But which number?
When someone asks, “How old are you?” do they mean your chronological age – which is how many years you’ve been on the earth?
Do they mean your biological age, which is how old you are in terms of your physical health, aging cells, biomarkers, etc?
Or do they mean your subjective age, or how old you feel in your mind – your self-image?
It’s interesting to think about. On the one hand, you can’t do anything to change your chronological age. You are 52 or 79 or whatever, and the number reliably changes once a year (until it doesn’t).
Of course, we can change our biological age by practicing healthy habits, like exercising regularly, eating well, and avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, and drug abuse.
What about that last one – subjective age? Well, now, that one’s much more a mind game.
Minus 20 percent
A Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in an Atlantic essay said people seem to have an “intuitive grasp of this highly abstract concept – ‘subjective age.’”
The BBC wrote about the idea, too.
And the American Psychological Association even investigated whether our feelings about our “subjective age” can affect health and longevity.
Studies show that teenagers and young adults tend to think of themselves as older – maybe because they’re eager to start living their adult lives and being perceived as legitimate.
But after 40 or so, people begin thinking of themselves as being 20 percent younger. So, if you’re 60, you might think of yourself as being 48.
It’s why we are sometimes startled by looking in the mirror. Or by seeing current pictures of childhood friends on Facebook and wondering why they look so old.
Neither good nor bad
Here’s the thing. Subjective age isn’t good or bad, just like chronological age on its own. If you’re 72, then you’re 72. If you instinctively feel 58 or so, that’s fine, too.
What’s NOT fine is being biologically older because you’re not exercising, eating right, and taking care of yourself. You can change that one!
There might be some scientific reasons for feeling like we’re a little younger than we are – or even a little older, since that happens, too.
It doesn’t mean we’re delusional. It doesn’t mean we’re desperately trying to be young again.
But it might mean that we still feel like we have a lot of life ahead of us, that we have things to do and place to go and people to meet.
That we’re not ready to give up on life, or ourselves, just yet.
And that’s where fitness comes into play. When you have the strength, agility, and endurance of health and vigor, guess what? You have a higher quality of life, more independence, and a greater ability to do what you want to do.
We’re here to help show you how. Come see us today.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.