Create your own experience as you age

On Labor Day, I celebrated 25 years living in Las Vegas.

I left Southern California in 1986 for a limited stay here (ha ha) while I attended graduate school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A then-avid surfer and competitive 26-year-old fitness fanatic, I wondered how I would survive this relentlessly hot and dusty, brown desert. At age 51, I am now a proud "desert rat" who has embraced not only the trails of this Nevada desert but also the lakes, the mountains, the national and local parks, the golf courses and the many soccer fields in Clark County. The opportunities are endless, and I still have a lot of ground to cover as I cross the half-century mark in my life.

Currently I am an assistant professor and exercise physiologist at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. I conduct field-based research and programs in adult fitness, nutrition and health, body image and childhood obesity prevention. Prior to joining the faculty team at UNCE, I conducted work-site health promotion programs including government, hospitals, nonprofit agencies and multi-employer corporations and served as the Wellness Program director for the Nevada National Security Site, previously the Nevada Test Site.

I have worked with fire departments, security forces, prisons, mental health agencies and court-ordered drug treatment facilities (especially females with addiction, eating disorders and body image disturbances) and collected data for publication of the national YMCA adult fitness standards (the largest existing fitness assessment database with nearly 70,000 participants). I also serve as the s tate c oordinator for the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

I'm excited to share my expertise as well as my journey with you in this column as I begin the evolution into my prime years. Although I bring an enthusiastic attitude, a strong will and a youthful mind-set, with many years of competitive sports and active living, I also suffer from the physical aches and pains from old sports injuries and arthritis. I have to put more effort into finding activities I can still do, managing my weight, maintaining a strong heart and sporting a fit body. It's a daily decision all of us have to make whether it's from injury, chronic pain or simply aging.

Aging is a peculiar thing. It used to be that the worst thing you had to deal with in retirement years was twice as much spouse and half as much money. Or that when you go to the doctor you would get the gentle reminder that things that are supposed to go down are now going up and things that are supposed to stay up are falling down. Instead we are dealing with a poor economy, changes in Medicare, decline in the Social Security bank and less availability of jobs that threaten senior income and access to health care.

Climate changes, personal safety and few neighborhood parks and walking trails threaten our efforts to exercise and be active. And less access to fresh fruits and vegetables, abundance of fast-food options and busy lives leave us little time for shopping and cooking, which often makes eating healthy difficult.

There is good news, however. My academic background and philosophy on health leads me to believe we can be resilient to these challenges. New research, medications and surgical procedures and improved accessibility to health information provides us with the ability to live longer and fight disease. The place to start is to recognize situations that can pose as obstacles to making healthy choices. Examples might include your current health status or fitness level, your work schedule, weather conditions, access to recreation centers, finances, likes and dislikes and family and personal relationships. Next, be creative and identify ways to overcome these potential hurdles such as setting realistic, short-term goals. Finally, evaluate and adjust the goals periodically as situations change.

Remember, no one person has the same set of circumstances. It's your life and your health. Create your own experience. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing my own experiences and expertise in order to help you accomplish your goals.

Anne R. Lindsay is an assistant professor and exercise physiologist at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She conducts research and programming in adult fitness, physical activity, body image and childhood obesity prevention. Contact her at