When it comes to anti-aging, the fountain of youth and life extension, we have been bombarded through media with quick fixes from lotions and potions to botox and surgery. Rather than focusing on how to mask the aging process, prevention is the true key to aging gracefully. Although we are all aging with each passing year, treating your body to a healthful lifestyle is the best way to slow the aging process.
The importance of exercise cannot be stressed enough. It is exactly as the quote states, “Bodies in motion, stay in motion.” This does not mean you have to run out and sign up for a marathon, but it does mean you should have physical activity everyday. Exercise promotes muscle mass and decreases fat mass, thereby giving a leaner physique, toned skin and maintains strength.
A sedentary lifestyle has been said to be responsible for 1 in 10 deaths worldwide. Not totally surprising is the link between inactivity and obesity. Obesity is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and hypertension. We can stop this chain of events from coming to fruition by incorporating physical activity into our daily routine.
A common question is are there specific workouts required or special equipment needed to meet recommended exercise requirements. The great news is there is not one specific routine or magic machine needed! All you need is your two legs, a pair of sneakers and a little motivation and you are set! As little as 30 minutes of walking a day counts towards your exercise requirement. 30 minutes of sustained household chores also counts. So get out your vacuum and get to cleaning!
Dehydration is not only a dangerous condition, but can speed the aging process. Every cellular process in the body requires water. When cells are deprived of water, they are less able to perform their function and can begin to shrivel and shrink. Symptoms of fatigue, headaches and constipation can all be related to a less than adequate water intake. When the cells of the skin become dehydrated and shrink, skin wrinkles and dryness can result.
Water intake needs varies depending on the size and physical activity of the individual. A rough estimate of the bare minimum amount of water needed in one day is half your body weight in ounces. Things that increase the need for water above the minimum consist of drinking dehydrating beverages including coffee, soda and alcohol. Aside from certain kidney or heart conditions, there is always a need for water, so cheers your neighbor and drink to the fountain of youth!
There is more truth than you think when it comes to the saying that stress gives you gray hairs. Chronic stress accelerates the aging process by increasing the release of stress hormones. Stress hormones are meant for short-term use, for example during short illnesses or life events like a new baby requiring many sleep-deprived nights. When stress hormones are called upon for more than a short period of time we can start to deplete the nutrients needed for proper stress responses. This means fewer nutrients for hair, skin and nail growth. Chronic stress can also decrease the immune system, inhibits short-term memory and interrupts normal sleep patterns.
While stress is unfortunately inevitable, the way in which we perceive and react to stress is what makes the difference. Finding a positive spin to a negative situation and being able to laugh though tough times has been shown to decrease the release of stress hormones. Therefore, having a positive attitude not only improves your stress response but also promotes graceful aging.
Diet is the number one place to start when it comes to aging gracefully. What we put into our mouth will provide the building blocks for everything in the body, including what shows on the external body through our skin, hair and nails. A diet rich in anti-oxidants, healthy fats and minerals set the premise for manufacturing healthy cells.
Anti-oxidants are considered free radical scavengers. Free radicals are the product of chemical reactions in the body and are normally neutralized by anti-oxidants as they can create cellular damage. Toxins from the environment, smoking and pesticides also need to be neutralized as they increase the free radical burden on the body. Damage to cells can be seen at the surface level as dull and damaged skin. Foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and minerals provide anti-oxidants in the diet. Eating a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables each day is sufficient to supply a wide array of anti-oxidants.
Essential fatty acids are as they sound, essential for health. Essential fatty acids, or EFA’s, of the omega-3 variety are especially important when it comes to aging. Omega-3 EFA’s work in a variety of ways to promote skin health, specifically by being incorporated into the cellular membrane. Each cell in the body requires omega 3 fatty acids, allowing the membrane to be flexible and fluid, thereby reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the skin. A diet low in Omega-3 fatty acids promotes for the production of ridged and stiff cellular walls which can lead to skin wrinkles in addition to several disease states including cardiovascular disease and increased incidence cognitive decline. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish, nuts and seeds in varying amounts. It goes to show you literally are what you eat.
Aging gracefully requires a healthy lifestyle. If you treat your body well, it should treat you well in return. Implementing a moderate exercise regimen, keeping hydrated, managing stress and eating a varied diet are all long-term ways to ensure graceful aging.