There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is today.” That’s certainly true for landscaping and it’s just as true for healthy living. We would all like to be enjoying the fruits of many years of healthy living—abundant energy, restful sleep, lower stress and a body free from aches and pains. Unfortunately, many people are living with the effects of poor choices earlier in life, injuries from accidents or chronic diseases. Very often it can feel like there’s no soil left in which to plant a tree and no time left for it to grow if it was planted. But it’s always a mistake to underestimate the body’s ability to adapt, change and heal.
Charles Eugster was an 85-year-old retired dentist who suddenly realized he was unhappy with the state of his health. He told The Guardian, “At 85 I had a crisis. I looked at myself in the mirror, and saw an old man. I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me. I looked like a wreck.” Instead of shrugging off what he saw as the inevitable effects of aging and wandering off to see what was on television, Charles joined a bodybuilding club. Five years later, at the age of 90, Charles won a fitness event in Germany, performing, “57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 pushups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds.” Not only did the nonagenarian win, he scored higher than any other contestant in any age category.
Too often we underestimate the body’s capacity to heal and change. What we think are the body’s limits are merely limits we have imposed on ourselves. This is not to say that the body is capable of doing whatever we want it to do immediately. As I’ve said in previous posts, real, lasting lifestyle changes take time and patience. It took Charles Eugster 5 years to go from out-of-shape 85-year-old to 90-year-old champion. Plant a year today, water it and nurture it and before you know it you’ll be resting in the shade.