What?! You mean I don't have to feel older than I did last year? And I don't have to get all that "age-related" stuff?

What?! You mean I don't have to feel older than I did last year? And I don't have to get all that "age-related" stuff?

That's right. I've learned I can feel stronger, healthier and have more zip every single year — and it is totally my choice. I get to decide.

As a 70-year-old triathlete, I can tell you with absolute certainty: It's true.

Choosing not to "rot" but instead to live starts the "gusto process." That choice includes how much we move every single day, what we eat, how much we care about everything, how much we commit and connect to others and what our relationship to money is.

The first and most important rule is to do something physical six days a week for the rest of your life; that something can be aerobic or strength training, yoga or Pilates. It doesn't matter where you start — with the shortest distance or the lightest weights. What matters is that you show up every single day for the rest of your life — except on your day off.

According to Chris Crowley and Harry Lodge, authors of "Younger Next Year," 70 percent of aging for both men and women is voluntary, and you can skip 50 percent of all the sickness and serious illness most people expect to have.

That means even if you look older — that is not really an "if" but a "when" — 70 percent of what you feel as aging is optional. The question is how do you do it and do it with gusto? Just exactly how do we make the last third of our lives fun, active and full of joy while looking good, feeling sharp and being energetic? Choosing to age with gusto is just one of the choices you can make.

In her book "Amortality: The Pleasures and Perils of Living Agelessly," Catherine Meyer discusses the trend in many places, such as the Sun City communities, to live agelessly. Their softball games, 65-plus-mile bike rides, daily trips to the gym, healthy diets and social events all show that, for increasing numbers of people, acting your age is a thing of the past.

The conclusions of these two books mirror hundreds of other studies that prove how we age is based on how we live. The most amazing thing is that it is a choice. Choosing gusto involves following some rules, tough ones like doing something six days a week and eating food that helps, not hurts, you.

It's fun once you get hooked. And best of all, it works. When you think of the alternative, it is definitely worth a try.

BJ Reed lives in Medford and teaches workshops through the city's parks and recreation department to help people jump-start their gusto.