Age brings wisdom—or at least it should. Though the energy and strength of youth decline, our perspective, knowledge and understanding increases with use and years.
Many people, however, succumb to physical decrepitude through abuse and neglect of their bodies. They underestimate just how resilient God made us to be physically.
Current research on senior health should greatly encourage you. It is a reality that—in almost every case—you can become fit and vibrantly healthy too.
New research shows that being active, fit and vibrantly healthy is not just reserved for the young.
We could, and probably should, set a goal to become more physically fit and vibrantly healthy. There is a very practical reason for doing this.
Knowing well God’s prophecies for the coming years, we know tough times are coming on all nations—but especially the nations of Israel. There will be an increase in communicable diseases, likely food shortages caused by cursed weather, and even further degeneration of the foods available. Maintaining vibrant health will help us endure these dangerous times.
New Research on Aging
Researchers at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, uncovered some information that you need to know. They studied a group of septuagenarians (people in their 70s) who grabbed hold of the exercise boom of the 1970s and stuck with it into their senior years. What they discovered surprised them.
“We saw that people who exercise regularly year after year have better overall health than their sedentary counterparts. These 75-year-olds—men and women—have similar cardiovascular health to a 40-to-45-year-old,” stated physiologist Scott Trappe in an interview for National Public Radio. That is amazing information. Trappe also studied the muscle density of these septuagenarians. He discovered that the muscle fitness of 75-year-old lifelong exercisers were about the same as the muscles of 25-year-olds! “If I showed you the muscle data that we have, you wouldn’t know it was from an older individual. You would think it’s from somebody that’s a young exerciser,” he said. This is stunning information. It has positive implications for seniors.
Medical professionals are using this research to approach senior health issues differently. While this is not a “fountain of youth,” doctors recognize that the human body’s aging process can be slowed significantly—even if a person has not been a lifelong exerciser! It is possible that a person in his or her 70s can regain a good measure of youthful vitality—without the use of drugs or surgical interventions!
Prosperous in Health
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth,” the Apostle John wrote to Gaius (3 John 2). This verse shows that from the first century, God’s Church has emphasized the importance of being in and maintaining good health. In the Philadelphia era, God used Herbert W. Armstrong to restore the knowledge of the seven laws of health. Sickness or ill health is a penalty for violating the physical laws of health.
Every year at Passover, we review that there is spiritual sin—breaking God’s Ten Commandments, statutes and judgments—as well as physical sin, breaking the laws of health. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for both at His crucifixion. As members of God’s Family, we must strive against and overcome both spiritual and physical sins. We have the God-given responsibility to keep all of God’s revealed laws.
Some seniors cannot exercise because of physical disabilities caused by injury. However, in many cases, even those seniors that have niggling injuries or conditions—many think they should not exercise because it will make their injuries or ailments worse. Often, this is simply wrong. Some mild, targeted exercise will help. Remember, seniors in the Church, who have been anointed for a physical injury have a responsibility to do their part to aid the healing process. Then, there are other seniors who avoid exercise because of wrong thinking (I am to old), or the lack of discipline and character to commit to an exercise routine. Exercise and healing are connected. Seniors need to ask themselves: Am I suffering needlessly because I am not exercising? The spirit prevalent in this world is to ‘grow old and do nothing. Everyone wants to retire, so they can do nothing—this is not a godly perspective on human life—it is a wrong view even in old age.’ Seniors should not have to be convinced that exercise is a good thing. Usually we need help with the character side—making ourselves get up and do it. Seeing where our thinking is wrong, and seeing that we can do it is invigorating.
“God so designed the mechanism of the human body that, given proper food (and few indeed know what that is!); drinking the right amount of pure water; breathing properly of pure air; getting sufficient exercise—and that is not necessarily a great amount; obtaining sufficient rest, recreation and sleep; maintaining normal regularity of elimination, which includes more frequent bathing and rub-downs than many realize; and keeping the mind in a positive, cheerful, active and peaceful state, the body would never be sick!” wrote Mr. Armstrong in an article titled “The Plain Truth About Fasting” (Plain Truth, September 1982). This paragraph lists seven laws of health. We should study these laws regularly and apply them daily.
