It’s time to welcome back fall with its crisp air and shorter days. Changing seasons is a great time to get started on improving your wellness practices. No matter how many birthdays you’ve celebrated, it’s always a good time to improve your well-being in order to live a long, healthy, vibrant life!
There are countless positive aspects of growing older. Remember that you’re in charge of your life and paying attention to the combination of physical, social, and mental fitness will pay huge dividends in the pursuit of vibrant aging.
To keep it simple, focus on these five areas of wellness for healthy aging:
- Nutrition – Stick to the basics: Protein (VERY important to preserve muscle mass as we age), colorful vegetables and fruits, healthy fats (think olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc.), and plenty of filtered water. Limit highly processed foods that are engineered to make us over-eat. Play with shortening your eating window to at least 12 hours each day (fast from dinner to breakfast) to improve metabolic health.
- Exercise –Building and maintaining muscle is the name of the game for aging well so make sure to incorporate strength training into your exercise routine. Exercise is also extremely beneficial for glucose disposal (maintaining healthy blood sugar levels to stave off chronic diseases such as diabetes). And according to Harvard Medical School, exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. Say goodbye to brain fog!
- Sleep – Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Too little sleep is associated with chronic disease and memory loss. You can get more shut-eye by addressing “sleep hygiene”: get morning sunshine, exercise, limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol (they interfere with sleep), keep your bedroom cool and dark, establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine, and follow a consistent sleep schedule.
- Stress management – Some stress is beneficial, but your body wasn’t designed to handle long-term high levels of stress. In fact, studies suggest up to 90 percent of illnesses are linked to stress. When you find yourself in a stressful situation remember to breathe. In as few as five deep breaths you can switch your body from the stress response to the relaxation response. This will help to normalize heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and digestion, all of which become dysregulated under stress.
- Social connections – Research suggests the lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as smoking! In other words, lack of social relationships constitutes a major risk factor for disease. Social connections can reduce the stress hormone cortisol thereby reducing your risk of chronic disease and improving your long-term health! It’s well worth your time and energy to foster your relationships and form new ones!