Article at a Glance
- Keeping physically fit—or getting back in shape—can help you feel young again, especially when combined with some dietary hacks.
- Social relationships, lifelong learning, and music refresh your brain and emotions.
- Many different approaches can be followed at the same time in order to maximize results.
The problem of getting older is as old as time itself. In the Renaissance, explorers searched for the fountain of youth. Now there are modern rejuvenating treatments like blood transfusions from the young to the old and even cutting-edge gene therapy [R][R]. The search for the fountain of youth is equipped with an entirely new set of tools these days.
But you don’t need to become a lab rat to feel young again. There are some easier steps you can take in your daily lives to make you feel young again.
Three Ways to Get in Prime Shape
Physical activity can be one of the best things a person can do for their health, and the numbers are telling. According to a study, people who got the minimum-recommended 2.5 hours of exercise a week lengthened their life by 3.4 years. People who got double the recommended amount lengthened their life by 4.2 years [R].
Physical activity can prevent serious health issues—research shows that men who could do 40 push-ups or more were 96% less likely to have heart disease than men who couldn’t do more than 10 [R].
Most people are capable of adding more physical activity to their lives. Here are three practical ways to maintain and improve physical fitness as you get older.
There’s a reason most professional athletes peak in their 20s and occasionally early 30s. After age 30, people tend to lose between 3-8% of their muscle mass per decade [R]. Losing muscle as a result of aging is known as sarcopenia.
By the time people reach the age 75-80, they’ll have lost around 50% of their lean muscle mass. Physical inactivity is one of the biggest causes of muscle loss.
Losing muscle can make a noticeable difference in performance in sports or at the gym, as well as in metabolism. This loss of muscle also coincides with a 30% decrease in basal metabolic rate between ages 20 and 70, which can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight [R].
However, while maintaining muscle may be harder as you get older, it’s still feasible with the right mindset and dedication. Beginning or sustaining a strength training regimen based on resistance—like weightlifting—can help prevent muscle loss and regain muscle lost due to age.
Get Your Motor Running
Cardiovascular exercise remains one of the most important things a person can do for their health. Whether you’re into running, bicycling, swimming, or jumping rope, exercises that get your heart rate to 70-80% of its maximum have numerous positive effects, like [R]:
- Improved mood
- Better quality of sleep
- Higher energy levels throughout the day
- Improved brain function and memory
- Increased libido
Recall also that the average maximum heart rate drops as a person ages, which means cells don’t get as much oxygen as they did previously [R]. This is one of the chief reasons for decreased athletic performance due to aging. Cardiovascular exercise keeps your heart in good shape and delivers more oxygen to your cells, giving you more energy.
Quick Diet Hacks
Vitamins and minerals are an often-overlooked aspect of a diet. For example, if you work indoors, are overweight, live at high latitudes, or generally don’t get much sun, you’re at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps the body in all sorts of ways, including proper brain functioning [R]. Vitamin D may also help boost testosterone in men, helping give back that youthful energy [R]. Foods that are high in vitamin D include many fatty fish, like mackerel, salmon, tuna, and sardines, as well as like egg yolks and cheese.
Another common problem in the modern diet is a sodium-potassium imbalance [R]. Potassium and sodium make up the majority of the body’s electrolytes.
Because sodium was scarce in nature for our ancestors, the body holds onto it as long as it can. This leads to water retention, which can make you feel bloated and heavy. The body excretes potassium faster than it does sodium, which can cause low potassium levels. Low potassium can cause weakness, fatigue, and cramps.
Maintaining a potassium to sodium ratio that favors potassium can have major positive changes. For example, a study demonstrated that changing the potassium-sodium ratio in a person’s body to 3:1 led to a 3.36 mmHg decrease in blood pressure. A decrease of that amount corresponds with a 4-7% lower total mortality rate, with even higher reductions in mortality from stroke and heart attack [R].
Fortunately, altering your sodium-potassium ratio to favor potassium is as simple as altering your diet. At the same time as you add more foods rich in potassium to your diet, reduce your sodium intake as well. Bananas, potatoes, beans, lentils, oranges, spinach, and avocados are all high in potassium and full of other nutrients as well. Even dairy, including ice cream, has more potassium than sodium.