The newest research on aging is finally discovering some of these laws, and an increasing number of medical doctors fully support the findings. If you search the Internet for current articles on senior health, you will discover that most experts say the three major keys to senior health are exercise, proper diet and a positive mental attitude. These are three of the seven health laws Jesus Christ emphasized in God’s Church through Mr. Armstrong. And we will see that several others are definitely included in the explanation of these three keys. Let’s take a look at what modern science has learned about these three keys.
Exercise—The Foundation of Vibrant Health
As seniors, we must not believe the prevailing myth that as you age, you won’t feel vibrant any more. That thinking is certainly not supported by the Bible. John’s letter to Gaius is one proof that the myth is false. Consider what the Bible says about Moses on the day God took him from Israel: “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; he was as strong as ever, and his eyesight was still good” (Deuteronomy 34:7; Good News Bible). Moses was in vibrant health until the day he died. So can we be—if we do our part.
A recent Swedish study found that physical exercise was the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to a person’s life. The study also showed that it is not too late to start exercising, even for a person in his or her 70s. Physical exercise is a major key to vibrant health. Barring physical disabilities from genetics or debilitating accidents, seniors should be doing some sort of exercise regularly. More than ever before, there is a lot of support (even from the medical field) and opportunities to exercise have become much more abundant in our modern society if we are willing to seek them out.
Thanks to the organizing talents of the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) who are now entering their 70s, there are many senior exercise programs available to help septuagenarians regain youthful vitality. For example, in the United States some Medicare Supplemental Insurers will pay for their members to join a gym. My wife and I have taken advantage of this program: We use our local ymca at no extra cost.
At our ymca, there is an inside track for walking or running, a swimming pool and exercise classes devoted to seniors. Our Y sponsors a water aerobics class and others especially designed to help seniors restore healthful vitality and fitness. For a small fee, we were able to obtain a physical trainer to counsel my wife on the best exercises for her. My wife and I realized we had no more excuses to not be exercising—so we got to it!
Personally, I love running and walking outdoors to breathe in the freshest air possible (one of the seven laws of health). However, if it is excessively hot or cold, raining, snowing or icy, I opt for the indoor track. This way I avoid potential injury from slipping or falling.
Of course, if you have not been a regular exerciser, you should start any exercise program gradually. And it would not be a bad idea to get a physical check-up before starting. One of the best exercises for seniors is walking. The health benefits of walking 30 to 60 minutes consistently four to five times a week are huge. This simple exercise can help reduce high blood pressure, high blood sugar and weight gain. Walking regularly will strengthen your heart, improve your breathing, and give you better sleep (another law of health). Regular walking also relives chronic pain from pinched nerves and arthritis. My wife has learned this amazing fact and now takes walks often.
Many seniors fear falling. Walking will actually strengthen your muscles and give you better balance, which will help you not to fall. Walking also will improve your digestion, your immune system, and assist your body to properly eliminate waste (another law of health). Being physically active is also great for brain health: Walking regularly can reduce the threat of succumbing to dementia and Alzheimer’s (helpguide.org).
After becoming proficient at walking, you may want to add lifting weight to your exercising in order to rebuild muscle mass and bone density (see inset on four exercises all seniors should do). “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” wrote King David (Psalm 139:14).Seniors must realize thatthe human body is a marvelous mechanism God created. Our bodies were designed to be vibrantly healthy, to move gracefully, to be physically fit and strong. We can come to the end of our lives with Moses’s health. Let’s learn to reap the vital benefits of a regular exercise program.
Choose to Eat Properly
It is true the body changes as a person ages. For example, metabolism naturally slows down. This is even more true if we live a sedentary lifestyle or have retired from work. Recent health studies show that 60 percent of Americans are seriously overweight. Included in this number are both young people and seniors. The two leading causes for America’s overweight crisis are lack of exercise and unhealthy diets. To say it more directly, the majority of Americans are couch potatoes who are addicted to fast food.
