By Marcy Shoemaker
As we age, we often look for ways to remain active and youthful. Deep down we know that a fountain of youth doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t stop our quest for ways to look and feel younger and more vital.
While we can’t really turn back the clock, there are steps we can take to stay as healthy and active as possible. The key to feeling and looking younger is exercise. This includes exercising both our bodies and our minds.
Many of us are told by our physicians to exercise. Experts tell us that the majority of the population can exercise — it just involves finding the right exercise that meets our physical needs and interests. Exercise can involve moving during chores and finding ways to walk throughout the day by taking time off of the sofa or recliner. If mobility is an issue, exercises such as chair yoga can be beneficial.
Exercise helps keep us healthy in many ways.
It can help prevent falls, which are one of the greatest reasons for loss of independence. It is a major preventive step in reducing vascular diseases, including strokes and heart-related diseases. Exercise helps increase muscle strength, which is important in preventing and managing osteoporosis. Some experts and researchers believe that exercise can help reduce the risk of dementia, especially types related to vascular diseases.
Exercise is not limited to physical activities. It is just as important to exercise your brain.
This can be accomplished by learning new things as we age. Consider taking an adult education course, whether in-person or online. Continue to challenge your thinking skills with puzzles and word and computer games.
Another important activity to keep your mind young and refreshed involves integrating some type of relaxation, meditation or mindfulness practice into your life. By allocating a time each day to sit for a few minutes, you can help invigorate yourself to participate in other activities with a clear mind.
A robust social life along with a sense of purpose is also important in maintaining an active life. Make sure that you spend time outside of your home by participating in activities and visiting family, friends and neighbors. If you lack transportation or your family and friends live far away, computers and cellphones are a great way to remain in touch with those you love.
Volunteering is also a key component to incorporating purpose into your life. Giving back helps reduce depressed moods while providing a feeling of satisfaction to be able to care for others. If we study areas of the world that have the greatest longevity, known as “blue zones,” their citizens are involved with neighbors, participate in community activities and can articulate an overall purpose in their lives.
Increasing vitality and enjoyment in your life may result in a longer and healthier life. This should involve reassessing your approach to aging. You should develop a new philosophy and approach to aging while incorporating healthy living practices. This may involve:
- Surrounding yourself with positive people
- Verbalizing positive messages to yourself either out loud or in writing
- Engaging in exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol level
- Doing relaxation exercises including yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation
- Eating a balanced diet, including three meals a day
- Staying hydrated
- Socializing with others
- Learning computer skills
- Becoming a lifelong learner
- Adopting a pet
- Having goals and a plan for the future
By incorporating all or some of these items into your life, you should be able to live a more active life with vitality and purpose.
Marcy Shoemaker is a staff psychologist at Abramson Center.