“Getting old sucks.” That’s what my father told me around his 60th birthday. He had just thrown out his back playing golf and needed to be carried off the course by his friends and taken to the hospital. Thankfully, with some help from a chiropractor, he was able to walk later that day and was back on the course in a few weeks with no lasting effects.
Me, I wasn’t as lucky. Two years ago, I woke up one Sunday with excruciating pain in my left leg – sciatica. Let me tell you, it is no joke. It felt as if someone was shoving a hot iron poker into the base of my spine when I bent my leg. It was rough. The next three months were a real challenge for me especially when I drove or rode my bicycle.
If there’s one thing I learned from having sciatica was that my father was right. Getting old does suck.
Imagine my surprise then when my son and I walked into our first Aikido lesson and learned that the instructor (soukei) was a 78-year-old man. He moved like a gazelle and despite being more than 30 years younger, he would throw me around like a rag doll. I realized that while aging can be rough, it doesn’t have to suck.
As I’m a time management consultant, staying healthy is a key element in boosting productivity. Here are five secrets to aging well.
#1 Eat Well
Food is so underrated when it comes to our health. If you don’t believe me, take a listen to Ed Gillespie’s Tedx Talk “We Literally Are What We Eat.” Personally, my diet has changed dramatically from what it was in my youth. My mother made sure I ate my veggies, but being English, I essentially grew up on meat and potatoes. I loved my chocolate, candy and potato chips as well. That all changed when I married my Japanese wife. She’s an amazing cook and each day is a smorgasbord of foods. We have two different proteins each night, a salad, rice and miso soup on the side. All of this is made fresh each day and very rarely do we have leftovers.
The results have been nothing short of amazing. I used to get colds regularly throughout the year. It’s been more than 5 years now since I’ve had one. I’m getting older, but my body is getting healthier. Go figure.
#2 Find a Sport You Love
When people ask David Snowdon Ph.D., author of Aging With Grace, how they can age successfully, he responding by saying “Walk. Walking is a great exercise for almost everyone.” He then adds, “The key point is to find some sport or activity that you truly enjoy so that you will do it regularly – at least 4 days a week for the rest of your life.”
I couldn’t agree more. As we age, our muscles and bones get weaker. However, with regular exercise, we can slow down and even prevent that from happening. Some of you might be thinking, “I’m too old to do that.” I took up Karate at the age of 38 and started Aikido at 42, but I’ve seen people take up rock climbing in their 60s and my homestay father had a six-pack at the age of 78 thanks to swimming regularly after he retired at the age of 70.
#3 Brain Training
We exercise to keep our muscles strong, but what about the most important muscle? Yes, our brain needs exercise too. That’s why we need to challenge our minds to stay sharp. My mother will turn 83 next year and she’s as sharp as a tack, even if she does fall asleep watching TV. Her secret, a steady diet of crosswords and reading. Alzheimer’s and dementia are two diseases associated with aging, but studies have found that the better educated we are, the less chance we have of developing these two debilitating diseases.
#4 Cigarettes and Alcohol
My father never saw his 65th birthday. He passed away just one year after his grandson was born. Sadly, he never got to see my son take home the bronze medal in the Junior Olympics earlier this year. Being a sportsman himself, I know he would have loved to have seen it. My father had been told by his doctor from the age of 50 to quit smoking and drinking. My father’s response was always the same, “You’re kidding, right?” and he paid the ultimate price for it.
Alcohol in moderation has been shown to actually have some positive effects on our health, but most people simply abuse their bodies. Don’t let that be you.
#5 Regular Check-Ups
Parents used to say, “an apple a day.” While I don’t hear it that often these days, the meaning behind it is rock solid. Prevention is the best way to stay healthy. Regular check-ups at the hospital and dentist are the surest way to ensure that you catch things before it’s too late. The father of a client went to get a physical at the age of 52 for the first time in over 20 years. The doctor told him he had two weeks to live. Cancer had spread all over. He had no pain previously, so he didn’t know anything was wrong.
What are you waiting for? If you haven’t seen your doctor or dentist recently, book an appointment today.
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