Age is just a number, right?
Is 60 the new 40? When can you classify yourself as being ‘old’ rather than ‘middle aged’? The truth is, the older you get, the further you distance your self from being considered ‘old’ and all of the stereotypes that are associated with it. On average, people feel 20% younger than they are (Horovitz 2019). So, the older you get, the larger disparity between your chronological age and the age you feel. And this disparity is further widened when we maintain healthy lifestyles. With healthy habits, you may not notice the number of years go by as quickly as someone else might.
What are the ways to stay fit and ‘young’? Scientists studying the reasons behind people reaching past the age of 100 turn to Italy, specifically the region of Liguria, which has “the largest proportion of centenarians (almost 650) in relation to the population size”, according to a 2019 article by The Guardian. Liguria’s capital, Genoa, has 288 centenarians, majority of them women. Experts point to a variety of factors that contribute to their longevity: a diet of fish, pasta, and fresh vegetables, a warm climate, and a lot of walking.
What about the mind? Studies show that you age more slowly when you have a positive attitude toward age (Horovitz 2019). There are many benefits to thinking about and treating your body as younger than you are. Many older people may be bogged down by the negative stereotypes of ageing, and distance themselves from the chronological age that they are because of it. In fact, ignoring these stereotypes might be exactly what is needed to slow the ageing process.
One of the centenarians interviewed by the Guardian also point to friendship and respecting others: “I always got on well with others, never argued.”
Let’s discuss ways in which to treat your body and mind to age well.
According to Horovitz (2019), 10 tips for healthy living and ageing well are:
- Buy sneakers – Investing in sturdy and comfortable sneakers and other quality walking gear, will encourage you to get out and move. With the right tools, you will be more likely to use them. According to Streets and Saunders in their book The Age-Well Project, regular brisk walking can improve cognition and decrease risk of fatal cardiovascular disease by 24% (2019). You can find tips on Selecting Shoes and Socks here.
- Balance yourself – Literally, practice balancing. The muscles used to stand tall start to deteriorate after 30 and approximately 1/3 adults over 65 take a serious fall each year (Mahoney 2018). If we do not actively strengthen our core muscles as part of our fitness routine, we become increasingly unstable. As a preventative measure against these types of falls, it is recommended to do balance exercises.
- Cut sugar from your diet – Too much sugar in your diet is not good for your health. Most refined, added sugars in processed foods far exceed the amount of carbohydrates needed for the body to function properly, the excess of which lead to obesity and cardiovascular problems. For perspective, the American Heart Association recommends approximately 6 teaspoons of added sugars per day, and one standard can of pop can have upwards of 9 teaspoons. There are many ways to reduce sugar intake, including swapping out sweet treats like cookies and cakes for fruit, or seasoning foods with additional spices or extracts in place of sugar. Further still, several studies support the fact that the Mediterranean diet, which is primarily made up of wholesome, unprocessed foods, is one of the best diets to follow. Talk to your nutritionist about the nutrition plan that’s right for you.
- Train your muscles – Muscles deteriorate at a rate of up to 5% per decade after the age of 30 when not exercised regularly; this is a condition called sarcopenia. Resistance training can counteract this deterioration. Read our article on Tips to Counter Age-related Muscle Loss for additional information on combating muscle loss.
- Get off the floor – It may not seem like a necessary exercise to practice, but as we age we will increasingly have mobility issues. Most mature adults don’t find themselves on the floor regularly. So in the event that they do, it can be very difficult to get back up, especially in an emergency. It is better to prepare and train yourself to be able to stand up again.
- Maintain speed – When exercising, not only is muscle-building necessary for power, but also for speed and stamina. As Tweedie suggests, your fitness doesn’t slow because you age, you age because your fitness slows (2018). Challenge yourself to do your exercise routine a little bit faster each time. High intensity interval training can transform muscle mass at the cellular level (Parker-Pope) to help maintain stamina.
- Grow your self-confidence – Negative stereotypes about mature adults can bring self-doubt and create barriers. Having an ‘I’m-too-old-to-do-that’ mentality will age you much faster. Keeping a positive attitude and connecting to other like-minded friends can boost your energies and make you feel much younger. Additionally, challenging yourself to do activities outside of your comfort zone can help you to engage socially. Studies have shown that loneliness can age you faster, as it has been linked to greater risk of dementia, depression, and heart attacks (Ducharme 2019). Why not make new friends by volunteering or by joining a club or travel tour?
- Work on a project – Take up a long-term hobby. Find a goal that brings you joy, meaning, and or purpose to your life and regularly work toward accomplishing it. It could be returning to school for a degree, working up to a black belt in martial arts, or participating in a play, among infinite other possibilities.
- Keep learning – Like any other muscle, your brain needs exercise for it to remain healthy. Find a topic you like and start reading, or find a local course to take. According to neurologist Emily Rogalski, superagers (those 80 or over who possess similar mental capacity of those much younger) have optimism, perseverance and robust brain stimulae in common (Streets & Saunders 2019). In other words, those who keep busy with reading, travelling and/or hobbies that are new to them are often able to slow the shrinking of the brain that occurs when we age.
- De-stress – Stress has a substantial impact on our health at any age. It has been found to weaken our immune system and make us susceptible to adrenal dysfunction, headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome, and accelerate the aging process (Global Coalition on Aging). Destressing is is imperative not only for better moods but also for healthy body function. Meditate, take a interest class, or take a vacation; find a solution that suits you.
Developing and maintaining fitness doesn’t have to be a difficult or strenuous task, nor does it require any special equipment or facilities. In fact, maintaining fitness can even be done in the comfort of your own home, so long as you can find the time just a few times a week. In general, about 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day is all the average person needs to achieve a good level of fitness, regardless of age. Though in practice, even short bursts of exercise combined with daily walking and activity is all it takes to build and maintain fitness levels for a healthy lifestyle, or in preparation for one of Odyssey’s more challenging walking tours.
Some easy exercises (depending on your mobility) to do from the comfort of your home include
- Running on the spot (alternate between jogging and high knees)
- Jumping Jacks
- Burpees (without push-ups)
- Squat Jumps
When exercising, you don’t need to go 100% all of the time either, with a staggered approach to exercise yielding a better result for your overall cardiovascular health. By staggered, what is meant is that exercise sets are best approached as a short burst of intense exercise, followed by a low intensity one, and back again. These methods of exercising, known as calisthenics, are an easy and accessible way to incorporate fitness into your weekly routine, improving your cardiovascular, and muscular health, as well as your balance and control over your own body. With this said, it is also important to practice stretching and balancing, this will help with your overall mobility, as well as working your core, and supporting muscles important for body control.
Travelling for healthy aging
Travelling has several beneficial qualities for healthy aging and addresses several of the tips Horovitz mentions. It provides the opportunity to physically exercise by walking between different tourist spots; to develop social interactions with travel companions and locals; to stimulate the brain as it takes in new sights and information; and to remove someone from their daily stresses and routines. All of these factors contribute to the fact that taking a vacation regularly can reduce the risk of heart attack and depression. In fact, the Framingham Heart Study found that men who did not vacation yearly have a 30% greater risk of fatal heart disease. Similar findings were made with women.
Odyssey Traveller’s small group tours are especially suited to address these beneficiary anti-aging tips, because of their intimate and educational focus. Reasons for this are:
- We offer several walking tours that can be used as a personal fitness goal
- Our small group tours make it easy to develop friendships and meet like-minded people. Trips are highly social affairs as you spend weeks with the same group
- Travelling in a group allows for added security from getting lost to getting scammed. For example, many hotels will offer you to pay in your home currency, which can increase the price by 7 to 8 percent (Groundwater 2019).
- We have an educational focus, with local experts and plenty of reading materials for an immersive learning experience
- Our tours are jam-packed with fun and authentic experiences, which are worlds away from your daily routines and stresses
The tips in this article will help you to live life to your fullest and retain your physical and mental capacity. We here at Odyssey Traveller would love to be a part of your active and graceful ageing journey.
Updated January 2021