According to a report in the Lancet from October 2009, half the children born since 2000 can expect to live to be 100. When I read that I thought, “That’s not possible! Most of the kids I see today – at least where I live – are chauffeured around by their parents and never go outside to play. You can’t stay healthy if you don’t move.”
In a New York Times Health article, Jane Brody states that, “there is no virtue in simply living long; the goal should be to live long and well.” She discusses how diet, proper nutrition, and supplements are important to long-term health. The second ingredient to aging well is – you guessed it: movement. Vigorous, aerobic movement. There are so many possibilities for incorporating movement into your life – and as many excuses not to (I’m too busy, I’m too tired when I come home from work, I don’t like exercise, it’s boring…)
I grew up in an era when physical activity was a given. I walked to school, walked to my friends’ houses, hiked in the summer, and took dance lessons during the school year. Everyone I knew walked, played outside, hula hooped, rode a bicycle, or skateboarded. Movement has always been my friend, rather than something I have to check off my list every day to make sure it gets done. I’m fortunate that way; no one has to convince me that movement is good for me. It was always part of life… not an after thought to it.
Without movement I get agitated, distracted, and tired. How many of you notice the connection between the amount of time you spend moving, and your inability to focus, your agitation level, or physical discomfort? Not exercising per se, but moving. Having a movement-filled life just may bring back the joy of movement for some people.
Outdoors, with a friend, in nature = good brain health
Here’s another movement benefit that may get you off the couch: great ideas often come from movement. Einstein said that not a day went by when he wouldn’t walk in the woods around Princeton with a companion; he felt that his best ideas came from this kind of movement. And indeed, according to studies highlighted in the book Spark by Dr. John Ratey, the combination of movement, companionship and nature result in the highest level of release of an important protein called BDNF (Ratey calls it “Miracle-Gro for your brain”).
I’m also very fortunate to have a mother who has never taken the time in her busy life to “slow down, and take it easy.” She’s 86 and still hiking; in the photo at the right you can see us together on our trek in Nepal. The common myth about aging is that we inevitably become decrepit as we get older; most people succumb to, yet it never registered with my mother. She’s always moving: hiking on the weekends, taking long morning walks up and down the hills of our town, and climbing mountains in the Himalayas, Africa, Australia and beyond. She is just what Jane Brody’s talking about: she is in perfect health, has rarely taken prescription drugs, and has a wit as sharp as a katana.
I aspire to be like her as I age. There is so much information and support for those of us who want to stay healthy for as long as we walk this earth. Life is short, so take control where you can, starting with your health.