A Letter to My 70-Year-Old Self
I’m 46 years old, and I increasingly find myself feeling the signs of aging. My knees sometimes hurt, my back occasionally goes out, and I’m beginning to consider whether it’s worth playing in the annual touch football game this Thanksgiving!
During my 21 years of physical therapy practice, I have seen the effects of age, injury and disease on the human body first-hand, through my patients. Most of my work experience has been with the senior population. When I treat patients who are in their 70s, 80s, and beyond, I often find myself thinking, “What will I be like when I’m their age? Will I be able to avoid some of the physical problems they are encountering?”
If I could jump forward in time 24 years, here are a few things I would tell my 70-year-old self in the hope of keeping my body as healthy as possible:
“If you can still jog, go jogging.” I currently jog several times per week for the health benefits it gives me. Jogging is one example of aerobic exercise, which is exercise you can perform for a prolonged period of time which increases your heart and breathing rates. Aerobic exercise (other examples include walking or bike riding) can help lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other diseases including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Research has shown that even people over 70 years old can claim the health benefits of regular aerobic exercise!
“Pump iron.” People do not need to grow frail as they age. According to studies, resistive exercise, such as lifting weights (free weights or exercise machines), can help older adults increase their strength and ability to perform daily functions, such as getting out of a chair and walking, which are essential to staying independent. There is no age limit for pumping iron! As an added bonus, performing both resistive exercise and aerobic exercise decreases an older person’s risk for falling. 
“Do one balance exercise a day.” As age increases, balance decreases, leading to falls and injuries in older adults. Spending a few minutes a day doing a safe but challenging balance exercise is a good way to maintain and improve balance.
“Walk safely.” Good shoes (no narrow heels or slick soles) and the proper use of prescribed assistive devices (cane, walker) are key factors in making sure you stay on your feet.
Also, wearing clean eyeglasses with a current prescription can help you avoid tripping hazards that you might otherwise not see.
Earlier this year, I was on my regular Saturday morning jog when another runner, probably about 70 years old, approached me. We looked at each other and saluted as we passed. I couldn’t help but notice that we each used the same unique salute: a finger point, as if to say, “Great job hitting the trail early on this chilly morning.” I also noticed that he was wearing a hoodie like mine. I thought, “Did I just pass my 70-year-old self?”
I hope so. And I hope I cross paths with him again soon, because we could use another player on Thanksgiving morning!
Note: Never start an exercise program without getting clearance first from your physician. Remember to follow current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 guidelines for participation in sports and exercise.
Contributed by: Mike Muchowicz Palos Health Physical Therapist
 (2018, August 18). American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults.
 (2016, Oct 31). Health benefits of aerobic training programs in adults aged 70 and over: a systematic review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27912156/
 (2011, February 27) Exercise as an intervention for frailty. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005303/