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Active Aging for Life

Physical Activity | May, 28 2014

By: Billie Jean King, PCFSN Council Member

May is Older Americans Month and, as a champion for active aging, I want to challenge all Americans to commit to a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition. At 70, I understand the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle and I know that exercise truly does matter! What better time than on National Senior Health and Fitness Day (May 28) to promote the idea of active aging?

As I have aged, I have struggled with illnesses common to older adulthood such as arthritis and type 2 diabetes. Staying active has been a key in managing the symptoms and I think all adults need to be aware of the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle. Aging is not something we can change.  What we can control is what we do along the way. Remaining physically active throughout life can help aging Americans feel better on that journey. I enjoy going to the gym and when I work out, I feel better. I may not lift as much weight as I did when I was in my 40s, but I can still get to the gym and work hard. Right now I am working hard on balance exercises and I am a big believer in weight resistance training, but you can do whatever activity you enjoy—walking, bike riding, swimming—whatever works for you.  The point is that you exercise and you do it as frequently as you can.

Tennis is a sport I love and not only has tennis helped me physically, but it has taught me many life lessons. I use the lessons that I learned as a young athlete every day. How to adapt to things, how to handle pressure, and how persevere and keep bouncing back are important messages that I have discovered through sports. I still think about the mixed doubles match point when I was playing with Ray Ruffles in a World TeamTennis match at the Forum at Madison Square Garden, which had a very low ceiling. Our opponents were hugging the net, and we needed to adjust and problem solve. I hit a lob and it went in! Now one saying I use all the time is “champions adjust or adapt.” In that match we were able to adapt and handle the pressure… we made a great decision and won. When you learn to adapt to things you can make better decisions in sports, business, and life.

Sports have taught me so much and I want to take what I have learned and help others. Those who came before us are full of history and wisdom. We need to stay active to help inspire the younger generations to do the same. I want to help inspire aging Americans to exercise—and to have fun. Even if you fell off the fitness wagon years ago, it is never too late to get back on; it is never too late to reinvent yourself. Being in the now, being present, is the most important thing—Everyday is a new start. We can all help each other be the best we can be. As my mother has always said, “Keep moving or it's over!”

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