From Woodstock, to women's rights, Baby boomers have made a name for themselves by being unpredictable, off-beat pioneers; rejecting society's norms and labels.
But this time, the label they're rejecting—that of the ‘healthiest generation'—may, in the long run, do them more harm than good.
In spite of having access to groundbreaking medical advancements and record amounts of wealth, the baby boom generation is sicker and more impaired than their parents were at the same age, according to a new article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Baby boomer life expectancy does exceed that of previous generations, but their overall health is not better, study authors noted.
And they know it too.
Only 13 percent of baby boomers feel that their overall wellness is, "excellent," compared to 32 percent of people in the prior generation who gave their health top marks.
Here are a few specific findings from the report:
- The positives: Baby boomers are less likely to smoke or have already had a heart attack than their parents were.
- The negatives: Baby boomers are much less likely to exercise on a regular basis—a whopping 52 percent said they get no regular physical activity. Consequently, they are also much more likely to be obese (39 percent of boomers versus 29 percent of the previous generation), have high cholesterol (74 percent versus 34 percent), and suffer from diabetes (16 percent versus 12 percent), than their parents.
- When they were their age, about nine percent of baby boomer parents had problems carrying out daily tasks, such as getting around the house and doing chores. Thirteen percent of boomers report currently having similar problems.
- Seven percent of boomers have to use a cane (or similar device) to get around, versus three percent of their parents at the same age.
Aging baby boomers, even those who don't feel in tip-top shape, shouldn't view aging as a life-sentence of inevitable decline.
"You may not be able to regain the health that you had at age 20 or 30, but you can always improve your physical and mental health," says Larry Matson, Ed.D., co-author of the book, "Live Young, Think Young, Be Young…at Any Age."
He suggests taking small, manageable steps to regain control over the common issues of aging that affect your physical and mental health.
Set a goal to go for a 15 minute walk each day. Replace your daily diet soda with a glass of water, or all-natural juice. Eat a piece of fruit in place of dessert. Pay attention to your stress levels and make an action plan to calm yourself down.
"The power of a different mindset about aging is the key," Matson says. "Raise your expectations and take it day by day. We're all going to die, eventually, but even small changes can result in positive adaptations—no matter how old you are."
Discover more tips on how to incorporate better health habits into your daily routine: