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5 Things That Keep Us Young

Last week, I blogged about the top 5 things that make us feel old. This week, I thought I’d do the positive companion piece to that blog, the top 5 things that make us feel young. We’re all getting older, but why do some people seem to age better than others? Based what I’ve seen over my 25 year career as a physical therapist, here are some common traits of the young at heart:

1. Remain Active: Hands down this is number one on the list. Staying fit and active has the potential to add years, maybe even decades to your life. Regular exercise helps to reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, decrease blood pressure, and drops your risk of diseases of all kinds, such as diabetes and cancer. Plus, exercise doesn’t have to be a run-until-you-drop daily grind. It can be anything you enjoy, such as dancing, gardening, cycling, aerobics, or anything else that gets you up and moving.

2. Weight Train: Not only does weight training protect against lost strength and muscle mass as you age, it helps build bone density and decreases your risk of a fracture (all of which are important for maintaining independence as you get older). Weight training doesn’t have to be done in a gym either. Resistance bands and calisthenics (body weight exercises) make strength training easy to do at home (for more info, see my blog post on strength building).

3. Eat Less: The average adult gains 2-5 lbs. each year. Over time, this adds up to startling amounts and leads us down the scary path of obesity-related diseases. But why does this happen? As we age, our caloric requirements decrease, but most of us persist in eating the same foods in the same portions as we always have. Focus on lean protein and whole grain carbs, but make fruit and vegetables the foundation of your eating. See your doctor or nutritionist if you have special dietary needs or want more information on what kind of eating plan is best for you.

4. Find a Challenge: Everyone likes to have something to look forward to – a goal to reach. Whether it’s a taking a new class at a community college or finishing a 5k run/walk, challenges keep us motivated to improve ourselves.

5. Embrace Change: By the time we reach middle age or retirement, many of us are pretty set in our ways. But even at that late age, our lives are still changing, and the young-at-heart people that I’ve met over the years weren’t afraid to adjust their habits if they felt they could be doing something better. Maybe it was a late in life change to whole grain bread over their usual slice of white, or finally embracing the fact that their day goes a lot smoother if they get to bed on time the night before. Whatever it may be, if you’re stuck in a rut, don’t be afraid to get out.

Who says our age has to define us? Every day I see reasons why our golden years should be the best of our lives. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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