Who among us has never uttered the phrase, “I’m too old for this,” usually accompanied by an exasperated groan or a sigh? Whether it’s your knees, your back, or your brain, the pains of aging slow you down and affect your quality of life; you can no longer do the things you enjoy, and even some mental tasks require more effort than they used to. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could stay young forever and avoid anti-aging?
Well, we can’t — but we can feel younger for longer, depending on our habits.
By eating right, exercising regularly, and doing mental exercises, we can keep our bodies and brains healthy and fight off some of the symptoms of aging.
Unsurprisingly, diet plays a huge role in how our bodies and minds age. Scientists claim that some foods have anti-aging properties:
Blueberries: They are filled with antioxidants, which prevent cell damage, keeping the body looking and feeling its best.
Beets: Aside from antioxidants, beets are high in fiber, which helps regulate the digestive system and lower cholesterol and blood pressure, leading to a healthy heart. Beets also contain betaine, which can reduce the buildup of fat in the liver.
Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3’s that are great for your circulatory system, reducing risk of heart disease and stroke. If you can stomach them, sardines and mackerel provide the same benefits.
Carrots: They are packed with beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A, an ingredient in most anti-aging beauty products. It helps keep your hair and skin young and healthy, supports immune system health, and may even prevent some cancers.
Spinach: It may not swell your biceps to three times their original size, but spinach does have some real health benefits. It is rich in fiber, protein, iron, Vitamin D, and lutein, which prevents cognitive aging and preserves eyesight. If you can’t stand spinach, try kale or avocado in your salad instead.
Water: The power of staying hydrated is often underestimated, but getting your daily fill of water is vital for a healthy body and mind. Because the human body is comprised mostly of water, our cells rely on it to stay alive and productive. In the short-term, drinking enough water keeps us energized and prevents headaches and constipation. In the long run, adequate hydration can help preserve skin and promote healthy digestion and blood pressure.
“Use it or lose it” is a dramatic saying, but it’s true when it comes to the body and brain. If we don’t exercise physically and mentally on a regular basis, we can lost our cognitive acuity and our physical health.
Working out essentially wakes up our bodies, which makes other daily activities seem less strenuous. Additionally, strength training can build muscle in the core and near the spine, which helps with posture; good posture prevents back pain and gives a younger appearance, so you will both look and feel better. Workout routines like yoga and pilates are good for flexibility, which is an important part of staving off symptoms of aging.
Exercise benefits the brain as well as the body: it causes the production of endorphins, which are responsible for feelings of satisfaction, happiness, and calmness. Exercise also aids in better sleep, with as little as 150 minutes per week resulting in a staggering sixty-five percent improvement in sleep quality. Aside from feeling less fatigued the next day, good sleep keeps the brain and body functioning properly, and prolongs youthfulness by allowing the body adequate time to repair itself at night.
Exercise is so powerful that it even has the ability to impact our health at a cellular level. Increased physical activity has been associated with longer telomeres. Telomeres are caps at the end of human chromosomes; every time the cell replicates, bits of the telomeres are lost. Think of them as the health bar above your video game character: when the telomeres run out, so does your physical health. Scientists have found that regular exercise helps lengthen telomeres, giving our cells (and us) a longer lifespan. So now maybe you’ll think twice before blowing off your next gym session!
Happiness may be a state of mind, but health isn’t. Physical and mental wellbeing don’t just happen; they require thoughtful effort. Every behavior and every habit has the potential to affect our health either positively or negatively, so it is important to ask ourselves before every decision we make: Will this make me healthier? Will this help me with anti-aging? Hopefully the answer will be yes. That isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy the occasional hamburger or Netflix marathon, but be sure to make a conscious effort everyday to improve your health and preserve your wellbeing. It may seem like a lot of effort now, but your future (older) self with thank you for your foresight!