Yesterday, my wife and I went to the gym to work out. I was on the chest press and my wife was on an elliptical machine. A man about my age (or a little older) was to my right doing pectoral flys.
He turned to me and made a remark about himself that I won’t repeat, but it had to do with how tough it was for a man his age to exercise. Immediately after he made that remark, a thought came into my mind that I have been wrestling with.
“Aging is a choice.”
I have been turning this thought over and over in my head. What does it mean? Is it true?
I think no matter what we do, we are all going to age and eventually die. We cannot avoid that. Or, rather, very few have avoided it. (Moses and Alma, for example, were “buried by the hand of the Lord” [see Alma 45:19 ]). You can’t very well choose out of your mortal destiny.
But there are a lot of choices you can make that can affect or accelerate your aging. Smoking, drinking alcohol, eating sugary, fatty, high calorie or empty calorie foods, failing to exercise or to be physically active, pursuing addiction, carrying a grudge or refusing to forgive, accepting hopelessness as a way of life. All these and more—both physical and spiritual choices—can lead to an unhappy life, rapid aging and early death.
What about genetic predisposition? Many feel their destiny is chiseled in marble due to their inherited genes. Yes, genes have a huge bearing on your life, but in most cases, they don’t control everything.
Given my family history, some may judge that I have a genetic predisposition for alcoholism. I can count four of them on my paternal side. Does that mean I am doomed to be an alcoholic? Certainly not. I personally abhor alcohol because I have seen it’s devastation at close range. So, a genetic predisposition can present factors in your life, to be sure, but some of them you can just flat ignore.
Over the last year, I have learned that my choices in diet, exercise, supplementation and sleep habits can and do have an amazing effect on my well-being, strength, stamina and disposition. I can’t choose when and how I will die, but maybe I can fend death off for a time with consistent, healthy choices.
I remember President Gordon B. Hinckley saying that “the Golden Years are laced with lead.” (He could make me laugh. And he did it often.) It’s not that I merely want to have a long life—it’s that I want to have a fulfilling life, laced with a lot less lead. As little as possible. And my choices can make a difference.
So, in that sense, I suppose, aging is a choice.