While it seems that our bodies are pretty solid structures – and they are – at a cellular level they are constantly renewing. You change each blood cell three times a year. You completely turn over the cells of your taste buds every ten days. Even your skeleton renews itself roughly once every ten years. Clearly, the body is amazingly resilient—so some healthy living goes a long way towards healthy aging.
Pfizer recently conducted a survey of Americans to ask how they felt about getting old. Of those who said getting older was better than they expected, most gave “I still have my good health” as the top reason. Those who said aging was worse than expected also gave health as a reason – in their case, health problems.
What can you start doing today – at any age – to reboot your body and feel better about getting older? Here’s a quick 30-20-10-5 plan.
30 minutes a day of regular physical activity
Our survey respondents 65 and older reported being more afraid of being dependent (35 percent) or living with pain or disabilities (29 percent) than dying (7 percent).
Fortunately, more and more research is showing that regular physical activity can maintain or improve health and vitality longer as we age. It doesn’t have to be high impact – it just needs to be consistent. Aim for 30 minutes of walking – or gardening, or tai chi, or some other activity you enjoy – every day.
20 minutes twice a week of weight-bearing exercises
The leading cause of restricted mobility and independence in advanced age is breaking a bone – like a hip – in a fall. You may be shocked to learn that one in five adults who suffer a broken hip from a fall will die within one year of their accident. As little of 20 minutes of weight bearing exercises, such as lifting simple hand weights, at least two times a week can help improve bone mass and decrease risk of osteoporosis and broken bones.
10 social interactions a month (more or less)
Keep up your social network – and I am not talking about Facebook. Studies show that people who interact regularly with friends may lower their risk of developing dementia. Schedule fun or rewarding activities with others at least twice a week. Get together with the gang for weekly coffee breaks, join a club or community organization, or volunteer.
5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day
In our survey, respondents 65 and older were more likely to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day than any other age group. I guess that message finally sinks in over time! But the earlier you start, the better. Eating antioxidant-rich foods such as dark-skinned fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and may even protect brain cells, according to recent research. In addition, there is some indication that vitamins, such as vitamin E, or vitamins E and C together, vitamin B12 and folate may be important in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer ’s disease. You might have heard the saying, “Eat your colors.” Try to include a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet to get the most nutrients.
What actions are you taking to feel better about getting old? We’d love to hear from you at our Get Old website.