The secret to longevity, independence and good health in older age? Accumulated research suggests that playing brain games or eating blueberries every day isn’t the formula for aging well. Staying physically fit and working to maintain muscle strength in middle and older age is one of the most well-documented strategies for preserving health and preventing chronic illness.
According to a recent Washington Post report, staying active in older age not only promotes independence by preventing frailty but it also significantly reduces the risk for life-shortening conditions like heart disease or diabetes. And seniors don’t need to worry they should be running marathons, studies have found that just 10 to 15 minutes of exercise can have significant health benefits. And according to research supported by The Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at Mayo Clinic, by moving more, seniors can prevent muscle loss and frailty.
A 30-minute brisk walk each day is recommended for older adults and studies have found that “low dose” running, for just 10 minutes each day, could reduce mortality rates by nearly 30 percent. Staying physically active is not only beneficial for physical fitness and strength; an active lifestyle can improve brain health by stimulating new neural pathways. Even if you jogging isn’t in your wheelhouse; walking more, taking the stairs or gardening helps older adults enjoy greater health and longevity.
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Getting proper rest, eating a healthy Mediterranean diet, limiting alcohol and managing stress help prevent inflammation which can lead to chronic illness. And as far as good genes for healthy aging is concerned, it is estimated that genetics only factor about 10 to 15 percent into longevity. Environmental factors, including education and socio-economic background, better predict life span.
Social interaction and a sense of purpose in life have also been found to contribute to healthy aging. Seniors who have a strong sense of community and find meaning in their daily life fare better; participating in enjoyed activities and living where transportation, shopping, health care and community centers are accessible can also support successful aging.
Living an active, balanced life with a sense of purpose and a strong network of friends and family will serve you well, and promote greater longevity. It’s never too late to start making choices that help support a long and meaningful life. It’s not over until it’s over!