By Lisa Sugarman

Let me be the first to say that staying fit can be tricky business. (Or at least let me be the first to say it today). Cause lemme tell you, keeping ourselves healthy and maintaining things like muscle mass and good cardio and flexibility and strength is a commitment and it takes work. A lotta work. Especially as we age. And I say this as someone who’s flirting with fifty and seeing funky stuff happen to her body every day, like vision starting to blur and bones starting to creak and smooth skin starting to pucker.

But you know what? In spite of all that, I still show up to grind out a workout every single day. Even on the days when I wanna be anywhere else. And I do it because I know what the alternative is if I blow it off. I know that if I don’t make fitness a priority in my life, and I let other things get in the way, I’m gonna be screwed on the backside. I know that along with getting saggy and flabby and weak, if I don’t protect myself the best I can, my body’s going to be waaaaaay more susceptible to breaking down and growing frail and getting injured. And yeah, doing things like lifting weights or flipping tires or doing high intensity workouts may not seem like the most sensible thing to do if you’re trying to be mindful of not getting injured, but if you’re smart about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, you could get hurt worse by tripping down the stairs.

See, while I know that aging involves a natural and gradual slowdown of things like metabolism and muscle growth, we still reserve the right to fight it as long as we possibly can. And we should. Because as far as I can tell, that commitment to staying fit and strong and agile is the closest thing out there to the Fountain of Youth. Because objects in motion stay in motion, right?

Now sure, even with a young, fit body and a lifestyle that can handle endless hours in the gym, staying fit can be a slog on the best of days. And it takes a helluva lot more work the older we get. Because once our bodies reach a certain age, and they start pushing back on some of the stuff we try to do to maintain our overall health, it can be frustrating. So frustrating that some people might wonder why it’s even worth it to lift or run or workout at all considering how tweaky our bodies get as we age and how susceptible we are to hurting ourselves.

I mean, just as an example, my subscapularis has been a massive pain in my a** for months now. (You know, that muscle sandwiched in between your trapezius and your deltoid, right in that annoying spot on your back that no one can ever reach to scratch.) It sounds cheesy, but I chalk it up to No pain, no gain. And the crazy thing is, I’ve got zero idea what the hell I did to screw it up in the first place—probably somewhere between the yoga mat or the weight rack or the pull-up bar. But it happened. And even though it’s hard to keep doing these things that represent a constant risk of injury, there’s indisputable proof that exercising regularly keeps us healthier overall and extends our life. So as far as I’m concerned, the risk is worth the reward.

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But here’s the thing, regardless of how challenging it can be to find the time and the motivation and the energy to workout, it is worth fighting the fight to ensure that we’re as armed as we can be against things like gravity and cell degeneration and fatigue. It’s worth the extra effort—and even a little bit of risk—because the alternative sucks.

Yeah, ok, sure, over time, bones naturally weaken and bodies become more prone to injury and our reflexes can slow and our range of motion changes. But researchers have scienced the sh*t out of the impact of regular exercise on our longevity and everyone has reached the same conclusion that people who exercise regularly have cells that age less than those who don’t. Fact. And a recent study in Preventive Medicine confirms that the biological aging markers of people who exercised regularly were nine years younger than in people who didn’t exercise at all. And I don’t know about you, but knowing that I can add actual years to my life just by exercising every day is enough incentive for me to jump into my trainers every morning.

Look, life is risky. Getting out of bed every morning is risky. Walking across a busy street is risky. Eating certain types of lettuce is risky. Sh*t can happen to us anywhere we go. And even the most dedicated fitness junkies can drop dead without warning. But the majority of us will be around a pretty long time and the longer and better we take care of ourselves, the more likely we are to add to our overall number of days here on earth.

So invest in yourself by doing whatever you can to maintain your health and well-being for as long as you can. Because it matters in the long run. Hell, it’s so that you’ll have a long run. Listen to your body, be smart, and don’t quit on yourself. No pain no gain, amirite?

An ounce of prevention, that’s all I’m saying.

Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on GrownAndFlown.com, Hot Moms Club, LittleThings.com, MommingHub.com, More Content Now, Wickedlocal.com, and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores everywhere.

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