Studies have shown that people who live a Mediterranean lifestyle live longer and stay healthier longer than the world’s average. In Italy and the Greek islands, it is not uncommon for people to live past 100 years old. They also remain active well into their later years. It’s not just eating the foods often found in the Mediterranean diet, there are many lifestyle activities that contribute to longevity.
There are many factors that lead to an active, long life. The way you handle stress is one of them. The pausa pranzo, the afternoon lunch break, helps tremendously with workday stresses. Europeans aren’t obsessed with the rat race the way Americans are. A relaxed attitude and mindset can also help you get through difficult situations.
Many Italians maintain an active lifestyle by taking walks, doing chores by hand like kneading and baking bread, gardening and planting vegetables. These are all healthy activities that keep the hands, wrists, arms, and legs strong. Many even continue to have active sex lives well into their later years.
As I have written before, a Harvard study, that has spanned more than 75 years of research, has shown that connecting with people may be the most important factor in longevity. Maintaining friendships, family relationships, staying connected with other humans, having human interaction and sharing and caring, can help you get through almost anything. You can withstand hard times and persevere through illnesses and depression by sharing the human experience with others. Those who stay alone or try to do everything by themselves will have a tougher time. If you don’t have a family, you can create your own inner circle of close friends.
Staying fit is very important. I’m not talking about looking good in a bikini at age 50, but having freedom of mobility. Small stretching and strengthening exercises can help your body with other movements in life. Think about backing out of a parking spot in your car. You have to be able to twist your body to see out the back window. Practice this movement in a chair several times a week so that you can do this with ease. When we are young, we don’t think about these things. But when you want to drive yourself somewhere in your later years, you’ll need to be able to physically do it.
When you get older things like walking down stairs can be painful and scary. Walking up stairs may make you out of breath, but walking down steps can put a lot of stress in your ankles and knees. When you’re young this is another movement that we take for granted. Keep your ankles limber by sitting and doing little circles with your feet. Do eight ankle rotations in one direction and then eight in the other. Keep the muscles around your knees strong by flexing your knee and relaxing it. Repeat this 10 times on each knee. When you are 70 this will help you do simple things like step down off a curb to cross the street.
Think about what you can do today that can keep you strong and limber for tomorrow. We all want to live a long life, but we also want to be able to enjoy it for as long as we can.
Eating vegetables, fish, olive oil, fruits, and whole grains can keep your insides younger. It’s important to keep your outside in good working order as well.
What movements have you noticed getting a little stiffer or more difficult as you get older? Please share in the comment section.