Meaning carpe diem. Live with urgency. Do the iron-distance triathlon now because it’s going to be even harder in a few years. Travel the world now because it’s going to be harder in a few years. Hike the Wonderland Trail or the Camino de Santiago before hiking to the mailbox is all you can manage.

The alternative is to accept the inevitability of physical decline and embrace life’s limits. Reject “Bucket List” mania. Live more simply. Slow down, travel less, invest more in friendships. Find joy in daily routines. Watch nature. Enjoy coffee, food, and drink. Go gently into the future.

Two paths in the woods diverge. Which to take?

13 thoughts on “How to Age

  1. I still feel that each individual has a set time when our bodies decommission. Healthy lifestyles assure us that we reach that maximum age we’ve been programmed for. Failure to eat and exercise properly cuts years off of that set time, provided of course some unforeseen accident doesn’t intervene

    But then I could be wrong.

    • Dear Reader, thanks for reading. I was thinking of your aunt and uncles and other readers who are oblivious to the unparalleled joys and restorative powers of green tea mocha powder, sugar, vanilla extract, and hot milk. I know sugar is the root of all evil, but remember I don’t want to live to 100, so what the hell. If you were truly the best writer in the family like your deluded grandfather thinks, no explanation would’ve been needed for that particular word choice.


      • I simply strive for authenticity and truth-telling in my own work, and thought you maybe aspired to the same thing. Excuse me for being so clearly wrong.

  2. I think a combo of the two approaches. For example, I have done ONE marathon and that’s enough. Climbed Mt. Rainier– no desire to do it again. I do enjoy coffee on a daily basis. I like to go to Germany every other year because most of my really deep friends are Germans. I like integrating working out into a daily lifestyle, hence biking to work is a way to stay casually fit and clear the mind. I guess enjoy life but challenge yourself now and then.

  3. I agree on the combo approach. Just do what you like to do. If you die doing that, then you died well. However, if you still have a partner you of course have to think about their needs as well in your decision making.

  4. I must amend my comment in that I like real, dark roasted, black coffee. None of these milkshakes with a little bit of coffee in it that are served by too many espresso joints. BTW, if you want to have a real coffee experience, go to Vienna. It is so elegant that it is almost a suit and tie experience.

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