Why this 70-year-old feels like he’s 25

Age is but a number for Bob Arnot, a nutritionist, author — and competitive paddleboarder.

The 70-year-old, who also enjoys bicycle races, running and skiing, is preparing for the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships in Hawaii later this month.

Arnot has written books such as “Dr. Bob Arnot’s Guide to Turning Back the Clock” and “The Aztec Diet.” He also works with Olympic coaches. He was a host of the television series “Dr. Danger” and even created a coffee brand called “Dr. Danger Coffee” with scientifically-selected coffee beans to help physical endurance and mental focus. Arnot spoke with MarketWatch about his active lifestyle and how other people his age can do the same.

See: How to stay physically active for life

MarketWatch: Tell me about this competition, and your exercise regimen.

Arnot: I have been a lifelong exercise fanatic, with bicycle races and all, and paddleboard is to me a combination of sports because it is everything — balance, agility, core, strength, cardiovascular. For me, it’s a dream sport. Paddleboard correctly done is phenomenal because it involves every muscle in your body.

I am a huge believe that in your 60s and 70s you have to dial it up. You have to train like a pro athlete. I race almost every weekend and I win outright against people in their 20s and 30s. The research shows that if you have a fit professionally trained 70- or 80-year-old they can have the same muscle mass and heart lung power as someone going to the gym in their 40s or a sedentary 25-year-old. It is the ultimate dream in life. I feels like I’m cheating. I am 70 but I feel like I’m 25.

MarketWatch: What would you say are some of the myths associated with athletics and people in their 60s and older?

Arnot: That you’ll decline. When I first started working with my coach I was 64, 65 and I said, ‘Give me the bad news — how will I fall apart?’ And he said, ‘You’re not. You’re in a professional training program and every year you’ll get better and stronger.’ I have been paddleboarding for six years now. I’ve done 25 races a year and now the world championships is coming up, which is the most horrendous competition — it’s a dangerous path, there are breaking winds and gusting. The water can pick you up and spit you into the ocean. Just like a washing machine. But I am better and stronger at 70 than at 65.

The biggest myth is you can’t get better in your 70s and 80s. Some of the most competitive groups in cross-country ski racing are 85-year-olds. The oldest age group is 95 to 100. I think the biggest myth is old age itself. Just that you’re supposed to feel old and supposed to slow down. I find the greatest problem with getting older is people assume you’re diminished when you are fully capable. You have to fight that every day. Everyone has reasons for why they can stop, like bronchitis and chronic illness. You have to push, push, push, push, push to conquer that. I had both hips replaced. A big part is staying as strong as you possibly can.

MarketWatch: What advice do you have for people in their 60s and 70s who want to get started with something like this?

Arnot: Find something fun. One reason I love stand-up surfing is it’s a welcoming community. No matter how well or how bad you do, people are happy to have you out there. Find something you really love because that’s the only way. Number two, the big thing with age is you lose elasticity. If you run, you get slower and slower. If you have something between yourself and the surface then you can be as strong as your 20s or 30s. That’s why I like mountain biking — you have a bike in place of having to pound the pavement.

Also pick your competitions. When I first started stand-up surfing I went to a national competition and I fell off my board 50 times. Jump in and don’t worry about the results, and then pick your races so that you don’t feel intimidated.

Also see: You only live once: 5 ways to avoid retirement FOMO

MarketWatch: For older people, how much would you say the mind plays a role in sports?

Arnot: You want to do the same in life as in sports. When you start out you will have nothing but doubt. Doubt that you can’t do it, doubt that you won’t do well, doubt that you can’t race with 20- and 30-year-olds. The mind is everything. You have to fundamentally believe you’re 25 years old with the wrong birth date and you have to be positive and optimistic. When I started racing I always doubted myself. You have to build a strong mind because in the end the truth is you’re fighting every day. You’re fighting diseases like arthritis and asthma. You’re fighting aches and pains and to get up. You’re fighting other people who tell you to rest and relax, which I think is the worst possible advice. I am a huge believer in cognitive therapy, even if you don’t have any depressive issues. You have to believe you’re responsible for how you feel and getting yourself in the best shape. I think we owe it to ourselves.

I don’t believe in retirement. Why would you take 20 years and throw them away? What most people don’t realize is that the average healthy life expectancy is 62 years old. If you are 50, you only have 10 years left — that is staggering and frightening. Life expectancy is the whole game but you want to take that healthy life expectancy from 62 to 82. Once you have chronic illness and you’re falling apart, life is not as much fun. You can’t work as hard and don’t feel like it. The truth is when you hit 60, 65, you want to dial it up, not down.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for style and space.)

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