Ageing; no matter how we feel about it, it’s something we can’t avoid.
What we do have more control over, is how we transition through the years.
Due to the incredible advances of Western medicine, we’re likely going to continue to live longer and longer. We are so fortunate to live in a time where there is such extraordinary emergency medicine available to us. Yet, in reality, are we living too short and dying too long?
There are those who live with great vitality right into their elderly years, remaining active and independent. However, there are also those who unfortunately spend many of their later years battling health challenges that detract from their quality of life.
The good news is, there are things we can do to reduce the likelihood that we will age faster than our biological years or experience debilitating health challenges in our later years.
Eat whole real foods (mostly plants)
The substances that give vegetables their colours act as antioxidants in the human body. Antioxidants help to combat oxidative stress by pairing up with the free radicals which, on their own, cause damage to our cells. Scientists are also starting to understand that antioxidants potentially play a role in slowing telomere shortening. But eating whole real foods isn’t just about what you get, it’s about what you miss out on too.
Reducing your intake of processed foods, or what I like to call high “human intervention” foods, means you’re less likely to overconsume refined sugars, trans fats, additives and preservatives all of which can take a toll on our health through diminishing our digestive power and giving our liver more to process. No amount of exercise can combat the effects of a lousy way of eating. Changing your diet is a powerful way to promote anti-ageing and increase your quality of life into your elderly years.
Not that long ago in human evolution, processed, high-sugar foods didn’t exist. Then, in the not-too-distant past, they were eaten only on special occasions, like birthday parties, but now they have become part of every day for too many people. I cannot say this enough: it is what you do every day that impacts on your health, not what you do sometimes. The ageing process will potentially be slowed if you consume less refined sugars.
Build muscle and maintain mobility
From the age of 30 onwards, if we don’t actively build muscle we gradually lose it. Embrace resistance training. This doesn’t have to mean going to gym unless that spins your tyres. In a yoga practice, you resist your own body weight. Pilates, too, is excellent resistance training, as is gardening, farm work, carrying groceries and children. Don’t avoid movement. Take the stairs regularly, for example. Build muscle.
A concept I also want to encourage you to explore is “functional movement”. It is based on real-world situational biomechanics, which is not my area of expertise. I have, however, worked alongside pioneers in this field who possess the health, youthfulness, vitality and physique that are testaments to these practices. We need to make sure that for our whole life, not just when we are young, our body is able to perform all the movements that are necessary for daily life and an active lifestyle.
Every movement our bodies perform can be broken down into a series of one of seven movement patterns. These are often referred to as the Seven Primal Movement Patterns, and they are the squat, lunge, push, pull, bend, twist, gait. We all need a general functionality in each one of these patterns for normal daily activities, such as loading groceries, lifting boxes, or running to catch the bus.
Make water your main drink
Water is the basis of all life, and that includes your body. The muscles that move your body are 75 per cent water. Your blood, responsible for transporting nutrients throughout your body, is 82 per cent water. Your lungs, that take oxygen from the air, are 90 per cent water, while your brain is 76 per cent water. Even your bones are 25 per cent water!
Most people are aware of the critical importance of great hydration for their health, and of course for their skin in particular. Yet, so many people tell me that they know they should be drinking more water. Unintentional chronic dehydration can contribute to pain and inflammation in the body, not to mention fatigue, which can have an enormous impact on whether we feel youthful or not.