God’s laws of health require us to be knowledgeable of nutrition and what constitutes a healthy diet. Mr. Armstrong wrote numerous articles and sections of articles defining those health laws and giving many practical details we should follow. God has made sure that this knowledge is readily available for those of us in God’s Church. Senior editor Stephen Flurry has written a series of articles expanding on the foundation God has given us about diet and proper eating titled “We Are What We Eat.” These important and instructional articles are available at pcg.church. Herbert W. Armstrong College has made available his wife’s class on nutrition, which expounds on those foundational laws. So in many ways, there is no excuse for God’s people to be unhealthy because of a faulty diet. We must choose to eat properly.
As seniors, unless we are very active, our metabolism will slow. Our portion sizes and food choices must accommodate that change. Many seniors are overweight because they are still eating like they did when they were young. A simple way to determine if you are overweight is to measure your waist. A waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men could show that you are carrying extra fat. Exercise and healthful, moderate eating will help trim extra inches for those who are in need. Yet for those underweight or frail, exercise and a balanced, nutrient-dense diet can help bring you out of the danger zone and back to being healthy and strong. Abiding by God’s laws brings strength and health for all situations.
Eating properly (at any age) means eating nutrient-dense foods from the three major food groups: high-quality proteins, whole and complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Here is a short list of nutrient-dense foods. Proteins: wild-caught fish;, lean, grass-fed beef, lamb or game; free-range poultry; pasture-raised eggs; unpasteurized cheese; and raw, whole milk. When properly combined, complete protein can also be derived from beans, legumes and grains (though these are also high in carbohydrates), as well as nuts and seeds (these are naturally high in healthy fat). Whole carbohydrates: fresh fruits and vegetables (cooked and raw, and of a variety of vibrant colors—especially greens!); whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole grain breads, and brown rice. (Note: Compromised digestive systems often have an easier time digesting and assimilating nutrients when grains are soaked, soured or sprouted; sometimes, however, grains do need to be limited, especially if aging digestive systems weaken.) Healthy fats: butter and cream from grass-fed cows; cold-pressed olive oil; palm and coconut oil; avocados; olives; nuts and seeds. These fats are very beneficial and should be eaten without guilt. As much as possible, avoid man-made fats such as margarine, hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils, and polyunsaturated oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, and safflower oil, which wreak havoc on the gut, heart, blood vessels and brain. These will age you in an untimely fashion. Beware. These are the oils most often used in commercially fried foods and packaged foods. Those with lactose intolerance may benefit from choosing sugar-free almond milk (though it is wise not to overdo), coconut milk or Greek yogurt. A health-conscious chiropractor or nutrition expert could help you determine what foods and what portion sizes are best for you.
Above all, watch your sugar intake and avoid highly processed and bad oils. These two often come paired together. Though it is a strong temptation, seniors definitely need to eat fewer sweets. Even many “health foods” contain large amounts of sugar. Read food labels. At the same time, don’t fall for the man-made chemical replacements for sugar in order to avoid calories. Those will only cause other problems. Sweeteners of choice are whole sugars such as whole cane sugar (such as sucanat or dark muscovado sugar), coconut sugar, raw honey and maple syrup. These still contain the beneficial nutrients God created within them, so they don’t deplete your body of nutrients to digest them. However, even these should be consumed moderately—ideally in small amounts—to keep blood sugar levels stable and healthy.
As a side note, most people need to eat more vegetables than they are used to eating—particularly green leafy vegetables (cooked and raw). Considerably increasing vegetable intake (which usually includes increasing healthy fat intake, in the form of olive oil dressings and butter on cooked vegetables), will go a long way in decreasing cravings, while increasing vitamin and mineral levels, which will promote elimination and detoxification, alkalinizing the body, increasing energy levels and mental output, while balancing out weight issues. It takes effort, but it is worth developing a healthy eating plan and sticking to it!
Build a Positive Mental Outlook
The latest research on senior health shows that sustaining a positive mental attitude is essential to senior health and longevity. It is probably the most important of God’s seven laws of health in regards to seniors. Why? Besides the potential for declining health, seniors have to face serious emotional changes. For example, our children may move long distances from us, we may be forced to end our careers, retirement can adversely affect our financial picture, our close friends and even our spouses can die, allowing that cruel creature of loneliness to darken our doorstep. These are challenges that can lead us to think negatively.
