They say two things are guaranteed in life: death and taxes. I would like to add a third... aging.
We age from the moment we are born until the moment we draw our last breath. We all experience this natural life process; some of us just experience it for a shorter time than others. Today, our longer life spans are creating challenges and opportunities as we enter unknown territory.
Among these challenges is the aging population's continual fixation on staying young and on top of its game. This desire to discover the fountain of youth has spawned numerous million-dollar industries. Whether its Viagra, nutraceuticals, or tummy tucks, these markets are being driven by aging Boomers who want solutions and want them now. Just look at celebrity Boomers Randy Jackson of American Idol and Al Roker of NBC's Today Show; both had gastric bypass surgery. After a lot of nip and a little tuck, they are thin again. But these celebrities took a major risk when undergoing their operations, as three out of every 200 people die after weight loss surgery.
The Hunt is On
Plastic surgery has gone mainstream. So, too, have the cosmetic companies that claim to offer solutions for wrinkles, age spots and cellulite. Of course, let's not forget the so-called medical breakthrough of a few years ago: the World's First Anti-Aging Pill. The pill's dramatic press release stated that the "promising discovery has been proven to quickly reverse the aging process by repleneshing the body's own production of youth hormone to normal 25-year old levels." Hard to believe, I know, but let's try to image what such a product could mean.
If we can lose weight by having surgery and build muscle by taking a pill, why spend time sweating off those pounds and building that noteworthy physique? If we can take "elixirs of life" that promise to recapture the vitality of youth, why get out of bed to walk or run on a dark, cold morning in winter? These are good questions to ask, but the fact is that all the surgeries, pills and elixirs have a downside, whether their claims are ture or false. About 40% of Americans age 50 and older believe anti-aging products are basically "hogwash," while another 36% are "curious, but skeptical." Although more than 20% of people in this age group say these products can "work sometimes," just 3% say they like them a lot.
To Age or Not to Age
As we hear stories about increasing numbers of Boomers and older adults having their stomachs stapled or taking expensive remedies, we must recognize that most of these new industries focus on physical beauty rather than on internal health. Think about it. We can have a great exterior, but still develop heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes and depression. But by making healthier lifestyle choices, eating properly, and exercising, we can prevent, control or retard much of the damage. Even today, physicians can prescribe pills to treat diabetes, depression and hypertension. However, we can address these health issues as well and if not better - and for much less money - through exercise, proper nutrition, and lifestyle modifications.
The reality is, we don't live in a perfect world. And the pursuit of the perfect exterior, whether young or old, while neglecting the perfect interior, could have a major impact on the health of aging Boomers. Our goal must be to help these individuals achieve their ideal self, both inside and out. By broadening the focus to include the internal, we can help our members - and our businesses - enjoy better health.
Expanding the Message
To accomplish this lofty task, take a step back and think of the market as your child. What advice would you give to your child, who you love dearly, and who you want to see grow up healthy and living a long life. Would you put them in front of a mirror and critique them, testing their body fat to see how they compare with the rest of the population? Not most parents. You are more likely to talk to them about what it means to be healthy, from the inside out, offering the support they need to grow and accomplish a healthy lifestyle.
Now think of members in your community. Do you help people you care about to be better from the inside out? Do you give them the support they need to be succesful?
What we in the field of physical activity and exercise offer the world is the ability to lead a high quality life, and there is no better time to start a physical activity program than during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
So, how will you help your community members shift their focus from perfection to prevention?