September is National Healthy Aging Month. I'm not sure who comes up with these official monthly designations, but it's a good excuse to write a column on one of my favorite fitness subjects: aging as adventure.
I want to present a point of view: my Nine Rules for Healthy Aging.
- Expect success. Aging is not a disease. It's part of the natural flow of life. So embrace the positive and let go of the negative. Studies show that people with positive perceptions of aging live seven years longer than people with negative perceptions. So stop whining. Stay positive. Expect success.
- Exercise mind and body. This is the key to aging gracefully - staying active. It's a must. Move it or lose it. Walk, run, bike, whatever you like. Strength-train, too. If you embrace only one of my nine rules, make it this one. Start today.
- Nourish your body. To age well, you have to eat well: more fruits, veggies, whole grains; less fried foods, junk foods, processed foods with trans fats. Foods high in anti-oxidants - nuts, dark leafy greens, etc. - can lower your risk of Alzheimer's, too.
- Accept what is. Healthy aging means accepting your life as it unfolds, without being angry or bitter or feeling victimized. Don't dwell in the past or obsess about the future. Live in the moment and appreciate the person you have become.
- Rely on yourself. Self-care is the best care when it comes to successful aging. Seek the best medical care but beware of overtreatment. Be smart about early detection tests - colonoscopy, breast, prostate, etc. - but avoid too much scrutiny.
"What is a well person?" a doctor once asked his residents. "A well person is a patient who has not been completely worked up."
- Vent in healthy ways. Bad things happen as you age. Sickness, pain, loss. You can't avoid the stress, but you can learn to deal with it in healthy ways. Holding in anger and bitterness, can lead to hypertension, heart disease, etc. Instead, try yoga, journaling, talking to friends and - no joke - humor.
- Take risks. If you want to feel young and vital and fully alive as
you age, keep taking risks. Keep challenging yourself. Don't be afraid to test your limits. At any age.
- Do unto others … as you would have them do unto you. The older you get, the more kindness and forgiveness comes into play. There's plenty of research to show that building a strong social network of family and friends is crucial to successful aging. Be a volunteer. Helping others adds meaning and purpose to life. Love and be loved … and you will live longer and die happier.
- Understand death and dying. We all die, and the sooner you prepare, the better. Research shows that it's helpful as you age to have some belief system in place. Your choice. People who follow a spiritual path live longer than people who don't.
Write Marilynn Preston in care of The Light, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, 92037.