We recently discovered that Benjamin Button disease isn’t a real thing. That means that all of us are aging. When you’re blowing out the candles at your ninth birthday party, that’s totally cool dude. But if the kids just took your car keys away, the concept is a bit less exciting.
Many factors determine how well we age. Genetics weigh heavily, but research suggests that a great deal of our health and happiness in our older years is the product of the choices we make. So we’ve outlined a few of the most important things you can do to that end. Follow these tips, and you’ll age like a fine wine, rather than that one burrito you forgot to put in the refrigerator overnight.
1. Never Quit Exercising
Okay… this isn’t a groundbreaking tip. But it leads our list because staying physically active is absolutely one of the best things you can do to minimize the problems of aging. Exercise helps maintain strength, promote cardiovascular health, keep body weight in check, and even has a positive impact on emotional health and mental performance.
Some weight or resistance training is important as well. Between the ages of 30 and 70, a woman can lose almost a quarter of her muscle mass. That’s a significant loss of strength that is bound to have an impact on the quality of daily life. Lost muscle mass also makes it more difficult to keep body fat down.
And for those of you who think that life is just too short to spend sweating, we have some good news: Statistical evidence suggests that lifespans are lengthened by more than the time lost to the physical activity. In fact, some studies suggest exercise time returns to you in lengthened life by as much as 7 times. Big picture, you never have to spend a minute exercising!
2. Eat Right
You are what you eat, as the old adage goes. That may be a touch dramatic, but the underlying principle is certainly true. What we feed our bodies is what we get out of them.
If we want to remain healthy, strong, and vibrant as we age, there’s just no substitute for a nutritious diet. In terms of keeping a healthy figure, nothing compares to the importance of keeping calorie consumption in check. If you load your meals with fruits and vegetables, as well as protein sources, keeping your calorie consumption low won’t mean that you have to walk around starving all the time.
We’re big fans of cutting out the majority of sugar as well. This one change can make a huge impact on long term health, especially if you go through sugar like most Americans, who average an intake of 130 pounds of the sweet stuff each year. Click here to read our article on sugar if you missed it.
3. Remain Social
Not all of the keys to a long healthy life are physical. Human beings are complex social animals, and a robust social life can be a huge factor in your health and happiness as you age.
One of the biggest hurdles to maintaining your social life as you age is a natural disengagement from many of the places where you experienced those valuable interactions. Children grow up and move out. Many times they move away, decreasing the interaction even further. When we retire, we gain a large amount of personal freedom, but we lose the day-to-day interactions with coworkers and friends that work brings.
For mental and emotional health, avoid becoming content with limited social activity. When life changes create a void in your social life, make sure to replace it with other connections. Become more intentional about regularly spending time with friends, or becoming involved in your church, or other social circles that are available. Besides, what’s the point of all that exercising and eating right, if you can’t show off in front of your friends?
4. Prioritize Sleep
The idea that older people need less sleep is pervasive. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Children do require more sleep than adults, but from there the need for rest remains consistent.
While the need for sleep doesn’t diminish, the actual sleep that older people are getting does. People in their 70’s generally sleep an hour and a half less than they did when they were in their 20’s. The reasons for the sleep loss vary. New medications and life changes are common factors. It’s even been suggested that some of the parts of the brain responsible for sleep weaken and die off during the aging process.
Whatever the cause, getting adequate sleep is crucial to mental function, as well as overall health. Don’t let your Z’s slip away.
5. Get More Smarter
Mental stimulation is one of the keys to aging well. Like our muscles, the brain suffers from being sedentary. To stay sharp, it’s crucial to remain mentally engaged. Some research suggests that learning new, challenging skills like speaking a foreign language or taking up photography can be particularly helpful.
Monotony and comfort only bring stagnation. We obtain life skills and formal education in our youth, but learning declines as we slip into the patterns of daily adult life. Performing the same work and partaking in the same activities day after day. Fight against falling into a rut, and continue to challenge your brain, no matter your age in order to mitigate mental declines.
No matter your age, it’s important to set yourself up for the best life possible. These five tips not only maximize your lifespan, but make sure that you’re living well your whole life through.