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  • Writer's pictureLisa Magnuson

Preparing for your "Marginal Decade" of Life

Common catch phrases like YOLO (you only live once) and carpe diem surround us and our culture is filled with uplifting, live in the moment type of hype. It's a fun way to help encourage you to experiment with new activities or push yourself out of your comfort zone on occasion. But what about the long game? The short game is pretty easy to manage and day to day or even year to year you will slowly see things change, but if you think way ahead into your future what do you see? This is the idea behind creating your ideal marginal decade. No, I didn't come up with this amazing idea on my own, but I listened to another nerdy Dr. podcast that Myles said, "I needed to listen too", and for once, he was right! (Please don't tell him I said that though!) Your marginal decade is your last 10 years of life. Everyone has one, we just don't know when it will be. For some it may be from 87-97 years old, for others perhaps sooner. When thinking about your marginal decade you need to ask yourself, "what do I want to be able to do in my last 10 years?" Wow, that's heavy, right? I bet you aren't thinking, I want to be able to get up and down off the toilet without using a handrail, or I hope I can walk to my car from my front door. We assume we will always be able to do those things, but in reality that is what gets tough as we age. Things that are easy now get immensely more difficult and if we don't start preparing ourselves early for the physicality of aging, it will be too late to make a change. So as much as you hate how many times Myles makes you get up and down off the floor, you will most likely thank him later. Strength training plays a major role in keeping our bodies, minds and bones healthy as we age. This is especially true in women. So much so, I plan to dedicate another blog post to women's bone health in the near future. In one study, highlighted in the podcast, Dr Attia stated that by testing a large sample of the population in their 50's by using a VO2 max test, resulted in a 50% reduction in mortality over a 10 year period from simply going from low to below average. This was the most profound decrease in mortality between all the stages in the study. As they got fitter they still improved their reduction in mortality rate, but to a lesser degree. They say something is better than nothing, and this study confirms that statement. Of course, if you want to be even better you need to ask a little more of yourself. If you actually go through the exercise of asking yourself what you want your last 10 years of your life to look like, a few things may jump out at you. Are you picturing yourself as the frail old man you see toddling through the grocery store? Probably not, but do you think he would have seen himself like that if he had completed this same mental exercise 10 years ago? My point is, you have to take steps NOW, right now, not to be the frail old person you fear. A great quote from the podcast that paints this picture perfectly is, "the gravity of aging is more vicious than people realize, and therefore the height of your glider needs to be much higher than you think it is when your in your younger years, if you want to be able to do the things you probably want to do in your 90's." In other words, you have to aim high, like really REALLY high, to be the awesome 90 year old you picture in your marginal decade visualization exercise. You may be thinking, I'm doing just fine, in 30 years from now, not that much will change. But unfortunately that method of thinking is incorrect and will lead you to a marginal decade you don't desire. You have to train hard, push hard, and aim high now to be able to live the life you see in your crystal ball. The way you can figure out what you need to be doing is by "backcasting", it's the opposite of forecasting. See where you want to be in your marginal decade and find measurable variables you can adjust and change and train now that will contribute to those goals. This can get pretty complicated if we want to start talking about VO2 max or strength and flexibility, but finding measurable metrics that are associated with your goals is not hard. The tricky part comes when trying to measure these metrics, then work backwards from there. We know certain metrics deteriorate over time so we have to take the decline of those variables into account also. So a simpler approach would be, what can I do to move a lot now? How can I lift heavier objects now? What movements will support my flexibility? There you have it, visualize your last 10 years, work backwards from there and start today to make that future you envision your reality when the time comes. So go ahead and "seize the day" as long as it supports your long term goals.

If you want to dive deeper into this subject you can listen to this podcast linked below. The piece about marginal decade and longevity is in the first 10-45 minutes. If you are interested in female hormone or male hormone replacement, listen further into the 2 hour podcast.

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