Getting older ain’t for sissies …

You may have heard that one before — and it’s true!

But getting older does not mean you have to get OLD.

When I turned 60, it was seriously depressing. It still kinda freaks me out a little bit — just now I looked at the beginning of that sentence and the number 60 and stared at it for a few moments (really???) — but it’s no longer depressing.

One thing that shook me out of that doldrums was physical fitness. I’ve told the story before about how I discovered pole vaulting, became a USATF Masters pole vaulter, training and competing in senior track and field competitions, got myself in shape, improving not only my physical fitness but also my mental fitness.

I see so many older people today who are overweight, out of shape, and I want to tell them, “It doesn’t have to be that way!”

Maybe they’re perfectly happy and living a great life — what do I know? If so, that’s great. I reckon. Have an excellent day.

I suspect, though, their lives could be even better if they felt a little better physically.

Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to get old … just because you’re at a certain place doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.

Regular exercise is just as important — maybe more important — for older people as it is for younger folks.

Here are some of the benefits:

Helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Let’s face it, the body’s metabolism slows down. For me, it happened sometime around age 50. In my 20s and 30s, I clocked in at a consistent 168 pounds (6-feet, 2-inches tall). When I joined a gym and started working out in my middle 30s, I added muscle and my weight increased to 186 and stayed there for a long time. When I hit my 50s, the scales started inching up. It was a combination of factors — metabolism changes, depression issues, crummy eating habits, and lack of exercise. By the time that dreaded 60th birthday hit, I was up to around 245 pounds.

I still shudder at that idea sometimes …

Another thing regular exercise does for us older folks is to help prevent or reduce various diseases and dangerous health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis. I was well on my way to some of these things, I’m sure.

Enhanced flexibility, strength, and balance. According to statistics, accidental falls is one of the leading causes of serious injury, hospitalization, and even death among people 65 and older.

And not only does regular exercise improve physical fitness, it also improves mental fitness.

Exercise is a huge stress reliever. Chronic stress is a killer, wreaking all sorts of havoc throughout the body.

Improved brain function. The human brain is about 2 percent of a person’s total bodyweight, yet it uses 15 to 20 percent of the body’s total blood supply. Regular exercise keeps the circulatory system healthier — keeps the ol’ blood pumpin’ — which keeps a healthy supply of blood flowing to the ol’ noggin.

Lot of good reasons there to get off the couch and get some exercise.