Three Methods to Boost Your Emotional Wellness
If pharmaceutical use is any indication, people are more stressed and depressed than ever, with one in eight Americans regularly taking antidepressants [R]. Mental health is increasingly entering the national spotlight, as many continue to struggle with conditions like depression and anxiety. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to boost your emotional health. Here are three that can help.
Maintain Your Friendships
One potential reason for increased stress and depression levels is that social relationships—especially friendships—tend to suffer for many as they age. A study showed that people generally begin to lose friends starting around age 25 [R]. In the study, both men and women experienced a steep decline in how many friends they kept as they approached 40 and another decline past 50.
Social integration, which refers to having positive relationships with friends, family, and society in general, leads to a lower risk of mortality and an improved mental state [R]. For example, having friends around leads to a decrease in the body’s stress response [R]. The opposite has been shown as well: Social isolation has been conclusively linked to the development of serious illnesses. The potential extent of its effects is serious indeed: Social isolation increases mortality rate by 50-91%. That’s greater than the effects of obesity and is comparable to smoking [R].
People who are well-integrated socially, whether it’s through family or friends, tend to live longer and have fewer health problems. They also have higher subjective well-being.
The key takeaway is this: feeling connected is good for your health. If you’re feeling isolated, consider joining a club, a recreational sports league, or seek out like-minded people online to meet in person.
Learn a New Skill
Lifelong learning is crucial to helping your brain feel young. Specifically, learning a complex task like painting or photography is wonderful for a person’s cognitive function. A study showed that learning complex skills helps improve memory in aging people [R].
Second languages are especially good in keeping a brain in good shape. Bilingualism can help keep a brain functioning well, and language learning engages large parts of the brain while exercising the areas of the brain most affected by aging [R]. So if you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language, you’re doing your brain a favor by starting learning now.
Don’t Forget the Music
Music and emotion are inextricably linked—there are few better ways to access your emotional memory than with songs you used to love. Familiar songs stimulate activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, where researchers believe music, memory, and emotion connect. Music, in general, can be useful in treating pain, reducing blood pressure and anxiety, and alleviating depression [R].
Musicianship especially leads to numerous positive brain changes. Musicians were found to have a greater density of grey matter in many regions of the brain, improved motor function, and greater connectivity between the brain’s two hemispheres [R]. However, you don’t have to be a musician to reap the rewards of taking a trip down musical memory lane. Fire up that favorite album from when you were in high school or college and enjoy.
Two Crossover Hacks for Body and Mind
Good news: Some simple steps you can take can have positive effects on all spectrums of health. Here are two of those things that can be started immediately. While studies are still being conducted, evidence points to a strong likelihood of positive outcomes from both.
Take Care of Your Gut Microbiome
Your gut is host to huge variety of bacteria, most of which help you with various aspects of your digestion and metabolism. As a person ages, their body’s relationship with its gut flora changes—often for the worse. Aging is often associated with a decline in diversity of helpful bacteria and an increase in harmful bacteria.
Although much work remains to be done in understanding the relationship between one’s gut microbiome and aging, recent scientific endeavors have suggested that one’s gut flora can play a role in inflammation and the immune system, and that a loss of diversity in gut flora leads to age-related health problems [R].
A probiotic diet was associated with a longer life span in a study on mice, and humans who live past 100 generally have high levels of healthy gut bacteria [R]. And while it hasn’t yet been proven that specifically altering the gut microbiome can have anti-aging effects, a probiotic diet may help reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system, and may also play a role in reducing anxiety and depression [R][R]. Foods rich in good bacteria include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kefir, and yogurt.
Dancing is the whole package: It’s great exercise, it helps improve coordination and balance, and it’s a great form of social connection. On top of all that, there are countless varieties of dancing that you can choose from to suit your own tastes in music and style.
A loss in neuroplasticity is commonly associated with aging, which is why learning things gets harder as you age. The combination of movement and stimulation from music and the people around you helps to maintain neuroplasticity, or the brain’s adaptability [R]. Studies indicate that dancing can also help improve your memory and lower body motor control as well [R].
You Can Do It
Everybody gets older, but you’ve got the chance to feel young again. Take these steps and see how you feel—you may feel like a veritable fountain of youthful vigor.
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