Tips for Healthy Aging

How would you like to halt or prevent age-related decay? What would you give to feel full of energy and have a sense of wellbeing on a daily basis? It is possible to change the way you age. Good health is a balance of strength, flexibility, stamina, cardio fitness and mental stimulation. They are each equally important and when given the proper time and attention, can help you live well as you get older. 

Martha Wilson, a longtime volunteer at San Juan Regional Medical Center, is an octogenarian who enjoys excellent health. She takes no prescription medication. To stay happy and healthy, she follows a personal health manifesto that she’s sharing in hopes that it will work for others as well.

Martha’s Manifesto to ending age-related decay:

  1. Exercise: Do some aspect of exercise 6 days a week for the rest of your life. It also helps slow the aging of the brain
  2. Cardio fitness: Do serious aerobic exercise 4 days a week for the rest of your life for cardio fitness. 
  3. Strength training: It is never too late to start strength training! I suggest serious strength training with weights 2 days a week for the rest of your life. You need to combat the loss of muscle as you age. This doesn’t have to be done at a gym or even using expensive equipment.

Tip: Check out the book You are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren  

        4. Stretch: Do stretching or yoga 5 days a week for the rest of your life. If we stretch regularly, we will be more limber and move more freely as we age.

Tip: Check out the book Moving Stretch by Suzanne Wylde

        5. Eat real food: If you neglect your diet, the framework of your health will not be stable and balanced, and your overall health will suffer greatly, even if you do all of these other things. I eat mostly plants but be sure not to eat too much!

Tip: Check out the book The Omnivore’s Dilemmaby Michael Pollan

         6. Create a social network: It is important to have a support system in place. It takes effort but is worth the time it takes to cultivate. Interaction with others helps keep us sharp and that helps us to give of our self in greater service to others. We can’t give from an empty cup.

         7. Stay mentally stimulated: I try as often as possible to do something I have never done before, or I try to do something out of my comfort one. I may not always succeed but at least I try! It can be small, like finding a new address or learning to change the lightbulb in my garage door opener, or something more intense like learning to play a musical instrument. Keep finding new things to learn. It helps to act your spirit, not your age.

         8. Sleep: Get enough sleep and rest on a regular basis. Without this it is difficult to carry on with the necessary activities that keep us healthy.

Together these things create a framework of balance, therefore none of the steps should be skipped. Remember, you cannot change your habits in one day. It is best to ease into anything new by being consistent, which is key. Motivation will get you started but it is habit that will get you there. We build habits layer by layer, brick by brick. A change of lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time for a lifestyle to become a habit. 

Getting older is a challenge but it really can be a joy. Create space for change and be surprised by what it brings your way and the way you feel. And as for all things in life, remember, moderation in all things -- including moderation.  

Martha Wilson, Volunteer at San Juan Regional Medical Center.

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