The Truth About Physical Performance Over 40

Think about your childhood. I mean the really early stuff before six years old. 

You moved a lot. It was your only way of learning about the world around you, as you hadn't developed the ability to read yet. You began lying on your back before figuring out how to use various muscles to roll onto your belly. Eventually, you developed the ability to push your upper body up and developed some hip stability and began to explore further by crawling. Soon enough that became standing and walking and by about age five, you'd developed the ability to run a bit. 

And around then, you were sent to school to "learn" and your body pretty much went to sleep as it was crammed into a seated position and given limited opportunities to continue exploring how to move. 

Fast forward to adulthood and what you've effectively got in most people's case is an adult body that is really being driven by a sleepy six-year old. Is it any wonder why when you start to exercise that you find it difficult? What habits did you have as a six-year old? 

You're probably wondering why it matters what you did as a six-year old at this point? 

Your education, and your habits learnt from undergoing that education, speak volumes about what the likely chances of success are in your fitness journey. 

First, some stats: 

In Australia, we had ~63% of the population classified as overweight or obese in 2012. That number has now risen to ~66% in 2022. Most concerningly, the number of obese people has risen from ~27% to ~32%, which represents a nearly 20% increase in only a decade. 

You can say whatever you want about the possible causes, but one thing remains true - people become overweight or obese because their energy intake is too high for their demands. An adult appetite on a sleepy six-year old's output. 

Your educational habits and background don't just relate to your academic success, but with the way we're wired, they relate to everything else too. The easiest way to explain it is with this one sentence: 

Whether you're doing something beneficial or harmful, you're getting better at it. 

Your nervous system is always learning. There is no real maintenance mode. You're either building a skill, or letting it atrophy while you build another. 

When it comes to scholastic success, those habits you learnt as a six-year old play a major role in your eventual success when it comes to graduating high school. Research shows that first grade absenteeism is so powerful that it impacts high school dropout rates. Every day that you missed from as early as six years old plays a role in whether or not you'll even finish high school. 

But the same goes for your food intake too, except it's even more powerful. Your first 1,000 days of life can impact whether or not you'll be obese. Factors such as breastfeeding, age appropriate foods and serving sizes, daily activities and sleep all play a role in whether or not you'll develop obesity as an adult. And did you have any control of that? The answer is, of course not. 

But you learnt. Like it or not, your nervous system was getting better at something. 

If you lived in a healthy household, you played games, went to the park, ate appropriately, and learnt good habits. Or maybe you didn't. Maybe your parent or parents worked two jobs to afford the rent and food and you were at childcare. Maybe at childcare they gave you something cheap and tasty, like chicken nuggets and ice cream, to keep you happy and quiet. And maybe, because you were upset that your parents weren't there, you discovered that eating comfort foods can briefly make you feel better. 

In effect, those days at childcare were like missed days of school. 

What studies show about missed days of school is that if you miss 20% or more, then you were in trouble. For some easy perspective, a 20% absenteeism rate is one day off every week. If you're like most people you can likely eat well during the week and then the weekend kind of falls to pieces. Well, two days out of seven is 28% of the week. Maybe it's time to rethink that weekend strategy? 

In school terms, missing 20% of the year is the same as missing an entire month of school. Rates of absenteeism increase after sixth grade. But if you just continue missing 20% all the way through school, by year twelve, you'll be an entire year behind academically. Think of all the advanced learning and maturing you'd have missed if you didn't do year twelve. Now think about how much you've missed when it comes to understanding your diet having skipped 20+% of your diet for thirty-plus years. 

However, the problems don't start at 20%, they start as low as 10%. From as young as grade three, a 10% absenteeism rate has a compounding negative influence on eventual graduation from high school. The further found that unauthorised absences were worse. That is, it's one thing when Junior has to miss half a day for a dentist appointment, but when Junior just doesn't turn up, the resulting losses are worse. That's like knowing you need to have an off-plan meal because of a business lunch and then going straight back to your plan, versus starting to eat on Friday night until you feel sick and bloated. 

Early life learning and attendance are so important that by year three, a student who has 10% absenteeism drops 36 points on standardised tests compared their peers. Students generally gain 100 points a year on these tests, so this student has lost nearly a third of their potential knowledge simply through non-attendance. Thinking back to your weekly Friday night binge, do you still think that doesn't have a lasting, long-term effect beyond just your waistline? 

Tying all this back to learning and your ability to be successful, looking at the chances of success people would have at something that only takes twelve years, how likely do you think it is you'll be successful after forty years of skipping 20+% of your lessons? Because there's no such thing as "just" a cheat meal or "only" missing your diet a few days last week. Every single one of those further cements that behaviour on place because you're always getting better at that thing. And after so many years of learning to be absent with your diet and training, you are unlikely to pass the test. 

If you don't believe how hard it is, and how true this statement is, refer back to the overweight and obesity statistics. Those are all people who have failed the simple test of maintaining healthy bodyweight. 

The negative impacts of that are that people develop low self belief, low belief in there being a fix for their issues, depression and anxiety, being the victim of bullying and discrimination, lack of feeling like they belong anywhere, and a lack of motivation to try to change. 

The good news is that there are ways to counter all this. For example, studies show that enrolment in a pre-school program between the ages of four and five increases testing results in grade three by 20%, equating to attending an extra twenty weeks of school by grade three. 

However, the number one thing that the studies showed is that the most important factor in success is having the right teacher. Having a teacher who intervenes and takes action on absenteeism early helps to prevent it. The same is true of your diet and fitness journey. You should be called out immediately for lapses in your diet and training to get you back on track and reduce diet delinquency. You should be counselled to help create new plans to help you overcome whatever caused that blip, and immediately reminded of the reasons why you chose to want to create new habits and a new healthier life in the first place. 

If you don't have a coach, well, why not? Would you ever contemplate trying to finish high school without a teacher? What's the likelihood of that, particularly if you are someone who has a proven history of absenteeism, given how that impacts your eventual success. If you've been attempting to lose weight and get in better shape for some time, maybe even your entire life, and haven't managed to yet, there is no reason to believe that you are suddenly going to get it all right on your own. This is like the high school dropout thinking he is going to ace the physics final without ever attending class. 

Maybe it's high time you got the right help so you could finally be successful? If you'd like to have a chat about finally making genuine change, book a time to speak with me here



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