Birthdays are a great time to reflect on our lives and assess whether we’re aging well. With 55 trips around the sun under my belt, I’m happy to look back and realize that I feel healthier and more energetic today than I have since my late teens or early 20’s. And it feels great to have as much or more energy and motivation to do things in my mid-50’s as I did in my younger years.
It’s flattering when people comment and say I look young for my age. But for me it’s more about “aging well” than “looking younger.” A lot of it is likely genetics—and I’m grateful for my good genes—however, much of my good health, energy, and younger look definitely stem from living the Happy Well Lifestyle that I share with you on my blog.
In fact modern scientific research has shown just how much our diet and lifestyle greatly impact our genes for better or worse. It’s now known that only about 10% of ALL chronic diseases are genetic in nature, the rest we have control over. To varying degrees we can actually turn our genes ON or OFF.
Are you feeling healthier and more energetic as you age too? Or are you feeling your age, maybe less motivated, more weight gain, difficulty sleeping, or more aches and pains? If any of that sounds like you then my tips for aging well can help. In Part One we look at the importance of quality sleep, hydration, and moving your body for your overall health and wellness, with tips to help you overcome obstacles in these areas. Then in Part Two we’ll cover more ways to continue aging well.
Aging Well: Love Your Body
How did I get to this point where I’m feeling happier and healthier as I age? There are multiple things that contribute to overall health, wellness, and happiness.
Take your one and only body for starters. The first steps to aging well begin with treating your body with love and respect. If you’re not lovin’ on your body, it’s probably not gonna be lovin’ you back. Since sleep, hydration, and movement are key elements to loving your body, let’s start with those.
1. Quality Sleep
Getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep a night is key to good health. In my book it’s the most important thing I do each day (or night!) When I don’t get at least 7 hours, and preferably 7.5-8 hours of sleep a night, I can really feel a difference in my energy and overall mood. It’s mind boggling to realize that almost 22% of Americans suffer from sleep issues. Research has shown that the body does a variety of important things while we sleep.
- Our brain gets a “wash” with spinal fluid to flush out any detritus (dead cells) and toxins.(1)
- The body regulates our hormones while we sleep. Without proper sleep our hormones can get all out of whack, and cause weight gain and lethargy among other things.(2)
- Sleep is also the time of deep body-repair to any areas that need it, including helping wounds heal faster, rebuilding muscles, and boosting our immune system.(3)
- People who don’t get enough sleep are at greater risk for stroke and heart attack.(4)
- Chronic sleep deprivation (less than 6 hours a night for prolonged periods) has also been shown to increase risk of high blood sugar and diabetes.(5)
- Poor quality of sleep has been linked to depression and anxiety. 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality.(6)
- Sleep has been linked to chronic inflammation, and inflammation itself has been linked to 80-90% of all diseases.(7)
As a holistic health coach, I’ve had great success helping clients sleep better naturally. If you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, I’d love to hear from you and see if holistic health coaching can help you.
Do you drink enough water each day? Or are you chronically dehydrated? According to the Harvard Health Letter(8), “Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation.”
The human body is about 60% water, and we lose about three liters a day through elimination, breathing, and sweat. And it’s estimated that 75-80% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.(9)
I know I was chronically dehydrated as a kid. Growing up in a high altitude town and not drinking enough fluids was a bad combo. I used to chug aspirin for chronic dehydration headaches (across the forehead), when I should have been chugging water instead! Luckily today I love drinking water and always have my glass water bottle handy.
Why is Hydration So Important?
- Blood is 92% water, so when you’re dehydrated one of the first things that happens is your blood starts to thicken. This can potentially lead to DVT (deep vein thrombosis), blood clots, and even stroke.(10)
- The brain and heart are about 70% water, the lungs are about 80% water. Think about what happens to dehydrated fruits and meats when you remove the water. They shrink up right? Chronic dehydration can actually start to shrink the heart and brain. No bueno!(11)
- One of the first indications that the body is dehydrated is thirst. Weird right? When you reach for a drink because you’re thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Who knew?
- Another early indicator of thirst is clumsiness. Trip over your feet, bump into a wall or desk, or drop something? You may well be dehydrated, so stop for a drink of water.
