A Limitless Life: How Self-Care & Exercise Affect Our Lifespan

Taking care of ourselves is a proven path to living longer -- and experiencing a more fulfilling life today.
Image source: Vincent van Zeijst via wikimediacommons.org[/caption]
Two elderly people in a green yard.
Taking care of ourselves is a proven path to living longer — and experiencing a more fulfilling life today.
Image source: Vincent van Zeijst via wikimediacommons.org

Always keep your smile. That’s how I explain my long life.

— Jeanne Calment

We know that in certain parts of the world, people are already living well into their hundreds — and feeling better than ever. But according to recent studies, this extended lifespan is poised to become the norm: some evolutionary experts even believe that in less than forty years humans will live to be 120 years old on average. We already live almost twice as long as we did a century ago; just think of what longevity records we might break in the next hundred — with technology increasing at its current rate, the possibilities are seemingly limitless. Living longer, naturally
Within this discussion surrounding longevity, it’s imperative to keep at the fore of our minds that quality is more important than quantity. After all, what is the use of adding 25 more years to our lifespan if we are ill and unhappy? On the other hand, if we’re living a healthy, passion-filled life, having an extra quarter century to live sounds quite desirable. Because of this, scientists and investors have been focusing intently on creating tools — from drugs to genetics — to help us live longer.
Nonetheless, there are valuable changes that we can make within our individual lifestyles that can significantly extend our time here. Among them, exercise is a big one: it has not only been proven help us live longer, but it also deepens our enjoyment of the aging process at any stage of the game.

An image of an older man and young child.
Being able to spend more time with our loved ones is an appealing aspect of living longer.
Image source: Mbjerke via wikimediacommons.org

Moving to live
The results are in: even if we have unhealthy diets, regular exercise still goes a long way in keeping us fit and living longer. From studies done with mice, researchers have found proof that regardless of what we eat, regular exercise gives us a leg up on aging. It turns out that it didn’t matter whether the mice were fed healthy or unhealthy food. What made the difference to their aging process was whether or not they exercised regularly: the cells in the mice who exercised didn’t age. So if you’re really craving those cupcakes or French fries, go ahead — just be sure to follow them up with a trip to the gym!
Focusing on the positive net effect of exercise on our overall health can turn it into an enjoyable activity we look forward to. Exercise is also known to elevate our moods, and even relieve depression. As we move into old age, committing to regular walking sessions or table tennis with friends can be just the thing to keep our spirits lifted. Since stress renders our immune systems less effective, exercise also decreases our chance of getting sick by naturally lowering our stress levels.
Lighthearted exercise
The key to exercise is to make it about having fun. Particularly as we age, we might find ourselves with the reduced ability to play sports we once loved, or having difficultly participating in activities like jogging that are hard on joints. But this is really an opportunity to discover new ways of incorporating physical activity into our lives in ways that best work for us. For example, badminton is fairly gentle on the body, and a great way to socialize with friends; and walking is a perfect outdoor activity that can be done either solo or with others, while reconnecting us with nature.
Elderly people sit on a bench outside.
Sitting with friends is nice, but what about going for a walk together? Anything that gets the blood circulating has multiple benefits to our health.
Image source: Capture Queen via wikimediacommons.org

Quality over quantity, for today and tomorrow
Ultimately, the lifestyle advice for living longer also improves our lives during the present. When we exercise daily, we feel better both physically and mentally, which in turn creates a positive ripple effect on all other areas of our lives, including our family, relationships, hobbies, and work. The same holds true for nutrition and general self-care; these are all simple ways to feel better, and live longer. Regardless of what twists and turns science takes, we will always retain control of how we treat our bodies and minds every day. When we shift our intention from living longer to living better, we reap the benefits of experiencing today — as well as tomorrow — with a positive, healthy outlook on life. And that’s something worth striving for.

The ingredients of health and long life, are great temperance, open air, easy labor, and little care.

— Philip Sidney

If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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