If there’s one thing I detest, it’s admitting to any signs of aging or slowing down. Anyone who knows me can vouch for that. But alas, now that I’m in my 4th decade I’m beginning to notice some subtle changes. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be making excuses to let myself go but while I am still as strong and nearly as fast as ever, I have noticed that it takes a little longer to get warmed up for a workout. Recovery is a bit slower. And I pay a hefty price after having a few drinks the night before.
Despite the march of time, the aging process is something that we have a great deal of control over. Why should a little thing like the number of years we’ve been on this planet get in the way of our health and vitality? There are many habits we can adopt to minimize the effects of chronological aging.
Here are 5 healthy habits that I’ll be sticking to throughout my 30’s (and beyond) to ensure that I feel and look as youthful as possible.
Have a Well Balanced Training Plan That Focuses On Strength and Mobility.
Muscle is the engine that drives youth. Tufts University researchers have recently told us that muscle mass is the best biological marker of anti aging. Strength training increases bone density, keeps your metabolism running like a furnace, boosts your immune system and combats the sagging of various body parts.
Now I must emphasize that your strength training program should be well balanced. Gentlemen, it’s a must that you expand your repertoire from the lifts of your high school football days. A balanced routine for where your body is now is essential. Ladies, be sure that you include strength exercises that work the largest muscle groups in the body. Core classes and running have their place but the biggest benefits will come from a progressive training program that includes the ‘bigger’ lifts (squat, deadlift, chinup etc.) Take some time to learn proper technique and how to put together a strength training routine. It’s an investment in your future.
Also, since most of us aren’t moving around as much as we did during our school days, its imperative to spend some time improving our mobility. Many of the little aches and pains that creep in over time can be negated with some basic soft tissue work along with various stretching techniques such as dynamic or PNF stretching. Some soft tissue work and mobility drills will go a long way to keeping you moving freely without discomfort.
Drink 3-4 Liters of Water Each Day
This is the one that we all know we should be doing but rarely do! Our bodies are over 60% water. Water is something every bodily system depends on in order to function. Water is second only to oxygen in the hierarchy of things you need to stay alive! Have too little and you’re subject to fatigue, headaches, hunger, premature aging of skin, and kidney problems just to name a few health problems. The average adult in a temperate climate needs approximately 3 liters of water a day. That’s the minimum recommended amount. However, if it’s hot outside you’ll need more. If you’ve been working out, you’ll need more. The ever popular “8 glasses a day” recommendation may be easy to remember, but falls short of the 3 liters everyone should be getting on a daily basis.
Although fruits, coffee and juice contain some water, its best to count only fresh water and tea towards your daily total. (Note, there may be an increase in bathroom trips for the first week or so, but this will diminish over time as your body adjusts to the increase in fluids.)
Cook For Yourself
We have a saying in the fitness industry: The more you cook, the better you look. Granted, this may not be accurate if you’re pulling recipes from the Paula Deen Cookbook, but preparing your own meals will help keep your body fit and your wallet a little fatter. When you eat out you’re subject to the restaurant’s menu. It’s easy to be tempted by many unhealthy options. And even the ones that appear to be healthy might be prepared in a not-so-healthy way (with excess salt and low quality oils for example).
Yes, I admit, cooking can be a pain. But you’re no longer a college student or a 20-something just getting used to the ‘real world’. You’re a full blown adult and as such you have to take responsibility for your nutrition. This includes learning a handful of healthy recipes, preparing them, and choosing to eat them while many of your peers are digging into the dinner rolls.
The meals you prepare may be just this side of edible at the beginning, but with a little practice and some idea sharing with a kitchen savvy friend, you’ll be able to prepare meals that are far better than the typical restaurant!
Move in the Morning
How you begin your day will largely dictate your path for the rest of your day. Mornings can be rough. We wake up thinking about the ten thousand things we have to do. We crack open our eyes then immediately check emails, texts or social media. Then it’s off to a rushed breakfast and a hasty exit from home, rushing off to work. We end up going through the morning feeling half awake and stiff as a board!
A little stretching and movement routine first thing in the morning will give you a far better start. Take 3-5 minutes for a series of stretches, followed by 5 minutes of bodyweight exercises such as squats, pushups and band pull-aparts. Just 10 minutes exercising in this way will wake you up more than the strongest cup of coffee. You’ll be sharper mentally and energized physically, setting you up for a more productive day.
If I had to choose only one thing from this list to do every day this would be the one. The benefits of meditation are tremendous both physically and psychologically. Here are a few of the benefits of meditation:
- Lower cortisol levels, which, among other things, can aid greatly in weight loss.
- Stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system which allows your body to return to a relaxed state.
- Aids in relieving chronic physical pain.
- Helps improve sleep and can be beneficial for those with insomnia.
- Improves athletic performance by boosting circulation, relaxation and the ability to focus without being distracted.
Along with all the plentiful physical benefits, meditation is the foremost tool for raising our level of consciousness. I you wish to live in a happy and peaceful state of mind, this is a necessity. You’ll feel a change if you meditate just 5 minutes a day. Reserving 20-60 minutes a day will change your life! Check out this simple guide for details.
To a large extent, I believe that your true age lies in your state of mind. There are people who stay healthy and energetic well into their 70’s, 80’s, even longer. They are not anomalies, rather they are the ones who’ve practiced a healthy lifestyle throughout the years and did not let the idea of aging slow them down. The sooner you start practicing these 5 healthy habits, the better!