"Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care."
— Buddha [563-483 BC]
May you have a long life is the most common blessing given by our elders and well wishers. Who wouldn't want to live to a ripe old age, but who would want to grow into an over-ripe fruit up to no good? Growing old is inevitable, but getting worn-out is optional.
Ageing gets fast forwarded by eating the wrong foods, lack of exercise, stress, unhappiness, and lack of sleep. Here are some of the things you can do to postpone ageing.
Work out, stay fitter
Regular exercise keeps the heart ticking, prevents Type-2 diabetes, maintains and builds muscle mass, keeps up energy levels, and also elevates mood in a big way. It has been found that moderate low-impact exercise is the best solution to a long life. Small lifestyle changes like walking/cycling to your nearby destinations for chores, taking stairs, doing household chores, and gardening can go a long way towards prolonging your life. This is what Buettner calls "deconveniencing your home"!
Gardening is one of the few ways of getting exercise in a pleasurable way. It helps develop a nurturing attitude towards nature. Plus, being out in the sun gives a good dose of vitamin D. The benefit of reaping fresh produce from your own garden is quite unbeatable.
Yoga has been propounded as a tool for longevity since centuries. It is low on impact, but high on strengthening the muscles and ligaments, leading to more flexibility as we age. A loss of muscle mass, accompanied by a gain in fat mass, occurs with ageing. Yoga is great for longevity because it strengthens the muscles and ligaments that surround bones and joints without putting pressure on them. Movements become more fluid and less stiff overtime.
T'ai Chi, the Chinese art of choreographed meditative exercises, has been around for centuries. It is not only enjoyable, but also can be performed at any age. When practised for 30 minutes, thrice a week, it helps improve energy and balance, strengthen immunity, reduce stress, better sleep, and keep the body flexible.
Eat better, live longer
There's plenty of truth in this old adage — "We dig our graves with our teeth." We are what we eat, so it is no surprise that our diet plays a vital role in how we age. A research done on the centenarians in Japan and China revealed that they ate mostly fish, vegetables, mushrooms, seaweed, corn, buckwheat, and hardly any meat. Scientists have proven the health benefits of eating a plant-rich, meat-free diet. These geriatrics rarely suffered from heart or liver disease, cancer or degenerative diseases.
Dan Buettner [author of The Blue Zones, a book on longevity] recommends that you donate all the large plates in your kitchen and replace them with smaller plates. This will automatically reduce calorie intake by 30 per cent at least at dinner times.
Eating locally produced organic food is an added advantage. Sardinians swear by red wine as one of the aids to defy ageing, given that red wine is rich in antioxidants, it might as well be true. Drinking enough pure water through the day is also an important part of keeping cells healthy. Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and pepper have several disease-preventing properties that one could benefit from.
- Here are some foods that will help you lead a long healthy life:
- Whole grains reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers [whole wheat flour, ragi, oatmeal, jowar, bajra, cracked wheat, buckwheat, and cornmeal]
- Calcium-rich dairy foods prevent osteoporosis [low-fat milk, dahi, low-fat paneer, and cheese]
- Protein from beans and lean meats result in stronger muscles and improved metabolism [dried beans, nuts, and fish]
- Fruits provide antioxidants and a variety of vitamins [choose a variety of colours]
- Vegetables help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases by providing vital nutrients [green leafy, orange coloured and starchy vegetables].
Grow older, think sharper
Age brings along senility, memory loss, and Alzheimer's. These can be delayed or prevented altogether. Daily brain workouts like puzzles, chess and sudoku, and a diet rich in essential amino acids, omega-3 and vitamins ensure that you have a razor sharp brain for many years to come.
- The following list of foods will keep your brain buzzing for long:
- Omega-3 rich fish: Salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Nuts and seeds: They are rich in omega-3 and protein
- Antioxidant-rich foods: Berries and green tea [2 cups a day]
- Choline-rich food: Cruciferous vegetables [cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli], eggs, peanuts, and rajma
- Monounsaturated fats: Olive oil, peanuts, sesame oil, flaxseeds and fish oil
- Microalgae: Spirulina and seaweed.
Beat stress, live lighter
Follow these simple steps to de-stress.
- Bond with family and friends
- Cut out stimulants like caffeine
- Cultivate a hobby and join a hobby group
- De-clutter with a passion. Give away anything that you haven't used for six months
- Keep free slots in your daily planner for relaxation, or doing what makes you happy, including doing nothing
- Laugh like a child
- Give importance to a good night's sleep
- Get a pet. A pet dog can bring you much happiness.
To live a long life full of vitality, you can start at any point, making small changes one at a time to improve for the better. Pursue longevity with a passion, and you will realise that it is not some elusive Holy Grail, but something very much attainable.
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