- From a study done by Emory University(12) being optimally hydrated may increase educational outcomes through improved attention, concentration, and short-term memory.
- Another major benefit of drinking water is that it helps to flush toxins out of the body. Toxins are stored in fat cells and can cause inflammation, which then cause the fat cells to store more fat. Staying well hydrated may actually help to lose excess weight.
Are You Drinking Enough Water?
As you can see, optimal hydration can really help promote aging well. But how much water is enough?(13) While the old adage was 8 glasses of water a day, modern science has refined that a bit. The current recommendation to determine the amount of water you need is to take your body weight and divide by 2. Then drink that many ounces.
If you weigh 130 lbs, and divide by two you get 65. So you’d need to drink 65 oz. of water a day. If you divide 65 by 8 (the number of ounces in a cup) that’s just over 8 cups of water a day. If you weigh 200 lbs and do the same math, that’s 12.5 cups of water a day. So your hydration is very individual.
Other Important Hydration Factors
- Age ~ older, sedentary people may need less water than younger, more active people.
- Level of Regular Exercise ~ if you exercise regularly, you’ll need to drink more to replenish what you sweat out.
- Environment ~ if you live in the desert like Las Vegas, or high altitude like Denver you’ll need to drink more water than if you live at sea level or in a damp climate like Seattle.
- Overall Health ~ if your sick with fever, cold, or flu, you’ll need to drink more water to help your body fight of the virus.
- Eating Lots of Produce ~ if you eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables (which have a high water content) that will add to your overall water intake, so you may be able to drink less water.
- Drinking Coffee and Alcohol ~ both are diuretics and can be dehydrating, so if you drink those you may want to increase your intake of water.
What If You Don’t Care for Drinking Water?
I often hear my clients say they don’t care for the taste of water. And I don’t blame them if they’re drinking tap water which may have chlorine or fluoride in it. For optimal health it’s always best to use a water filter. There are so many types and brands of water filters, and they all filter different elements. Here’s a good place to research water filters.
That being said, you don’t want to filter out the minerals that are beneficial to your body. If you go for an RO (reverse osmosis) water filter, you absolutely must supplement with minerals or you could be doing yourself more harm than good. And please don’t drink out of plastic water bottles, they all leach plastic into your body, no matter if they are BPA free or anything else.
If you really don’t care for the taste of water, another way to make it more palatable is to add a squeeze of lime or lemon, or some fresh or frozen organic berries to your water. In the winter months I love to add a few immune-boosting, antiviral clove buds to my glass water bottle to ward off the cold and flu virus. If you like the taste of cloves, you’ll love this trick.
How Your Fascia Helps Your Hydration
Here’s another important factor when it comes to optimal hydration. Your fascia (connective tissue around your muscles) controls the flow of hydration throughout your whole body. Tight muscles and knots in your body? Even if you’re drinking enough water your body might not be able to really utilize it.
Luckily you can get massages to help break up those knots, or use the dreaded foam-roller to roll out your fascia and help your body hydrate better. I’m a big fan of the foam roller. And while it can hurt a little initially, over time with regular use the pain definitely lessons. The biggest bonus is that after each time I foam roll I end up having way more energy, plus I feel about 3” taller too!? Foam rolling is a great thing to incorporate into your daily exercise routine below. Your body will thank you!
3. Move Your Body
We’ve all heard that exercise is beneficial to our health. And you likely also know that it’s only in modern times that we’ve actually needed to exercise or “workout.”
In the past exercise was just part of daily life. People were generally active and moving their bodies all day long: hunting, gathering, working the fields, building things, herding animals, taking care of their homes. They weren’t sitting in front of the computer all day long, and then sitting in front of the TV all night long.
If you already love to exercise or play a sport, that’s fantastic, you’re ahead of the game! But if you’re one of those, like me, who has never really loved to exercise, or hasn’t found that one type of exercise that floats your boat, don’t despair. There are lots of ways to MOVE your body that you might not think of as exercise. And really it’s all about moving your body rather than “working out.”
Benefits of Moving Your Body
First let’s look at some of the benefits of moving your body, since just knowing the WHY behind the importance of exercise might help motivate you to move your body more.
