Adopt a Momentum Mindset and Prioritize Strength for Healthy Aging: Insights from Mark Barnes
By Nate Sleger
As we get older, it's easy to fall into the trap of complacency. Our energy levels aren't what they used to be, our priorities shift, and it can be tempting to settle into a comfortable routine. But settling shouldn't be the goal – continued growth and progress should be.
On my podcast, I recently interviewed Mark Barnes, a longtime educator. Mark is the co-author of Hacking Life After 50: 10 Ways to Beat Father Time and Live a Long, Healthy, Joy-Filled Life. He's on a quest to live past 100 while bringing anyone interested along for the ride.
In our conversation, Mark shared incredible insights on adopting what he calls a "momentum mindset" and prioritizing strength training as we age. Keep reading for key quotes from Mark as well as actionable takeaways you can start applying today.
Adopting a Momentum Mindset for Lifelong Growth
A momentum mindset is all about maintaining a growth trajectory throughout life, rather than ever feeling "done." As Mark put it:
“I don't like the idea of being done. And we really promote that a ton in Hacking Life After 50 – that you're not done. I mean, until you take that last breath, you're not done.”
This resonated with me deeply, as I've seen many people achieve health and fitness goals only to backslide once they feel a sense of completion. Sustainable change requires an ongoing purpose.
Mark went on to explain the key ingredients of a momentum mindset:
“The momentum mindset, the key ingredients are a sense of curiosity, a yearning for adventure, a willingness to try and fail, and then learn and adapt after failure, and a desire to have more fun and joy in your life, and a dedication to what we call incrementalism.”
There's so much goodness packed into the above quote! Let's break it down:
Curiosity – Maintaining curiosity about the world and desire to learn. Never feeling you have all the answers.
Yearning for adventure – Being excited about new experiences and opportunities for growth.
Willingness to fail – Understanding failure as a learning opportunity, not something to be afraid of.
Learning and adapting – Taking lessons from failures and setbacks to fuel future progress.
More fun and joy – Appreciating life's moments versus going through the motions.
Incremental progress – Making steady gains through small, consistent actions over time.
When you embody these qualities, you're able to see each day and each year as full of exciting potential rather than a continuation of the status quo.
Why Strength Training Is So Critical as We Age
Shift gears now to discuss the vital importance of resistance and strength training, especially as we get older.
Here's how Mark explained it:
“First of all, the importance behind it is really to break it down in its simplest form, what we talked about is falling down. When you get into really a lot of the best research starts around 60. When you get to your 60s, if you fall and you break a bone, you reduce your life expectancy significantly. So bone degeneration is a huge one."
Preventing falls becomes more and more important as we age. Strength training combats bone degeneration and inflammation, boosting mobility and stability.
“Actually the science says we start bone degeneration actually starts in about your 40s. So that's one thing when we're on shows like this, we talk about, we say our book might be called Life After 50, but you know, this is really the stuff we're talking about is really for younger people too.”
The takeaway? It's truly never too early to begin incorporating strength training into your routine. The earlier the better to build a foundation of bone density and strength.
When it comes to making strength training a habit, Mark suggests an incremental approach:
“We talk a lot about starting small and working your way up and setting your own goals based on your own body. And that's really important.”
He also encouraged using your bodyweight before adding external resistance:
“I mean, if you're somebody who's listening and you're, you're older and you say, I've never been a weight lifter. You know, think about what I just said about my father, one of the strongest fittest guys I've ever known. What he did was he used his body and he used resistance.”
Bodyweight squats, push-ups, planks – these are accessible starting points. Focus on mastering functional, full-body movements before adding weights or bands.
Actionable Takeaways for Healthy Aging
There were so many nuggets of wisdom in my discussion with Mark. Here are some key takeaways for adopting a momentum mindset and prioritizing strength as you age:
Have an ongoing purpose – Link your health goals to a lifelong purpose to sustain motivation. Ask yourself, "What's next?" versus feeling done.
Cultivate curiosity – Maintain beginner's mind, always eager to learn and grow. Don't become stuck in your ways.
Embrace failure – When you fall short, reflect on what went wrong and how you can improve. Failure is data.
Focus on functional strength – Master foundational movements like squats, lunges, presses, pulls, and planks. Build full-body strength.
Start small – Don't overwhelm yourself. Build strength gradually with bodyweight exercises before adding resistance bands/weights.
Keep moving – Avoid the sedentary trap. Look for opportunities to take more steps, keep your body active throughout the day.
Mark Barnes and his co-author packed so much wisdom into Hacking Life After 50. I highly recommend you check out and grab a copy of the book.
The key is maintaining momentum in all areas of your life – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When you do this, you set yourself up for an energized, purpose-driven second half of life.
What resonated most with you from Mark's insights? What's one area you can focus on to build momentum as you continue your health and fitness journey? Share in the comments below!