Almost all happiness research states that people tend to be more happy the older they get. The curve often starts around 50 and by 60 and 70, people are remarkably happier than their peers in their 20s and 40s.
This increasing feeling of happiness and contentment as we grow older can often be traced back to the popular acronym ‘IDGF’ (I don’t give a fuss). The older we get, the less we tend to worry about what other people think and say about us, and the more life experience we gather, the more we tend to appreciate all of life’s small daily wonders; as we age, we also tend to be less critical about ourselves. So while the fashion and beauty industry tends to give out the message that only in youth are we beautiful and happy, there is plenty of research suggesting that the happiness curve increases with age.
So life’s autumn should just be a breeze right? Well, for one thing, the mind is calmer; we’re more accepting of ourselves and our flaws, however the body does start to work differently. Digestion and metabolism changes, skin and hair renewal slow down, muscles break down faster and joints can start to ache. This physical change is a contradiction to the research, as how can we be happy if we’re plagued by pain and discomfort, overweight and grey hairs?
While I don’t have remedies to the greys, for the aches, pain and discomfort, I do have suggestions to remedy or better the situation and even better prevent you ever getting to that stage.
The research not only showed more content people in their 50s and upwards, it also revealed that those who had led an active life and kept active in life’s autumn were doing a lot better than their non-active peers. And the explanation is very simple, a stronger body and heart deals better with physiological changes than an in-active body. For example, strong legs will keep you agile longer, let you squat down and pick up without hurting your back. A strong back is likewise vital to a good posture, which again is a sign of a strong core and a strong core gives you the freedom to move, carry, bike, swim and do whatever you like.
Both men and women are at risk for physical decline, as we grow older, but most especially women suffer from osteoporosis (condition where the bones weakens and increase the risk of fractures and break) as they age. Which is why all doctors should prescribe physical activity to their 40-plus female patients. The training you do and keep doing will carry you into old age, getting the benefits of happiness and contentment, without a lot of the pain and discomfort an ageing body can produce.
Now as with all things, there is of course no ‘one shoe fit all’. There might be some of you, for which physical activity is impossible, or perhaps you know someone who was training and keeping fit and healthy all their life, and they still got osteoporosis or got sick as they aged. And it’s true, even the most virtuous of us are at risk when it comes to life. We are at risk of getting sick, getting run over, falling into a hole, drowning in water. But when all is said and done, leading an active healthy life will benefit most of us in our autumn. So this is something I strongly suggest to everyone reading, regardless of your age – get moving, get lifting…and get healthier.
I’ll end this month’s column with some hands-on suggestions to a stronger, healthier autumn.
1) For a strong heart and a strong body: Move and lift. You don’t need a gym membership, just the time and consistency to do it at home.
A weekly plan of home training could look like this (give and take in consideration of your level and other commitments):
45 min brisk paced walk/
30 min run
20 min Core training at home
1 hour bike/ walk brisk pace
4×10 Push up/Crunches and Squats
20 min fast paced run/bike
3×10 Push up/Hip Bridge and Burpees
2) Eat well. As we age, our body needs all the help it can get in staying healthy. That means eating a varied and healthy diet, so we get the vitamins and minerals we need. Calcium (for bones) and Vitamin D is especially needed (Vitamin D helps the absorbing of calcium). You’ll find calcium in diary products, seafood, leefy greens and dried fruit. Vitamin D is naturally found from the sun, in fatty fish and fortified foods such as orange juice, cereals and juice. Also Omega 3 is found in fatty fish, which is great for joints, immune system, brain and eye health. If you’re in doubt you’re getting all the vitamins and healthy fats you need, you can supplement with fish oil and multivitamins. However recent research suggest that the best way to get what we need, is through diet, not pills. So try and get fish on the dinner table at least once a week.
3) Drink more water. Risk of dehydration increases, especially in the warmer time of the year.
4) Keep sharp. Keep challenging yourself. With age we also tend to get more comfortable and try less new things. New is often associated with discomfort, uncertainty and fear of the unknown.So we often choose the surroundings we are used to, be it people, food and activities. To keep the mind young, it is recommend that we get ourselves into unknown territory from time to time. This will also help you to keep an open and accepting mind to the world around you, regardless of where you are and whom you meet. We often associate getting old with getting stuck in our ways. Getting out of the comfort zone is a way to develop past this.