We look much younger than our parents did when they were our age, which means that we must be doing a few things right and possibly have even learned a thing or two. We are very fortunate these days to be able to look forward to a retirement which promises to be decades long and to be able to enjoy it with health and vitality. No rocking chair for us!
If you ask anyone how to stay younger for longer most people can list ten things without too much effort: Don’t smoke; limit your alcohol; maximise your water intake; minimise your alcohol intake, get a good night’s sleep; take care of your skin and your body; eat wisely and exercise regularly. Alright, that’s only nine items, but you and I can both make ten points out of “eating wisely” alone.
We also know that, apart from making us age quickly, an unhealthy lifestyle can make us more susceptible to life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol and even cancer. Yes, most of us are aware of the most important factors which can make us age prematurely and possibly even shorten our lives. And yet, how many of us actually do any of those things?
How does one make the transition from the couch potato lifestyle to a healthier one? Some people have the discipline to rise to this challenge. They will be running marathons within six months. The rest of us will more likely succeed through simple, incremental activities. In this article, we will try and tease out the small wins that can slowly help us become healthier, fitter, younger.
Just when you think you are getting to an age when you have earned a chance to do a little sitting down, it turns out it’s bad for you. And as we get older we tend to spend more time sitting down, whether at the office, in the car or at home. We can easily sit for 12 hours in a day, if not more. And yes, lying down does count as “sitting” in this context!
More than 40 scientific studies have confirmed that sitting for prolonged periods of time is bad for our health. The act of sitting reduces the work done by the largest muscles in our bodies – in the thighs and rear – and reduces our metabolic activity. This affects our ability to manage the insulin and fats in our bodies. In a sense, the body “shuts down” while seated. Sitting materially shortens our lives.
While there have been some fear-mongering articles in the press, such as “Sitting is the new smoking”, there is enough evidence to recommend regular breaks if you have been sitting for more than 30 minutes. Let’s not forget about all those bad things which also happen while sitting down for any length of time: poor posture, eye strain, snacking – all combine to make the situation even worse.
Take a five-minute break from sitting down every half hour – set an alarm on your phone or watch to remind you. Try to make these breaks worthwhile and not just a toilet break: Walk around briskly, get outside if you can, find something healthy to eat and drink, talk to real people, lift your head and pull your spine straight. There you go. That’s better, isn’t it?