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8 Steps to Aging Gracefully
By Nina Zolotow
No one wants to “be old,” but since we lack an acceptable alternative, maybe we should focus on growing old well. Turns out it’s our choice to make.
We all know someone—a parent, grandparent, or neighbor—who seems to defy all the stereotypes about old people. Active, vibrant, engaged—they seem ageless as they go about their lives. And for us baby boomers, a generation that once hoped it would die before it got old, these folks have become role models for aging gracefully.
Of course we’ll give aging our own spin. I mean, we’ve already defined middle age upward from our 40s to our 50s and now, as the first wave of baby boomers turns 60, to our 60s and 70s. But no sleight of hand will hide the fact that age will overtake us. The trick, it appears, is to start preparing now, not through the use of ever more potent pharmaceuticals, but through relatively simple alternative solutions that include stress management, exercise, and dietary changes. Bradford Gibson, PhD, a professor at the Buck Institute for Age Research, points out that these actions have the most potential to reduce the negative effects of aging—mental and physical decline—and age-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
Recent studies sponsored by the National Institute of Aging (NIA) concur. Researchers there identified three healthy, long-lived groups—one from Sardinia (an isolated Mediterranean island), another on Okinawa (an island off Japan), and the third a community of Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California—and discovered several common practices. The people in all three groups, no matter how old they are, stay physically active and socially engaged, and they follow healthy diets that emphasize fresh, local produce. Although at least two of the cultures differ from ours in many key ways, their healthy practices aren’t all that difficult to incorporate.
Short of discovering the fountain of youth, these practices offer us the best chance of living life to the fullest even as we age. We have outlined eight pragmatic and effective steps you can take at any age to ensure your physical and emotional health, and to improve the quality of your day-to-day life. The best part? All the steps are natural, and most of them are free.
Be active every day
Scientific evidence shows that almost any kind of regular physical activity—running, walking, biking, yoga, or even gardening—provides tremendous benefits for your body and your mind as you age. Recently researchers at Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands found that adults who exercise frequently suffer less from cardiovascular disease and more likely live longer than their couch-potato friends. According to the study, moderate activity—the equivalent of walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week—added one-and-one-third years to the subjects’ life span, and high-intensity activity—the equivalent of running 30 minutes a day, five days a week—gave...
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