- Regular exercise or moving your body has been shown to protect the length of telomeres on your chromosomes and maybe even extend them.(14)(15) Telome-WHAT? Think of telomeres like the little plastic piece on the end of a shoelace that keeps it from unraveling. They protect the end of your chromosomes and keep them from losing genes or sticking to other chromosomes. Regular exercise or movement creates an enzyme called the telomerase, which influences the length of telomeres. Protecting your telomeres can help you with aging well.
- Regularly moving your body helps to elevate mood(16), and who couldn’t use a little mood boost these days right?
- Moving your body, especially jumping on a rebounder/mini-tramp, benefits your lymph system, the custodian of your body. Unlike your circulatory and respiratory systems, the lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own “pump.” It depends on body movement to circulate lymph fluid throughout your body. Each time you contract and release the large muscles of your body, you pump lymphatic fluid through your body, which keeps your lymph systems circulating and cleaning house.(17)
- Exercise keeps the brain healthy by increasing oxygen to the brain. People who are physically active have higher levels of electrical activity in the brain, improved cognition, and lower levels of dementia.(18)
- Weight bearing exercises including weight lifting and yoga help to increase bone density and ward off osteoporosis.(19)
And here’s some more great news, modern science says you can get your 30-40 minutes of exercise a day in smaller chunks, not all at once. So maybe you get in 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there, morning, afternoon, and evening and before you know it you’ve “worked out” for 30 minutes!(20)
So now that you know some of the excellent health benefits of moving your body, let’s look at some tips and tricks to help you move if you’re more inclined to sit, or think you don’t have the time in your busy life to “work out.”
Tips & Tricks to Help You Move Your Body
- Dance Party ~ put on your fav music and have a dance party, even if it’s just you, in your underwear in your kitchen or bathroom, while you’re cleaning house. Shake your booty and move your hips for two or three songs and you’re one-third of the way done “working out” for the day!
- Hula-hoop ~ if you loved this fun activity as a kid, you’re never too old to pick it up and hoop again! This is one of my FAV ways to exercise, and it’s especially good core work plus it burns 7 calories a minute. The secret (in case you’ve forgotten how to hoop) is to pull your abs up and in, then push your stomach forward into the hoop as it comes around to your front. Check out this short hooping tutorial video and have FUN! Start with just 1-2 minutes a day and work up to 5 or 10, it’s great cardio too!
- Walk Around the Block ~ even a 10 minute walk will do you body good. You can also park further away, or think outside the box for other opportunities to walk rather than drive or take the bus.
- Climb the Stairs ~ instead of taking the elevator at work. Take a 10 minute break in the morning to walk up and down a couple flights of stairs. Do the same thing in the afternoon and your “workout” for the day is two-thirds done!
- Play! ~ with your kids, grandkids, dog, or cat. Any movement counts so if you’re chasing them, or they’re chasing you, or your walking your dog it’s all good.
- Zumba ~ if you’ve never tried it and you like to dance, give it a whirl! Zumba is one of my favorite ways to “work out”. And it never feels like a workout at all, it’s just FUN.
- SEX ~ is another great way to move your body and burn calories while having fun!
- Other Fun Activities ~ Depending on where you live and the season of year, you might try some of these: swimming, kayaking, canoeing, x-country skiing, snowshoeing, climbing wall, hiking, waterskiing, biking or mountain biking, urban hiking (a great way to visit a new neighborhood capped off with a bite at a new restaurant or cafe!), or sailboat racing (my personal fav sport and way more exercise than it might look like. Check out your local yacht club and put your name on a crew list, even if you have no experience, it’s FUN!)
The key is to move your body in ways that are FUN for you and you’ll be more inclined to do them every day. Bring your water bottle along so you stay well hydrated, and then be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. You’ll be feeling more energetic and younger in no time!
Thanks for reading and sharing. May my tips for aging well and living a happier, healthier life resonate with you, and empower you to love your body! Check out Aging Well Part 2: Detox Your Fridge & Pantry.
Please leave a comment to let us know your favorite way to move your body or get exercise? Let’s get a list of great ideas going in the comments so we can all try some new options to move our bodies and get healthy.
Heidi Hackler photo Josef Kandoll W Photography.