People today are living longer than in generations past—some well into their 80s and beyond. So we must have a plan in place to meet the emotional challenges that we will likely face. Here are a few suggestions for building and maintaining a positive mental attitude.
Recognize that the firm foundation of a positive mental attitude is laid with a healthy spiritual life. We must be praying and studying daily and fasting occasionally in order to stay close to God. Constantly growing in the faith of Jesus Christ, holding on to the living hope of our begettal, and sharpening the key of David vision in our lives is paramount for the seniors of God’s Church to remain positive. It should not be strange to us that we may be required to face a fiery trial, such as the death of a spouse or even the death of one of our adult children (1 Peter 4:12). The death of a family member or a close friend is never easy. But with God’s help, we can face such crises with royal grace and actually become a source of comfort and inspiration for others.
A second point regards your financial picture. If you are healthy and are not required to retire—don’t! The business world has also changed its views on older employees. Many have learned that older employees are a source of wisdom that is an advantage to keep around. If you love your job and are working for a great company that loves your work—keep your job. Remaining at work will keep your finances stable. In addition, you will be able to continue to support the needs of God’s Work.
Many senior people who retire to live a life of leisure often regret doing so. For some, an early retirement has led to an early death. Above all, realize that the biggest benefit to you remaining on your job is that your mind will remain positive because you are accomplishing tasks daily. Positive accomplishment delivers a positive mental attitude.
One final point on how to keep a positive mental attitude is to be sure you are finding ways to spend time with and serve others. A recent study in the United Kingdom showed that a large majority of seniors go for an entire week without speaking face-to-face with anyone. This is a growing concern for health professionals because they know that loneliness affects seniors’ health and well-being.
Congregations in the Philadelphia Church of God are scattered. You may be the only senior member in your city or even the only member in your city. Yet this should not mean you have to be lonely. It does mean you need to be creative to make sure you have ample contact with other people—even if just by telephone.
Seniors can find ways to serve others within their congregation. A senior woman may offer to babysit for a stay-at-home mother who needs help. She may cook a meal for a family having some illness. A senior man with handyman skills could help fix a problem at another member’s home. All members should be praying about the needs of others. Your local minister would be happy to help you find out who may have needs. You may be a senior, but you are needed within the Body of Christ.
Do a Health Self-Exam
Do a self-examination of your health. Do you tire easily? Are you quickly over-stressed? Is your blood pressure high? What about your blood sugar level? Is your ldl cholesterol above the safe range? Is your hdl cholesterol too low? Do you shut your eyes every time you pass a mirror so you do not have to look at yourself? (This is a nice way of asking—are you overweight?) Can you stand up from a sitting position without using your arms? Can you take a brisk walk without becoming short of breath? Do you believe that poor health is simply a problem people must accept as they age beyond their 50s into their 60s and 70s? These are important questions to answer truthfully.
Let me be honest with you: I was forced to face all these questions just after the Feast of Tabernacles in 2017. I had real difficulty buckling the seatbelt on the airplane carrying me to the convention site. It wasn’t because I was weak. I was very close to asking for an extension to the seatbelt. Thankfully there was still some muscle around my middle. I sucked in and the belt closed tight. Whew!
I decided I had to change. On my return from the Feast, I kept my word to myself. The results have been wonderful.
I did get a check-up. I found out some tough news. I got advice on how to fix my dangerously poor health. My chiropractor, who is also a good friend, told me that if I changed what I was eating and began exercising, I could fix the problems in about eight months to a year. I believed him and did what he said. I started small, but stayed consistent. I sought the advice of an exercise coach and a dietitian. I visited my chiropractor regularly to monitor my progress. I can honestly tell you that I now have the heart health and lung capacity of a man in his 40s. My waist is now 34 inches. I have run a half-marathon. I turned 67 in May 2019. I am living proof that the new research on aging is true. Even more, I have proved for myself that obeying God’s seven laws of health produces vibrant health.So seniors, take the same challenge—add life to your years!
