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staying young

I’ve become a bit obsessed recently with getting old. Maybe it’s watching my year tally increase, or noticing the decline in body performance. But more likely it’s to do with the horrific image that occasionally glares at me when I’m trying to take a photo on my phone and it accidently flicks backwards to reveal a close up of my own unsuspecting face, devoid of make-up or smile and creased with furrowed brow in a look of confusion. And then there’s the neck. Not pretty.

I’m having trouble reconciling that image and its implications with me – that I’m getting old. So when the ABC featured the first of a two-part series on How to Stay Young the other night, I had to watch. There might be some handy pointers I needed to know about. It was a bit elongated, but here’s the gist of it if you want a quick summary. Week 1 was about the body.

  1. Check your chances of longevity with a simple test  First, apparently you can test how you’re tracking physically by doing a ‘sit down, stand up’ test. Cross your feet over, then see if you can go from a standing position to sitting on your butt on the floor without using feet, hands, knees etc. Then, get back up doing the same. If you manage unaided by any body part, that’s a full 10 points. For each body part you use to help you down or up, you lose a point, half a point if you wobble. The higher the score, the longer you’re projected to live. Simple. I scored 9: getting down is easy but getting up is way more challenging, calling on some leg muscles that are a little AWL, and a bit of assistance from those extremities. Practice coming. Still, not too shabby.
  2. Eat well, which includes not too much. Hardly rocket science, but I was surprised to hear them promulgating the virtues of being vegan above other diets. Apparently based on a number of studies and holding up a sprightly, articulate Seventh Day Adventist centurion doc as the resulting triumph. The more fruit and veg the better, the less meat the better. (Of course, that goes against other advice that says you need red meat for iron!). And give nuts a regular whirl in your diet. Apparently, that excludes sugar-coated toffee nuts, which is a pity. Eat lots of colours – a rainbow on your plate is a good thing. Miss Sunshine would be delighted as she could sing the rainbow song every meal.
  3. Exercise. Of course. Do what you can to stave off deterioration, because the body dissections showing age-related deterioration in muscle and bone strength were quite depressing. The crux of this section was about what type of exercise is better – dancing or gym workouts. Dancing won out, with a 15% margin in increased muscle strength, over cycling and other repetitive gym exercise. I was pleased with that as I’d already put two zumba classes into my exercise week. Boom. In the words of the immortal Luigi the Unbelievable (aka Paul Hogan), ‘Keepa dancin’, Maria.’
  4. Avoid or manage stress. Meditate, exercise, take ‘me time’. All very familiar, right?

Pretty simply really. In fact, wouldn’t have though they needed a whole hour to say that. They did mention a couple of scientific tests to monitor your chances of living longer: genetic testing to gauge our genetic disposition for longevity; a scan to measure muscle deterioration; and an MRI to see how much internal fat you’re harbouring, but it’s a bit out of the reach of most of us. There was a section too about potentially extracting a youth serum of sorts from people who suffer an ailment caused by a lack of growth hormones, but that’s a bit futuristic.

Bottom line, regardless of what any of those tests reveal, we’re supposed to do that basic work above to give yourself the best chance, which basically means, eat well, exercise, and chill. Who’d have thought?

Oh, and I did notice a very liberal application by Angela at the beginning. That’ll help with those confronting reverse-phone images for sure. I effing love make-up.

Next week is how to keep your mind young. Better tune in to that too – if I remember.

So, what do you do to keep young?