When my youngest son was a toddler, he loved Fred Penner….I mean he absolutely IDOLIZED him! That was mostly good, except that twenty-seven years later, many of those songs have a way of creeping back into my head.
When I was asked if I would write a guest post on positive aging for Retirement and Good Living, Fred’s words once again sprang to the forefront of my mind.
“You can do it if you try, you can do it if you try, you can do do doodly do it if you try.”
Many of us know the basic research on longevity and aging well (as much of it is based on common sense). We just need reminders to try…and sometimes to creatively modify! When browsing the research on positive aging, you will typically find:
- Eat your vegetables.
- Get off the couch (i.e. stay physically active).
- Get your sleep.
- Manage your stress.
- Build a close network of family and friends.
- Find your purpose.
- Keep learning (i.e. stay mentally active).
- Help others.
- Maintain a positive mindset.
Regarding healthy living advice, many of us need prompts (sometimes frequently). More importantly, we need to prevent ourselves from putting things in the ‘too hard basket,’ or it’s twin ‘I’ve already failed at this basket’. Equally, we need the strength to pull things out of these baskets when they do end up in there.
Let’s take vegetables for example. Most food guides recommend a minimum of seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A cup of leafy greens or a half cup of fresh/frozen/canned fruit/veggies counts as one serving. Although dial-a-pizza can seem quicker and more convenient, even a vegetarian pizza usually offers less than one meal’s worth of vegetables. (American Institute for Cancer Research). But that doesn’t mean we need to give up on pizza altogether. Here’s where the modification part comes in…brilliantly.
Hankering pizza but want to maintain your seven-serve vegetable intake? If you’ve just dialed, why not steam up some extra veggies (yes they can originally be frozen) to add on top. Or make/order a side salad. Feeling supercharged and motivated? Why not do both? If watching your weight, remember that a typical delivery or frozen vegetarian pizza weighs in at 240—340 calories per slice, while a homemade version with whole wheat crust and reduced fat cheese often starts at 185 calories. (Livestrong)
Let’s try another. Alex, I’ll take ‘Get off the Couch’ for 200! Our muscles tend to become shorter and lose their elasticity as we age. But we don’t need to accept this fate. Even fifteen minutes of regular stretching each morning and before exercise can make a huge difference. So much so that most fitness experts agree that regular stretching is equally important to regular exercise.
Hate gyms and don’t have the commitment to stick to your own exercise routine? Why not try a yoga class? They are gender-neutral, available most places and at most levels. And most yoga instructors are gurus at helping you to modify movements that are right for you. I’m sure that there’s no one who has taken more advantage of this than me. Extended sitting in legs-crossed position = prop! Butterfly = another prop! Dreaded Downward-Facing Dog= two props. It’s gotten to the point that I’ve often entered the yoga studio, grabbed all the props that my arms could hold and then sheepishly asked the others, “no one else was hoping to use props today, were they?” It’s a good thing that my yoga studio offers a large stock of supplies! Once you get into a routine, you can easily practice yoga at home…or even on the beach!
Let’s do one more. Long for the peaceful sleep of childhood? You can modify for this too. Also, you can often combine this with another item off of the healthy aging list to get double benefits with one fell swoop. For example, instead of sleeping pills why not try a few natural remedies? Regular physical exercise is known to help improve sleep, just ensure you have completed all vigorous workouts four hours (or more) before bedtime. Also, be sure that there are no blue lights illuminating from your computer, television or phone as this form of light has been proven to interfere with sleep. You might also try reducing/eliminating your caffeine intake in the afternoon, not going to bed on a full stomach and investing in a good pillow/mattress.
It is important to make all positive aging and healthy living tips your own. We’ve reviewed a few examples of modifications together. I’d love to hear from you in the comment section on which healthy aging tips work best for you, and how you have modified them.