Can we retain in the second half of life the good things we enjoyed in the first half? The answer is mainly, yes. Even though we are never going to be 17 again (and would we want that?) we can continue to look good with an attractive hair style, a little makeup and a well-chosen wardrobe. We can also go beyond appearances and retain our youthful actions and feelings by paying attention to the body that we put into those carefully selected clothes.
There are five elements that contribute to being vigorous throughout life: strength, stamina, suppleness, slenderness and stability. Putting a little time and effort, even if it is only once a week, into each of these components will allow you to enjoy the energy, health and mobility of staying youthful through all the years of your life.
Strength is associated with youth and muscles. Old people have been thought of as weak and frail, but losing muscle tone and the power that goes with it is at least as much a function of lack of exercise as it is of age. Keep a strong, healthy young person motionless in bed for two weeks and watch their muscles dissipate. Send an older person to the gym regularly and watch them out perform couch potatoes as young as their kids and grandkids.
Stamina comes from cardio exercise, that is moving; walking running, swimming, biking – you name it. Such exercise has been called aerobic because it uses oxygen. Its absence can be heard in the panting as an out of shape person climbs a flight of stairs. Like the other components, this definitely falls into the ‘use it or lose it’ box. People who get up and move, walk as much as possible and/or indulge in planned exercise sessions stay young.
Youth is seen as supple, age as rigid; but flexibility can readily be maintained. Yoga and Pilates are the tools that many of us use and enjoy to stay lithe and limber. Dance, stretching and other activities also do the job. Being able to move freely and easily in all directions gives you not only the appearance of youth, but also many of its ongoing advantages.
We really do not need to talk about slenderness. Everyone knows about its many benefits, especially its contribution to long term health and staying youthful. So many of the major diseases that plague too many older people can be avoided by keeping slim. We all know how to do it. Get a little more exercise. Eat more vegetables and less of everything else. We can find lots of ideas to help. Now is a good time to get started.
Stability is much less talked about. Yet, lack of stability and the resulting falls are a major cause of the ultimate loss of independence; the move into a care facility. Stability and balance, like any other part of fitness is retained by practice. Standing on one foot, using a wobble board, doing dance or yoga all improve stability.
Now the answer to the big question: How I am ever going to be able to fit all this into my life?
1. See a doctor if you have any questions or concerns or are making a major change.
2. Begin where you are.
Too many attempts at improvement fail because people try to do too much too soon. If you have not walked more than two blocks for ages, walk two or three blocks. Do not try an all day hike. If you are starting a class, begin with the easiest one. You have lots of time to get better and be well on the road to staying youthful.
3. Do what you can.
This follows beginning where you are, but the emphasis is on the ‘do.’ No matter how old you are, what you can do today, you can almost always do tomorrow. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true and becomes even more so as we get older. What you do not do today, you may not be able to do tomorrow.
4. Do something every day.
It can be only one thing; going for a walk, doing yoga, eating a salad if that is all time and circumstances permit. However, if every single day you make progress on at least one of these five things, the second half of your life can be as good or better than the first.
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