Staying Young by Being Active

So much can be accomplished just by hitting this ball around...

Last night I played in a volleyball tournament with some friends from the sand league I ref during the warmer months. It was great to get back on the (hard, indoor) court and work with a strong team of hitters and passers. We played three intense games in the semi-finals to move onto the championship round where we played two, even tougher, games and eventually lost. But no matter the amount of floor burns, or the sore shoulder I woke up with this morning, it was a great evening spent and I can’t wait to get back to playing in the sand this spring, summer, and fall!

There was one man attending the games that sparked my interest while we were cooling down, waiting for the second semi-final game to start. This older gentleman walked by and noted that the last volleyball game he played was in that particular gym 15 years ago. “That’s pretty cool,” I commented.

He smiled and said, “I was 75 back then…I turn 91 next week.”

That made my jaw drop. He was still playing volleyball at 75, and here he was, on the cusp of turning 91, walking in front of me with his back straight, no help from a walker or cane, no sign of hearing aids or any assistance needed. Ah-MAZE-ing!

He told me stories of how, in the 1950s, the stars from the University of Kentucky basketball team would play volleyball at the downtown YMCA with him and his friends, and how those players admitted to loving volleyball more than basketball. His eyes were sparkling and his smile lit up the gym as he talked, pausing every once in a while to critique a play on the court (his son was playing in the second semi-final). I was truly in awe of how coherent and in great physical shape (at least on the outside) this gentleman seemed to me. It made me want to get back on the court to play and continue playing a sport that I loved, such as volleyball, for at least four more decades.

A blog from the New York Times discussed a study that saw delayed premature graying in active mice. The research, posted in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, said that “exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice”.

So it’s studies like these, and men like I met last night (I wish I had gotten his name now) that inspires me to continue to work towards a fit life and try my best to push my family and friends to being active as well. I want to have a healthy (soon-to-be-)husband, and my parents to live to a ripe old age while still being able to enjoy life. I want to have my friends around me to keep me sane and laughing through the golden years.

So take even the smallest steps to start your journey to your “volleyball at 75” lifestyle today…don’t wait for the weekend or Monday…start now! Go for a walk, no matter how short or long, everyday, then increase your distance. You don’t have to dive into the deep end with crazy circuit training sessions or half marathon training schedules…just get active!


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