At times it is difficult to assess the specific motivation for various activities. In the case of the magnified interest in fitness, there is an apparent obsession with youth. If one were to be objective, this fascination could be categorized as is either naturally dictated or socially influenced or some combination of the two.

Is there something destructive or unrealistic about yearning for those attributes associated with youth or have we simply accepted the degenerative ravages of our modern, mechanized lifestyles as being a normal process? Those questions are not simply addressed or answered but some balanced understanding of the issues might offer some practical direction.

The characteristics which we affiliate with youth include vigor, enthusiasm, physical activity, lean and flexible body images and a positive psychological outlook. As our social and financial responsibilities increase it appears that our "natural" inclinations to sustain these "youthful" attributes diminish in some manner.

The point is that much of our physical decline attributed to an aging process can be directly related to external (to our physiology) influences. Certainly much of the degeneration and a significant aspect of the rate of aging have very little to do with the calendar.

Chronic behaviors, i.e. lifestyle practices dictate the body's condition more than any other factor in the normally healthy adult. The human body responds consistently to the influences of diet, exercise, rest, relaxation and response to stress. That constant response continues well into the seventh and eighth decades of life.

While it is unrealistic to assume that no changes will occur as a result of the duration of our exposure to external stimuli such as sunlight, gravity, chemicals in the air and in our food and water, it is just as simplistic to assume that we have no control over the rest of our lives.

Certain physical characteristics are associated with the appearance of aging and some of these are absolutely controllable to a great extent. Primary among the apparent or cosmetic signs of aging is the accumulation of body fat. There is probably no more age related physical degeneration related to the appearance of aging than the loss of lean (muscle) tissue and the accumulation of body fat.

Think of every high school or college reunion you've ever attended and recall what the most obvious change in your classmates has been. In almost all cases everyone has gained weight (fat) and to the extent that some individuals have maintained their former status, they are considered not to "have changed" or gotten older looking.

The case for fat accumulation goes even further than the simple cosmetic application. Increases in body fat and concurrent decreases in lean tissue are the single most relevant factor in the decrease in metabolic rate. In simple terms, this degeneration "slows down" all body activities. "Slowing down" is absolutely correspondent to the "aging" process. It is also associated to the lack of vigor and negative attitude and a number of the other factors which were previously mentioned as components related to aging.

Another trait which is very commonly a sign of aging is that of wrinkled or poorly supported or toned skin. Certainly some aspects of this condition are genetically predetermined or behaviorally induced by drinking (alcohol), smoking and excessive exposure to the sun. However, some of the supporting element of the skin has much to do with the tone of the musculature underlying the areas of the body in question.

What these and other common visible signs of aging have in common is that they are, to a large extent, controllable, within genetic limitations, through the application of sensible fitness and exercise practices. Certainly the case does not have to be made for the benefits of exercise and sound nutrition with regard to muscle fitness and fat control.

No, youth doesn't last forever and it is foolish to wish upon that star but the gratification of looking and feeling robust and healthy is not the restricted privilege of the young. It's a right that we all can preserve for many years beyond that which is commonly accepted. It's up to you!