Watch Your Old-Age Image

Your mind can slow you down before your time!

How do you picture yourself (or others, for that matter) at 60, 70 or 80 years old? Is your image of those decades one of vitality, youthfulness and vigor?

Do you associate grandmothers with brisk walking or running? Or does the sentence “When I am 70, I will be…” conjure up images of a shuffling gait or a stooped posture? Granted these may be real-life images you have encountered, but they are not necessarily the norm, nor are they inevitable. And the way you think about aging can literally affect your walking gait!

The Harvard study

In a study at Harvard Medical School, researchers flashed positive words about aging on a computer screen — so fast that they could not be read by the conscious mind. This increased the walking speed of seniors by 10 percent in one sitting!

The participants

The study participants were 47 men and women, ages 63 to 82. They were asked to play a 30-minute computer game in which words flashed briefly on the screen. Before and after the game, each person was timed walking 300 feet to determine his or her walking speed and “swing time.” (That’s the amount of time one foot spends off the ground.)

The results

The participants who were exposed subliminally to positive words about aging, such as “wise” and “accomplished,” showed increases in walking speed and swing time. Those who saw negative words like “senile” or “dependent” showed no significant differences.

Debunk the stereotypes

The researchers concluded that negative stereotypes about aging play a role in the loss of walking speed and gait because people actually buy into the stereotypes!

That’s no surprise to Suki Munsell, Ph.D., founder of the Dynamic Health and Fitness Institute, who teaches the Dynamic Walking Method. Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Munsell wrote her doctoral thesis on people who made remarkable physical transformations based on the positive images they were able to retain mentally and kinesthetically (in the body) and infuse emotionally.

Feel the glide

“That’s why I always use positive, kinesthetic images when teaching Dynamic Walking,” says Dr. Munsell. “Telling a person to imagine ‘lifting his or her head into a crown’ or to ‘feel the glide’ creates a strong, healthy picture and has a wonderful impact on the way people look and feel.”

Take an inventory of your personal images on aging. And make sure your image bank is full of healthy and vibrant, rather than depressed, people of age.

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