One of my LinkedIn contacts shared a post about an ABC radio show around the topic of health and heart. She summarised as follows: “Cardiologist Ben Levine says you can protect against heart failure and even reverse damage to your heart. The catch? You have to get into exercise before you hit 65 if you want to reverse any damage already done by our often far too sedentary lifestyles.” (Emphasis mine.)
This resonated with me as a middle-aged man (I’m 46 at the time of writing). I recently started going to the gym, not as a new year’s resolution (they don’t work), but for other reasons. I actually wrote another post about it. You can read it here.
Two thoughts crossed my mind. First, 65 is a mind blowing 19 years away! An eternity. The other one: 65 is only 19 years away! Time is relative that way (although that’s not what Einstein meant by relativity). And I was reminded of something that happened even more than 19 years ago.
You see, when I was 20 and in university, I started going to the gym for the first time. I was lucky enough to not have to go alone, which should have helped keeping it up. My goal was to get “ripped” (I can only smile writing this now), just like a then famous rapper who also started working out at age 20 and was in extremely good shape at 25.
For whatever reason, I didn’t persist going to the gym, and gave up within the year. Such a shame. But what I distinctly remember from hitting 25 years of age myself, was that those five years had ‘melted away’. I remembered my goal, and I felt bad for not achieving it. At age 25, five years earlier felt like only yesterday, but five years into the future at 20 seemed like an eternity. I reckon this is a recurring pattern. The past almost always feels fresher than it really is.
The cardiologist I mentioned earlier says you can reverse damage to your heart by getting into exercise before 65. Well, I don’t want to wait that long, and I have found strength in the idea that I when I hit that age, 19 years of exercise will have simply ‘melted away’. At the same time, I will have the accumulative benefits of having exercised all that time!
Before we even start anything, we sometimes think ‘ugh, I can’t be bothered.’ But after we haven’t done something, we often think ‘I wish I had,’ or ‘I wish I persisted,’ just like I didn’t persist going to the gym for five short years.
By understanding that time behaves in this fundamentally weird way (at least in our minds), we can change how me make decisions in a way that’s actually favourable to us. Like the Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The second best time is today.”
The best time to start exercising is when you’re still young. The second best time is now. So, don’t put it off, even if you’re nowhere near 65, and start exercising! By the time you hit 65, all those years of exercise will have melted away, and you’ll have your health to show for it!