Flyfishing & The Biology of Aging

Flyfishing & The Biology of AgingFlyfishing and..the biology of aging, a natural process. Most of us are less comfortable with biology and more comfortable with the term aging—a concept and mental construct we use to describe changes that occur over a lifespan. Underneath all that language however, is biology. This is what warrants our attention. Concepts are shortcuts, a quick pointer. They are not reality. Concepts reduce and freeze complexities to one word. The reality of aging is dynamic, ever changing and varies person to person. It’s Nature.

We can disregard the stories, emotion and opinions around aging because the reality is Nature runs the program. Aging is as natural as your genetic makeup. It involves every molecule, cell, organelle and organ system in the body.

The changes that manifest differ for everyone but in general, they begin to occur in our 30s but don’t show (normally) until our 50s, 60s and continue (to accelerate) into our later decades. A side note, scientists are concerned because the aging process is showing up glaringly earlier and earlier in our young population. More on that later.

Flyfishing and the Biology of Aging

Humans are still part of Nature. Fish react to water temperature. Reduced daylight in the fall induce deer to begin mating. We too are ruled by Nature. We respond to the daily rhythms of our environment. It’s in our DNA.  However, the mode of brain-body communication is not conscious thought. It is cellular—involving primitive biology (DNA), cellular pathways, hormones and chemical impulses. Aquatic biology helps you land more fish. Human biology will help you fly fish longer and harder.

There is a biological code for aging designed and built-in by Nature over a very long period, evolutionary time. Gray hair, a steadily declining maximum heart rate, wrinkles, stiffness; we eat less, digest less, things slow down, it’s natural aging.

Our bodies are infinitely complex masterpieces perfected over millions and even billions of years for peak performance in Nature.

We are descendants of hunter-gatherers who were evolutionarily optimized for endurance, lifting and carrying. To earn a living as a hunter-gatherer you ran, walked and foraged, carrying babies, tools and food every day. You were energized, curious, and alert searching for food and opportunity. You were optimistic that the next day you would have even better success and you continuously sharpened and honed your skills to that end.

Getting Older Does Not Mean Coasting

We too have evolved to grow, succeed and harmonize in the natural world. This is where the human biological process of aging runs into a buzz saw because most of us are not aging naturally. We are aging unnaturally, at warp-speed. To our detriment, we are sedentary, bored and distracted.

Researchers examining the chronology of disease found three-millennia of data recognizing a causal relationship with physical inactivity and reduced functional capacity (ability to perform tasks) and health. One millennium equals one thousand years! That’s a mountain of causal data. We now know premature deterioration, early death and crumbling with age—think arthritis, diabetes, falls and strokes are lifestyle-related. It is not a stretch to say that 100% of scientists, researchers and medical professionals agree that inactivity is the underappreciated cause of almost all chronic diseases and decrepit conditions.

We know it as a fact, physical inactivity speeds biological aging, which looks like this: aging left to its own devices leads to physical deterioration. Left unattended, deterioration advances to the point of decay. The progression of decay leads to sarcopenia. It’s when muscle deterioration has progressed to the point of frailty. This is the advanced-case scenario of the aging process moving in and dominating.

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise saves and preserves it.” Plato

Modern Life and The Biology of Aging

Our genes are a mismatch with modernism. Our marshmallow soft, sedentary, distracted and bored lifestyle is opposite our DNA imprint. Human biology, our lineage dictates activity and engagement so, responding to our environment, our brain and body misinterpret idleness combined with a full belly and the aging process gets out of whack. It speeds up because idleness sends the biological message that times are tough, it’s a drought, winter, a time of scarcity, time for the body to shut down, enter quiescence, atrophy. It’s not personal, it’s Nature.

We can’t just suddenly stop and sit idle in our cushy, temperature-controlled modern world. We have to exercise, care and commit—whole-person style. Engage in the world with mind, body and spirit every day because it’s who we are. Human biology is older and deeper than anything we know and it’s in our best interest to re-connect with our roots.

The Biology Of Aging Is Forgiving

Biological aging is forgiving, almost nonthreatening in the beginning because it’s programmed to be slow. You can remain vibrant for a time. Physical decline usually begins to rear its head and accelerate around age 65. Then the decline speeds up progressively with each decade.

It’s as though Nature is giving us a grace period to prepare, adjust and redefine priorities. Well, it’s even more forgiving. Not only is the process slow, the signal to age is soft and easily overridden.

With enough activity, your exercise efforts can dominate over the aging process. Some things are immutable—gray hair, wrinkles, reduced maximum heart rate and things slow down. But you can keep (and even increase) your muscles, your aerobic capacity and overall physical capacity from declining with exercise. Our objective is to duplicate how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived. Not exactly to the “T” but our version. What we have going for us is, the aging process is forgiving. We have a lot of power and latitude.

We’ll talk about the mechanisms to override the biology of aging and maintain vitality as we age.

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The information herein is meant to be general guidance on fitness. It is not a substitute for consultations with a healthcare professional. Always consult a physician before making changes.


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