Call 1-800-772-8577 to request a free copy of our reprint article We Are What We Eat.
Sidebar: Five functional exercises to help you keep moving
Functional Exercise #1: Simple Deadlift or Hip Hinge
This exercise will help you with everyday movements like picking things up off the floor, and will strengthen the core muscles in your stomach, backside and back. Focus on using a lighter weight (even a jug of water) and using proper form.
How to do it
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and brace your core. Hold a dumbbell or jug of water with both hands in front of you. From here, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body toward the floor, not letting your knees cave inward as you do so. Keeping your core engaged and chest lifted, let the weight gently touch or hover above the floor. Pause. Then, while keeping your core engaged and chest lifted, push the floor away with your feet and drive your hips forward to stand up. That’s one rep. Do 10 to 12 reps (repetitions).
If you have trouble using even a small weight, do the exercise without a weight, but keeping your arms stretched in front of you. Then the exercise would be called a hip hinge.
As you grow stronger, use a heavier weight.
Functional Exercise #2: Sit To Stand
This exercise will help you with everyday movements like getting up from a chair or soft couch. It requires the same muscles you need for a walking exercise program. And there is a second benefit. Trouble getting up from everyday seats (i.e. a toilet) can greatly limit a senior’s independence. Strengthening your body with this exercise will not only help keep you moving, it will help you maintain your independence.
How to do it
Stand with your heels six inches in front of a chair or bench. Hold your arms out in front of you for balance as needed. Brace your core. Then, bend your knees and hips to sit back until your hips touch the chair. Pause, then push through your heels to return to standing. That’s one rep. Do 8 to 10 reps.
You can briefly sit at rest on the chair until you are strong enough to simply touch and stand back up.
Stop using a chair for support as you squat. You could also add a weight to your exercise.
Functional Exercise #3: Floor To Stand
This exercise will help you be able to get down and up from the floor. This exercise is more important than you might think. Recent studies involving men and women between age 51 and 80 show that people who can easily get down and up from the floor lower their risk of death from any cause. This exercise tests and trains your body to work as a cohesive unit. This exercise leaves no muscle group unturned.
At first, it will make you sore and stiff. But you will notice tremendous benefits
once you master this exercise.
How to do it
Make sure you have clear, safe floor space. Lower down to the floor and get back up however it’s safe for you. You can sit up, sweep a leg under, and stand up. Or you can gently roll to your side or stomach, and push up from there. Do 4 to 6 reps. If you cannot do this exercise, then you will need to first strengthen the muscles preventing you from doing so. These muscle are likely in your legs, stomach, backside and arms.
Have a friend participate with you to help remain stable. Or use as many contact points—a wall, a couch, the floor—as you need to guide yourself.
Increase your number of reps.
Functional Exercise #4: Farmer’s Carry
This exercise will help you with everyday movements such as carrying groceries, children, etc. Carrying exercises are necessary for training the entire body. There is a special emphasis on grip strength and core stability. The more stable your core, the less you need to fear falling.
How to do it
Grab a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and let them hang naturally at arm’s length next to your sides, palms facing in. Walk forward for 30 seconds or as long as you can. Be sure to keep an upright torso without allowing the weight to dump into your low back. Imagine a string is connected to the top of your head and pulling you toward the ceiling. When you feel your form slipping, squat down to safely place the weights on the floor. Do 4 reps.
If you can walk for longer than 60 seconds, try using a heavier weight.
Functional Exercise #5: Step up, Step Down
This exercise helps with everyday movements such as taking the stairs (instead of an escalator or elevator).
How to do it
Stand in front of a step. Start with a low step, increasing the height for a challenge. If you like, perform the move next to a wall for support. Set your right foot on the step, push down through your heel, and lift yourself up until your leg is straight. Step up with your left foot, and then step down one foot at a time. That’s one rep. Perform 6 to 8 reps or as many as you comfortably can.
Do all reps with one foot and then all reps with the other. If you feel any discomfort in your knee, choose a shorter step, and lean forward slightly as you perform the exercise.
Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight step up, it’s time to add some resistance. Grab a pair of light dumbbells and hold them at your sides with palms facing your body as you perform the movement.