A few wrinkles (OK, eventually, a lot of wrinkles) are a small price to pay for what matters on the other side of what doesn’t. Seems we have to learn for ourselves that money can’t buy love and that we can’t really love others until we’ve learned to love ourselves.
That’s big! No wonder we’re half way through our lives (if we learn fast) before we get it. The good news is that we’re now living about 78 years — 30 years longer than we did at the turn of the century. The better news is that we’re also learning how to improve the quality of that extra 30 years.
You can treat your body like the temple it is. And you don’t have to make a full time job of it; you do have to develop a healthy lifestyle and stick with it.
First, the obvious: If you smoke, stop. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in this country. If you’re overweight, eat less. Obesity (or weight-related disease) comes in second.
And as part of a weight-loss program (there’s a two out of three chance you need one), you can exercise, vigorously. It doesn’t matter so much whether you jog or swim or ride your bike or ski or row. What matters is that you find pleasure in doing whatever you do, because then you’re more apt to continue doing it!
Common sense, right? The science behind it is worth a look, though. Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., discuss it at length in “Younger Next Year.” To simplify, physical activity signals your body to continue growing and thriving, while inactivity signals your body to decay.
Thus, part of what we consider normal aging occurs because we’re sending the wrong signal with a sedentary lifestyle. Regardless, though, in our 40s and 50s our bodies switch into a “default to decay” mode. To counteract that, we need to send an even stronger signal — with physical activity — to grow, to heal and to thrive.
You might be thinking that it’s better to relish a shorter life than work hard at extending it. Realistically, though, you’re likely to live until you’re about 80 years old — whether you want to or not.
Even if you’re an overweight smoker in a decaying body, you could live a long, albeit not so comfortable, life; because decay is a slow process. As it turns out, you have more to say about the quality than the length of your life.
So if you want to find pleasure in a long life, find an exercise or two or three or six that you enjoy.
“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Play hard with purpose! And do it with friends, close friends, because interacting with the “tribe” also signals your body to carry on! Maintain relationships: Call old friends, make new ones, and stay in touch with family. Make them part of your healthy lifestyle.
Celebrate friendship with wholesome food and activities. Host a party, meet in the middle, vacation together. Just go for a walk together!
A life well lived grows richer and more fulfilling with the passing of time. So, if you feel like you’re on a downslide — or you just want to prevent one — look at how well you love yourself and others.
Can your heart come out and play?