Lessons to last a lifetime

 

Last week I reported on Professor Julie Byles presentation: Women’s health over the life-course and across the generations – Lessons from Australia. In addition to the big takeways I wrote about in Women’s health: insights from the past illuminating the future, the impact of the discussion has prompted some additional observations and 3 key lessons.

My definition of a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle has no targets, just routine, with habits built upon the foundations of eating smart, exercising daily and sleeping sound a good way to build better health. But listening to Professor Byles analysing the different age cohorts in the study I came to appreciate a further extra dimension to this trinity in how it can be adapted to each stage of our lives.

While all three aspects remain important, at different phases of our lives some may be more important to us than others; for example, the importance of good nutrition in pregnancy. But when it comes to ageing the balance between each of these elements clearly will move ever so subtly, with some aspects becoming more difficult than others. However, all of these continue to interact with each other and continue to impact on us until our last breath.

The World Health Organisation’s concept of healthy ageing may be summed up as the ‘functional ability to do the things you choose to do and the ability to do so.’ So, what should we focus upon to have the best chance of achieving this?

3 lessons for smarter aging

The reality of healthy ageing is that it is largely about slowing the ageing process. As the statistics in the presentation made clear, the higher the physical function score, the better, as this helped ensure a slower deterioration. In a sense it was a little like accumulating credits in a fitness savings account. However, this is an account that if we continually top it up, it will repay itself as the draw-downs from natural ageing increasingly try to deplete it.

Lesson 1: Fight to retain any physical ability. Stiffness in the joints, unable to get up from a chair without levering yourself up, difficultly in opening a jar – these are early warning signs that your body is in need of physical movement. They are not signs to do less – they are calls to action, warnings that your body requires exercise maintenance. And the younger you are, the more serious these warnings should be taken.

Lesson 2: Create good habits. These can become a ‘virtuous circle’ of routines that assist each other in helping to boost health. Bad habits create a ‘vicious circle’ that contribute to poor health outcomes. Choose your friends carefully as they will impact your lifestyle, while the social interaction will further reinforce better habits as well as creating an extra dimension of benefits.

Lesson 3: Attitude is all. Life is a challenge that we all must meet and try to manage. Some of the most privileged can destroy themselves, some of the most downtrodden can rise and inspire. When it comes to our own health, be it mental, physical or emotional, honest private reflection can be best for some – for others support of professionals may be the correct path. No matter the way, honesty with oneself will be essential. Trying to use our will to enforce a solution we have not bought into rarely succeeds. The secret is to keep an open mind, not to beat yourself up – but also not to indulge weaknesses you are aware of. Some of us are naturally negative, some positive, but both personalities can contribute to creating positive or negative health outcomes.

Lessons for all ages

Getting fit for the future can cover many issues, but it turns out improving the prospects for our health can be one of the easiest of all. Unfortunately, many of us never take this seriously and then end up misreading the warning signs our bodies send. However, the work of Julie Byles scientifically proves there is a better way; the tough bit is arriving at a point where we really want to make the necessary changes.

 

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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