Sunday, December 4, 2011

Healthy Dying - How do you want to die?

Sherwin B. Nuland, in his book The Art of Aging, answers the question.  We know, he tells us, how we want to die.

We want to be healthy, and then die quickly.  No-one wants to linger for years, becoming more and more decrepit, dirty, dependent, and unhealthy until we finally fade away.

He says "There are those, of course, who would like to die 'all at once,' but others who would prefer a short period of decline, provided it is not at all like the agonizing waning that so many suffer today."

And then he goes on to tell us how this can be achieved. Not suicide. Exercise.

When we maintain our health through exercise - we maintain or entire body, mind and spirit in a healthier balance. Exercise enhances our appetite as well as our digestive system.  Awareness and alertness is increased. We feel, and we are, healthier and happier.

I have often wondered whether it is more effective, in the long, long term, to exercise regularly, or to exercise in fits and spurts - for health and longevity. If we only get 'so many breaths', or 'so many calories' before we die - then exercising too frequently might 'burn them up'. This could result in a trade-off of strength vs longevity.  It may be that if we exercise more frequently throughout our lives - we are stronger and more balanced, but we 'burn out' sooner.  Or maybe not. I suspect none of us will know the answer before we die - so each of us is to make our own, personal exercise choices.

Personally, I tend to drift for a few years with adequate levels of exercise, and then every five years or so I jump into a heavy exercise routine and raise my strength and fitness significantly.  Then, after a few months, or perhaps even a year, I start to drift downwards again.

I'm glad I have a wife who is more driven.  She pulls me to exercise - I want to be with her and she pushes herself to exercise.  Otherwise I might drift lower before I get back to intensive exercise.

Many of us need a coach every once in a while, to push our exercise healthiness to a new level.  What Sherwin found among the elderly is very interesting.  Even amoung the very old, a push (or perhaps better described as assistance or encouragement) to exercise regularly helped them develop significant increases in muscle strength - resulting in better healthiness overall.

Sherwin goes on to explain that, for the elderly, or those above middle age, the most effective exercises for healthy balance are resistance training exercises, typically with weights.

The end result is what he calls 'compression of morbidity'. People who exercise regularly - live longer and then die faster.

That's how I want to die.

Yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: 

Personal Health Freedom