A yoga student of ours recently mentioned how her gut was feeling funky because she traveled and wasn’t able to keep a consistent diet and exercise like she usually does. Our back and forth emails about if she should or should not come to the yoga class ended with her commiserating that, “getting old sucks.”
I personally cannot speak to how this aging process must be like, yet there is a significant aging population in our Northside and True North Yoga & Wellness community, including my parents, who would like to stay healthy and stay in their homes as long as possible. So, doing some research about aging I thought would resonate with a sizable demographic in our neighborhood.
Aging effects the body on every facet – our cardiovascular system (making our heart work harder), bone shrinkage, changes in large intestines causing constipation, memory loss, changes in mobility, sexual health, eyes, ears, teeth, skin, and weight. Ooof.
So, what can we do to counteract some of these and age gracefully?
- Consistent Physical Activity. Staying active can help mobility as we age and lower our risk of certain diseases. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 2.5-5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise, 1.25-2.5 hours of aerobic exercise, and muscle strengthening activities 2+ days a week. In addition, try out Tai Chi and/or yoga to increase balance and mobility.
- Continue to be Mentally Active. Keep that physical or digital newspaper to work through its sudoku and/or crossword puzzles to stay sharp and try out meditation to curb anxiety and stress and help with focus.
- Stay Positive. A Yale study found that those who have a more positive outlook on growing older lived 7 years longer – who knew positive thinking could have such a great impact? And let’s not forget to do things we enjoy – volunteering, picking up a new hobby, or taking a walk, since this will foster joy.
- Continue To Socialize. Deep, meaningful relationships improve not only our mental but also our physical well-being. If we feel lonely, we are more likely to suffer from dementia or depression. Even having a pet to keep us company is shown to increase our lifespan.
- Be Conscientious Of What Goes In Your Mouth. Limit alcohol consumption, quit smoking and drink lots of water. This will help to avoid issues with the heart, liver, and lungs. In addition, work to avoid eating too many of the wrong things known as “overconsumption malnutrition.” Stick to omega-3 fats (fish, nuts, seeds, and plant oils), avoid saturated fat and eat in moderation. Supplement when needed for vital nutrients we know are not in our diet.
- Take Care Of Your Skin And Teeth. As much as vitamin D is a good thing, too much exposure to the sun can cause issues, including skin cancer. So, lather up with sunscreen when outside and wear protective clothing. According to the American Dental Association, brushing your teeth 2x a day, flossing once and using mouthwash supports healthy gums and teeth.
- Have Regular Check-Ups. Don’t forget to go to your healthcare professionals and communicate how you are feeling and doing. Regular medical check-ups can help pinpoint early signs of anything going awry.
These are just a few things I’ll be thinking about as my parents and I age. The student who was having trouble with her gut decided to come to one of our gentle yoga classes even though she was feeling off. After the class was over she said it helped. Hopefully keeping this physical and mental activity as part of her routine, along with other counteracting measures, will help her stay part of our community even longer!