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Tips to Stack the Odds for Graceful Aging
Written by Dan Tidsbury   

Aging GracefullyWhen people talk about fighting the effects of aging, no one is trying to dismiss the competencies that have been developed through years of accumulated learning and experience or walk away from the extended social networks, family relationships, and freedom that follow the culmination of raising a family and building a career. Instead, the desire is to ward off the ravages of time: loss of strength and energy, declining health, and telltale markers in our appearance. In his book Recipe for Health, Cory Holly discusses in depth some of the fundamental steps we can take to live at an optimal level, regardless of our age. These practical ideas don’t require the intervention of specialists and most won’t even cost you. Rather, they require an exercise of the will; a conscious commitment to living purposefully and savouring every day we are given.

Here are some basic tips that will stack the odds in your favour as you embrace the benefits of having lived full years without looking and feeling your age.

Breathe deeply

That slim layer of air surrounding our planet is the foundation of life. Deprived of oxygen, our bodies cease to function, but it isn’t enough to merely breathe. Maximize the intake of oxygen that enriches the blood and fuels every cell in the body. Something as simple as better posture at your desk will free your lungs to draw in more deeply (to say nothing of the benefits for your muscles and bones).

Be aware of what you are breathing. Toxins and pollutants can follow the same pathway into your body as the oxygen you need. Walk and run where the air is clean. Avoid breathing in pollutants whenever possible: what do you take into your body standing downwind from your barbecue?

Drink well…and often

Water is a major component of our bodies, and we are in a constant battle to retain it. We lose water through perspiration as our bodies cool themselves, through exhalation every time we breathe, and through elimination as our systems flush out wastes and toxins.

To keep yourself well hydrated, drink good clean water throughout the day, more in times of extreme heat or exertion.

Eat wholesomely

It often seems that more thought is given to the quality of the gasoline we put in our car than to the food we put into our bodies. So much on the supermarket shelf has lost most of its nutrient value in processing and unpronounceable compounds have been added to increase shelf life. Build your diet around whole foods, unprocessed as much as possible. Avoid chemical additives, and for the good of both your body and the planet, maximize your use of plant-based protein rather than red meat.

As much as anything else, try to keep in mind that “less is more.” Eating smaller amounts more frequently will allow your body to function more effectively and get the maximum value from the food you eat.

Strike the sunshine balance

Call it the health Catch-22. Our bodies require direct sunlight to produce vitamin D, and more and more studies are finding that many people are seriously deficient in this essential nutrient. On the other hand, evidence continues to pile up that the sun’s UV rays damage the skin, leading to  undesirable visible results (such as wrinkling and spotting) and contributing to the development of skin cancers.

What are we to do? Dermatologists advocate getting some healthy time in the sun, but limiting exposure to 20 to 30 minutes per day. Additional exposure, they say, contributes little to vitamin-D production and exacerbates the negative effects of UV exposure. So find your balance, guard against excess exposure, and include vitamin D rich foods and supplements in your diet.

Get moving

There are many options in the exercise we choose, but there is no alternative to exercise. The negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle are beyond debate. Making physical activity an integral part of daily life will return benefits in far greater proportion than the time and effort put in. Healthier bones, heightened metabolic rate, better control of weight and blood sugar levels, heart health, enhanced immunity, a more positive outlook …we could go on, but the message is clear.

Start small. Walk, take the stairs, go for a swim. Make exercise as much a part of your life as eating and sleeping, something you would not think of doing without. Consult your doctor or a fitness specialist to avoid injury as you ramp up your regimen and ensure that you get the maximum benefit. Don’t use the date on your birth certificate as an excuse! Nobody is too young to need exercise or too old to participate in it.

Restore yourself

Everyone is busy. There are too many demands on our time. There aren’t enough hours in the day. And so on, and so on.

The reality is that our bodies use times of rest to rebuild and renew our cells and systems and restore our mental capacities. Depriving ourselves of the rest we need inevitably leads to problems. The immune system is weakened. Soon, we can begin to look and feel our age, or worse. Think of a good night’s sleep as an investment in a more youthful body, inside and out, and a more productive life in your waking hours.

Stack the odds and then embrace the passage of time as part of life’s grand adventure.

Dan Tidsbury - Copy Editor

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