Last month, an article published by NPR suggested that in many cases, seniors can have hearts that look 30 years younger than their age. In fact, the study on which this was based demonstrated that people who had been exercising throughout their lives had muscles that matched those of 25-year-olds; participants in the study were 75. While you might think that these seniors must have been marathoners or professional athletes, most participants were recreational exercisers, engaging in anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day.
Living long, active lives doesn’t come down strictly to exercise, however. There are several steps that anyone, regardless of their age, can take to live agelessly.
1. Aerobic Exercise
This step might sound redundant after reading the opening paragraph of this article, but it’s worth noting that even small steps can offer big results over time. The federal government recommends two-and-a-half hours of exercise a week, but if more is a possibility, it’s worth aiming higher. A study done at the University of British Columbia had participants walk quickly for one hour, twice a week. Researchers found that the size of the hippocampus–the area of the brain responsible for learning and memorization—grew by the end of the study, suggesting that aerobic exercise can boost brain health. While strength training has not shown the same results for memory, it can have other beneficial effects.
- Start by increasing the amount of walking you do in a day. This can be as simple as walking, if possible, to appointments or taking a 20-minute walk everyday upon waking up. Biking can also be great aerobic exercise and may work well for those who commute to work.
2. Strength Training
This study, among many others, demonstrates that strength training for seniors can have massive benefits for strength, function, and decreased pain—but these same benefits can be applied to anyone, regardless of age. After age 40, bone mass declines at a rate of 1% each year. In general, strength training can build denser bones, especially in regions where fractures are most likely to occur, including wrists, hips, and the spine. Additionally, strength training can improve stability and strength, while also reducing the risk for osteoporosis, as Harvard Health Publishing explains.
- Start by incorporating 2-3 twenty-minute strength session each week. Try out push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats, and core work that includes planks.
3. Mobility/Flexibility Training
Mobility training may sound fancy, but it can be as simple as using a foam roller to roll out tight muscles before heading out for a run, taking a yoga class to work on flexibility, or getting a massage to keep muscles loose and improve fascia mobility. A 2012 article published in the Journal of Aging Research backs up this idea, too, concluding that flexibility training in seniors can increase joint range of motion and result in fewer injuries.
- Start by trying out a yoga class or unrolling your mat at home and stretching out with a strap or block. Warming up with a shower or bath before a workout can keep your muscles supple and reduce the risk for injury.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Perhaps more so than exercise, your diet can have a huge impact on your overall health. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s, yet few understand the importance of what’s on their plate as it relates to their health. The classic Mediterranean diet includes a wide range of anti-inflammatory foods, but a diet rich in diverse plant foods, fats like avocado, and spices like turmeric, ginger, and garlic—while low in processed foods, trans fats, and unhealthy meats—can have massive benefits.
- Start by incorporating more vegan or vegetarian meals into your weekly repertoire, or take a cooking class that focuses on anti-inflammatory foods. Need some recipe inspiration? Try out these meals and snacks: bright red beet ginger hummus, Jamu juice, or a stir-fry medley.
5. Brain Health
What we eat and how we move is vital to our brain health, but how we think and what we do to keep our brains active is also necessary. Boosting brain health doesn’t have to be complicated: reading, doing puzzles or crosswords, learning a new language, drawing or painting, and writing can all keep your brain functioning well. If you do the same thing every day—consuming the same kind of books or movies, for example—it may be worth trying out something new to challenge your brain.
- Start by taking a language course, learning a new skill like knitting or sewing, and meditating ten minutes day.
Living agelessly doesn’t have to involve supplements infused with high-end superfoods or running a marathon every weekend. In order to impart lifelong change, activities need to be doable every day, or at the very least a few times a week. Start off small, then build as you master one aspect of living agelessly.
How do you live agelessly? What activities do you incorporate to stay young in mind and body, no matter your age? Let us know in the comments below!