Are You Ageing Well?

Are You Ageing Well?

Until recently, it was thought that the secret to a long and healthy life, and looking younger than your years, was mostly down to genetics.

However, a programme on BBC1 last week unveiled some interesting new research about what factors were actually influencing how well we age.
It turns out that it is 75% lifestyle factors, and just 25% down to genetics.

Some of the factors that contribute to the ageing process are well-known and well-documented – making sure you exercise, eating well, avoiding smoking and pollutants, for instance. However, increasingly, results are showing that stress is now one of the top 3 indicators of a shortened life expectancy.

Leading a fast-paced lifestyle running on adrenaline, working long hours, indoors in artificial environments, and rushing around trying to do too much can all take its toll not just on our health in later years, but on how long we live.

According to the researchers, the three main things we can do to avoid this decline are:

* Meditation
* Me Time

Exercise seems obvious, but what may be a surprise is that the type of exercise you do is key. In an experiment to ascertain whether dancing or exercising at the gym is best at keeping you younger, the results showed conclusively that dancing was the winner.

Whereas traditional gym exercises use repetitive movements , involving maybe only one muscle group, dancing stimulates many more systems of the body, it is a more comprehensive form of exercise, and requires more input from the nervous system, therefore has more impact on strength. Fascinating stuff.

Of course there are other forms of exercise which are going to do the same thing – yoga for instance does exactly this, many sports also involve full body integration, and there are also some knowledgeable Personal Trainers who teach more functional forms of fitness who will know exactly how to get the same results.

I found out the other day, there is an exercise that is used to see whether you are ageing well. It is called the “sit and rise” test.

Brazilian physician Dr. Claudio Gil Araújo, the developer of the test, says that if you struggle while attempting it, your risk of dying in the next five years may be five times greater than those who do the test with ease. Blimey, there’s motivation for you!

Also known as the sitting-rising test (SRT), the exercise is used to measure the strength and flexibility of patients, and involves lowering your body into a cross-legged position and then standing back up (without holding on to anything – or anyone).

When challenged to do it the other day at the start of my class, I was relieved to pass the test, although it is surprisingly difficult, so I think the key may be practising the movement daily and recording your progress.

However, saying that, I’m with Angela Rippon in that dancing remains my number one way to remain youthful, healthy and happy into my later years.

Which is why next time I asked why I’m out raving at age 43, my answer is going to be simple, “I’m keeping myself young”.

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