We have all heard the saying ‘use it or lose it’.
This phrase has never been more important than when we look at health as part of the ageing process. I suppose seeing as we are all on a constant journey of getting older, it’s never been more important to look at it than RIGHT NOW!
You may have just winced and silently said, “I know, I know, I need to exercise more…” and perhaps you do, but that’s not what this article is about.
I want to share a ‘healthy ageing’ perspective with you that is simple and easy to understand. I hope you will think differently when you are finished reading, about what happens when you get old. I did.
I am not a health professional and will not be telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. I have no magic remedies, no ‘get fit quick’ challenges and no ‘lose weight by Thursday’ tactics. I have personal experience and I am getting older.
It can happen without us realising, this ageing thing. I woke up at 40 and suddenly, my eyesight went downhill. This was after having had the same script for nearly 20 years! When I approached 50, I noticed even more things changing. Most obvious was how much more effort it took to undo the little indiscretions in my diet and how hard it was to be physically active after extended periods of inactivity.
One day, I even heard someone groan as I got out of the car. In my defence, I was parked on a slope. I was horrified. Surely that wasn’t me?! When did I start making noises when I moved?
Perhaps if we want to grow old gracefully, we need to first understand what healthy ageing means. A simple definition could be, maintaining the functional ability of mental and physical capacities. This includes the ability to:
- walk (movement),
- think and remember (our cognitive and mental status)
- see and hear (our organs and senses)
You only need to do a simple online search and you will be bombarded with health and medical information, including treatments for almost anything you can imagine.
The problem with that is treatments are not cures.
One of the challenges is knowing which information is correct and what we should be doing based on our own circumstances. What should we be eating and how many times should we be exercising? And what exercise should we be doing? Each person’s personal situation may require a slightly different response, and we are living in a world of conflicting and confusing messages.
Flick through your local supermarket catalogue. One half will tell you the latest in healthy eating options, what’s in season in fresh produce and maybe even a shopping list so you can easily put together your own ‘Meat Free Friday’. The other half will be filled with specials of a range of foods and treats containing too much salt, buckets of added sugar, and stupid amounts of bad fats.
So, are we being advised to buy these foods too?
FACT: We cannot control how long we live but we CAN control HOW we live.
The consequence of doing nothing exposes us to a long list of diseases, at least twenty of which are preventable. Research has shown that nearly all of these are not due to the inherent ageing process, but the result of ongoing behavioural and lifestyle choices.
We haven’t even mentioned the ripple effect that this can have by way of becoming a burden on our families and the already stressed health system.
When we look after ourselves and take responsibility for our actions, we can control how our lifestyle looks.
We cannot speed up or slow down the ageing process. Adopting an active lifestyle appears to do this but in fact, it is not the process itself that has slowed but its ability to effect change.
There are three behaviours that underpin our health regardless of our age. These behaviours will marinate over the years and emerge strongly as ‘evidence’ of good or bad health. This is particularly noticeable as we get older.
Remember age is not a factor in us being “not ill, but not healthy”. A fit and active 60 yo can be healthier than an inactive 30 yo and both of them can be free from dis-ease, ie. Not ill.
I avoid using the word ‘pillars’ to describe the fundamentals or principles that sustain good health. It was pointed out that a pillar implies something that is static. Health, as we age, is fluid and ever-changing.
Contrary to some beliefs, extreme activity is not essential for us to live a healthy lifestyle. Consistent attention to three areas IS. They have been described many times as Mind, Body, Spirit and are often related back to the practice and benefits of yoga.
Simply put they are a combination of principles that make up a foundation:
Exercise – how consistently and appropriately we move all parts of our bodies
Nutrition – what we eat and drink and how much we consume
Mindset – how mentally active we are and what we consciously feed our mind
Each of these principles needs to be independently consistent and collectively aligned. When one or more is out of balance or lacking, it affects the entire trinity.
Perhaps the area that is of most importance, and one the majority of people would not assume, is our Mindset.
When we are unmotivated, depressed, or just stuck in a negative thinking loop, the mind can and will easily dismantle each of the other areas.
Movement is essential to our physiological and mental wellbeing. A balanced diet, eating predominantly for nutrition as opposed to recreation or *fog-eating, keeps our body parts and organs healthy and working in peak condition.
*(Fog eating: Consuming a snack or meal without being fully present. Think handfuls of popcorn or lollies while watching a movie).
Ultimately, our mind controls our body.
If we want to change our life, we need to change our minds.
Our bodies will change as we get older the same way a 10-year-old’s body is different from a 20 yo and a 30 yo. As we enter the years of 40, 50 and above, physiological changes happen that are mostly beyond our control. Keeping the three principles consistent and aligned will allow us to incorporate these changes into a healthy lifestyle.
Who wants to live longer if they are imprisoned and continually battling ill health. Many would say that is not living.
A huge part of how we will wake up when we are in our senior years will depend on how educated we are. And as suggested previously there is an overwhelming amount of information.
If each of us focus on the elements of Movement, Nutrition, and Mindset we would be way ahead of the majority of the population and likely the envy of those ‘relaxing on the couch‘.
For those of you reading this, you might say, ‘That’s all well and good. You haven’t told me anything I don’t already know.’ And I can appreciate that. My question to you is, what are you doing about it? Are you ‘not ill, but not healthy‘? Who are you planning on living a long and happy, unrestricted life with? Are they on the same page of knowledge and ‘being’ as you are? Most importantly, how will you FEEL when you wake up at 65, 80, or 95?
If you decide today, you can be one of those people that wake up refreshed after another great sleep and swing your legs out of bed with ease and eager to begin your day.
You can create a healthy routine that is strongly focused on alignment of the trinity resulting in a mentally and physically active and restriction-free lifestyle.
Most importantly you can wake up every day feeling pain-free, happy, and strong, with high energy levels. Who wouldn’t want that?
Taking control of your health and wellbeing gives you a say in the quality of life you can expect as you get older.
If you are new to movement and not sure where to start with the mindset part, then I can personally vouch for Yoga. This ancient practice has been a powerful tool at various points in my life when my own trinity was way out of whack.
I am a big believer in ongoing education – for life. Short courses, webinars, and workshops are bite-sized pieces we can consume as part of our mental nutrition. Programs that are run by people that are living the results and actually practice what they teach are always my first choice.
Having reviewed the course material myself, workshops such as this one incorporating the benefits of yoga as part of healthy ageing are of huge benefit. They are also filled with the right kind of information.
Finally, preservation of health in ageing rather than treatment of disease should occupy centre stage for everyone. This has the power to keep you ageing well, and active into your tenth decade. Millions of people can be saved from periods of morbidity.
And, there is no drug in the world that can top that!
Happy Ageing and