A few inspirational examples on the importance of moving into aging

Benita Zahn
Benita Zahn (photo by Kris Qua Photography)

If your best activity is couch surfing, take heart. It’s never too late to start moving into aging by exercising and building muscle mass. Research is clear that strength training is effective, important and safe as we age. Lean muscle helps your body more effectively burn fat, so you look better and keep your waistline in check. It also improves your stamina and strength, which are important to maintaining independence. Need some proof that you can do it? Read on.

Summertime means “play ball” for Ralph Caputo. He’s been playing some form of ball since he was 5 back in Brooklyn. Now, on the verge of turning 68, he’s still playing, logging two to three games of baseball a week — with some guys as young as 45 and many collecting Medicare. Playing the game that he loves is how he makes moving into aging fun.

What keeps him going? Caputo says he’s still chasing that perfect, error-free game. That may be like finding a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end but he says it’s worth the investment. Yes, he’s got aches and pains, but he says he’s had them since he was 27. The key, he says, is staying active. It’s kept him in shape. He’s an example of “a body in motion, stays in motion.”

But it’s not all physical preparation. Caputo envisions the game before stepping on the field. He sets his mind and embraces a positive attitude. Says Caputo, if you let your mind tell you “you can’t,” then you’re headed for the sidelines.

I hear the same from Debby Goedeke, who turns 69 in August. A mom and grandmother, she’s also a competitive triathlete who didn’t take up the sport until she was over 55. While she’d been a runner, the challenge of swimming stoked her fire. It was a huge learning curve. In fact, she suffered a panic attack in the water at her first race. She flipped on her back, willed her breathing to slow and eventually completed the first leg of the race. Now she’s completed four full Ironman triathlons (swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles).

Goedeke loves the regiment of training and the benefits she gets from moving into aging even as she’s still working full time as destination services manager and Albany County film commissioner at Discover Albany. Like Caputo, Goedeke acknowledges the power of the mind. Your mind must be in the game first and always, she says. She also loves being around younger people, noting that it keeps her young. The grace note to all this is the importance of being a role model to her daughter and granddaughter.

Being a role model also fuels the fire in Tom Denham. At almost 56, he’s the youngest of this group. Active as a kid, he put that aside, building his career as a career counselor, and now sole proprietor of Careers in Transition LLC. He graduated college, earned a master’s degree and then his doctorate and co-parented his daughter. One day in his early 40s while attending a reunion with fraternity brothers, he realized they had all become plus-sized. He began running and won often. He needed more, so he took up triathlons and again found himself on the podium. His love of competing with others and himself propelled Denham to seek out even more ways to challenge himself and keep moving.

When a friend suggested mountain climbing, Denham was in. That led to ice climbing. It was something new, he explains, requiring him to push himself to his limit. Like Goedeke, he’s a role model for his daughter, who often climbs with him. Also like Goedeke and Caputo, the activity keeps him around young people, so there’s no time to “think old.” What he does think is “I can do it.”

The bottom line from all these stories? Move. Motion is lotion, as the saying goes, and being sedentary is closing in on tobacco as the number one killer. Being inactive increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, blood clots, lung diseases and dementia. The easiest way to get moving is to walk. Experts now agree that 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise along with weight-bearing exercise twice a week is the sweet spot for our well-being and to lower our disease risk. Start slow. Make sure your doctor green lights your activity. Have a goal. Keep your mind in the game. Tunes can help motivate and enlist a workout buddy. Stretch. Hydrate. And visualize your success: It’s the secret ingredient to getting and staying in shape.

Benita Zahn is a certified health and wellness coach working in the Capital Region. Visit benitahealthcoach.com or follow her on Facebook.

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