What makes a successful ager?

Elaine and Jack LaLanne

Elaine and Jack LaLanne

Successful ager Jack LaLanne was in the gym four hours a day well into his 90s. He was an inventor, entrepreneur, chiropractor, athlete, and host of the longest-running exercise show on television. (1) He said, “Everything you do in life, … good or bad … You control everything! The thoughts you think, the words you utter, the foods you eat, the exercise you do. Everything is controlled by you.” (2)

Jack knew that most important are the thoughts we think. 

Do your thoughts help make you a successful ager?

I recently read Joe Dispenza’s “You Are the Placebo: making your mind matter.” (3) I have always been fascinated by the Placebo Effect. How can a sugar pill be nearly as effective as “real” medicine, even when the patient knows it’s a placebo? It is the power of belief that causes actual physical changes on the molecular level in the body, stimulating gene expression to promote or degrade our health. The author recommends envisioning the health we want with daily, deep meditation (FYI: the author healed his crushed spine after a cycling accident. He was told to accept the fact the he was a quadriplegic and would never walk again!)

Neuromuscular stress, whether emotional or physical, can build up in the body, negatively influencing our health as we age. “Somatics,” (4) Thomas Hanna’s work, also acknowledges the paramount role of the mind. Our bodies respond reflexively to fear by hunching over to protect itself. Instead of tension dissipating once the danger has passed, it stays in the body, building up over time. The muscles become chronically isometrically contracted, leading to pain, stiffness, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Hanna’s therapy is designed to return conscious control of the muscles to the person, allowing the injured and elderly to stand straight and throw away their canes. 

Hanna effectively dispels the myth of aging, citing the fact that roughly 50 percent of people in their 80s are sexually active. Math skills peak at 32, reasoning at 39, speech and word fluency at 46, and comprehension of verbal meaning at 53. If all could avoid the negative effects of neuromuscular stress throughout life, more could enjoy the latter half of their lives. It’s the “use it or lose it principle.” Expectation is a factor in all human pathologies. (5)

So, how do we control our thoughts?

  • Practice yoga, as it is all about controlling one’s thoughts. (6) 

  • Give equal importance to mental and physical training. Successful elite athletes have superior mental skills: visualizing, relaxing and concentrating, using positive self-talk, and ritualizing their practice. (7) 

  • Begin a daily meditation practice to improve mental skills. Notice when your mind generates negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones. (8) 

  • Keep your mind on what you want and not on what you don’t want.

Controlling your thoughts and becoming a successful ager gets easier with practice, just as when learning a new sport! Join Jack LaLanne and the pantheon (9) of senior athletes. Let me know if I can help.


  1. Jack LaLanne biography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_LaLanne

  2. Quotes of Jack LaLanne: http://www.notable-quotes.com/l/lalanne_jack.html

  3. Dispenza, Joe, 2015. You Are the Placebo: Making your Mind Matter, Hay House, Inc. Carlsbad, CA

  4. Hanna, Thomas, 1988. Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health. Da Capo Press, Boston, MA

  5. Somatics, pg 84

  6. Satchidananda, Sri Swami (translator/commentator), 2001. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Integral Yoga Publications, Yogaville, VA. I-2

  7. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, May/June 2015, Vol 19, Number 3. Enhancing Mind-Body Health in the Exercise and Fitness Industry by James Beauchemin, MSW, et al.

  8. The Yoga Sutras, II-33

  9. Athletes Over 60 Who Can Kick Your Butt: https://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/best-athletes-over-60/

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