As editor of the New York Times magazine WELL Tara Parker-Pope is an authority on getting older. Something she says is inevitable and clearly better than the alternative.
Her advice is not rail against the process but instead embrace it. Making it more productive and pleasant is the goal whereby the so-called ‘golden years’ can be ones that shine.
Her recommendations mirror those of many others in pursuit of enduring and winning strategies to make a difference. The path best trodden, she believes, is to find simple ways to keep your body tuned up and your mind tuned in. As everyone agrees the most compelling viewpoint is that it’s NEVER too late to get going.
Eat well to age well
Small changes in your eating habits can lower your risk for many of the diseases associated with ageing.
Don’t go on crash diets but aim for realistic reductions as studies have indicated that losing just 5 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Similarly, you can improve the metabolic function in live, fat and muscle tissue.
Tasty though they might be some processed meats that have been salted, cured or smoked—such as some sausages and the like—aren’t good for heart health or those on the borderline of diabetes.
Colour-full fruit and vegetables are another winning addition to the diet. Blueberries have been found to deliver a 26 percent lower risk of diabetes. Similarly, other ‘super’ foods such as cherries, spinach or kale, achieve stellar results.
They may be convenient but the best eating strategy for ageing well is to put the brakes on processed food or drink. The likes of junk food or packaged options with lots of ingredients and also preservatives. If you’re hungry opt for natural snacks such as fruit or nuts. Again, in moderation rather than bulk.
Couch time is still allowed provided that you’ve put your body in motion some time during the day.
It may sound intense, but in truth high-intensity just means repeating short bursts of ‘all out’ exercise with longer periods of recovery time. Parker-Pope writes that a number of studies have shown that our bodies get more out of interval training compared with slow-and-steady exercise. A study from the venerated Mayo Clinic, of 72 healthy but sedentary men and women who were randomly assigned to different exercise groups or a control group found that interval training actually led to changes in muscles at the cellular level, essentially reversing the natural decline that occurs with aging.
The typical time frame for work outs of this ilk last less than 15 minutes. That includes a warm up and warm down period.
Chances are you are seeking to become a body builder (but good luck if you are) but weight lifting is outstanding for maintaining muscle mass and stronger bones as you age. Lighter routines can still be effective. Using weights that are 30 and 50 percent of a ‘one off’ maximum lift, can increase the number of repetitions and therefore the benefits. The key is to grow tired rather than be thwarted after just one lift.
The internal benefits of an exercise regime is one thing. Making your biggest, and most visible, organ—the skin—look its best is another positive ‘by product’ of putting yourself in motion.
Parker-Pope proposed that after about age 40, most of us begin to experience a thickening of our stratum corneum, the final, protective, outer layer of the epidermis, itself the top layer of your skin. The stratum corneum is the portion of the skin that you see and feel. Composed mostly of dead skin cells and some collagen, it gets drier, flakier and denser with age.
At the same time, the layer of skin beneath the epidermis, the dermis, begins to thin. It loses cells and elasticity, giving the skin a more translucent and often saggy appearance. These are not the results of your skin’s worst enemy, the sun, but rather what happens with the passage of time.
It appears that after age 40 men and women who exercise regularly had markedly thinner, healthier stratum corneums and thicker dermis layers in their skin with similar results achieved past age 65.