Some books on the importance of staying active can send you slouching deeper into your couch. "Tough Broad: From Boogie Boarding to Wing Walking: How Outdoor Adventure Improves Our Lives as We Age" more likely will tempt you to leap up and head outside.

"When I was looking ahead to 60, it was clear that my friends were unhappy about aging, and I asked myself what my own future would look like," said author Caroline Paul, a resident of San Francisco. "There is so much toxic messaging around women and aging, and I felt like outdoor adventure might be a powerful antidote against all the ways that society, the media and even our own inner self-talk insist that our futures are going to be bleak."

That conviction led Paul to interview dozens of older women who revel in the health, vitality and exhilaration that characterize outdoor activities. The women in "Tough Broad" jump off cliffs, go birdwatching using wheelchairs, learn to swim, take nature walks through neighbors' yards and even step out on the wing of a plane while in flight. In fast-paced chapters, Paul recounts each invigorating experience.

From Kittie Weston-Knauer — at 74 the oldest female BMX racer competing in the U.S. today — Paul learns how to wrangle the bikes built for racing, tricks and jumps. She dons scuba gear with Louise Wholey, 80, in service of citizen science, "counting fish, measuring kelp, surveying rock outcrops." Paul also joins orienteering expert Penny DeMoss, 72, for "a full-tilt dash across dastardly terrain."

Outdoors offers 'fulfilling aging'

Before Paul commenced interviews, she researched "fulfilling aging." In the book, she reports scientific findings that show how outdoor adventure may be "the single best solution for a healthy brain, a vital body, a confident mindset and a longer, happier life." Now, looking back from "60 and half," Paul noted how writing "Tough Broad" changed her.

"Early on, it was important that the outdoors be accessible for everyone. That's why I investigated activities like walking in a park, birdwatching and boogie boarding, even though at first I wasn't sure they qualified as 'adventures.'"

Later, Paul realized that an activity that appeared like one thing from the outside could look quite different from the inside. "I realized an adventure is about the experience you're having, being in the moment — not the logistics of what you're doing," she said.

Another change, described in the book, occurred when Paul was 57. Already an experienced pilot and paraglider, Paul learned to fly a gyrocopter, an experimental aircraft she says has "the silhouette of a wasp" and "the characteristics of a helicopter and a plane." Paul now flies a gyrocopter a couple of times a week. "I used to love it for the adrenaline," she said, "but now I love it for the perspective it gives me on the world, a gratefulness for the Earth."

Growing up with her twin sister, Alexandra (perhaps best known as Lt. Stephanie Holden on "Baywatch"), and her younger brother, Jonathan, Paul spent much of her time in the Connecticut countryside. "My parents believed we should be well-rounded, so they made sure we learned to ice skate, for example, and play a musical instrument," she said. "They exposed us to a lot, but they were not 'outdoorsy.' My twin was a huge influence, too. We used each other as North Stars. We didn't want to be better than the other, but we wanted to keep up. That made me more dogged in life, and she is the same."

From journalism to firefighting and back

The author of six additional books (among them "The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure" for young women), Paul studied journalism and documentary film at Stanford University. An unanticipated diversion led her to a 14-year career as a firefighter. "I was thinking I would be a journalist, so I volunteered at a radio station in Berkeley, where we kept seeing stories about the racist, sexist fire department," she said. "I was a dumb young person, thinking racism and sexism could be exposed in two hours, so in the hope of getting a story, I took the test to be a firefighter."

Paul passed, took further training and accepted a job. "I found that firefighting, rather than journalism, was a better way to have adventures," she said. Paul recalls that she did experience racism and sexism on the job, "but on an individual basis, the men I worked with were by and large decent, brave people striving to be better." Then, during her 40s, Paul was on crutches 10 different times due to injuries suffered on the job and in a plane crash. She noted, "In contrast to that decade of physical decline, my 60s feel vital and healthy."

Deep into "Tough Broad," some readers may feel the need to tally moments of experiencing the vitality Paul speaks of so passionately.

Paul places values on one-off experiences, but notes that a regular practice of outdoor immersion offers sustained benefits. "When you go outside, you can find community, find purpose, find novelty and also health. Join a book club, and you do not get health. At a gym, you do not find the sense of belonging that you have when you go outside with someone else. The wellbeing and the physical vitality that nature offers — that's key."

'Don't wait. Do it now.'

Asked which of the women in the book continue to inspire her, Paul said, "Without a doubt, they all do. Most of them found outdoor adventure later in life, and they all went outside their comfort zone." Loraine Vaught, 62, a boogie boarder with the Wave Chasers in San Diego, told Paul that her time in the water with other older women changed her life.

"Loraine pointed to the vastness of Pacific Ocean and said to me, 'Look at this — and I'm in it!' Boogie boarding had upended her own expectations of what she could and could not do. That reverberated for her outside the water, too."

That joy and enthusiasm further affirms Paul's basic premise, and reminds readers that taking part in outdoor adventures with others offers not a way to stop time, but a way to spend time increasing brain elasticity, fending off isolation and engendering some of the confidence many women begin to lose after retirement. Don't wait, Paul advises. Do it now.

"Some people think adventure has to involve high adrenaline or high risk, but we each have different edges, different definitions of what that means," she said. "You may not learn to fly a gyrocopter. Just get outside and feel that physical vitality and awe in your own way."