Here’s how to be happy, healthy and hip, too

For decades I’ve been advocating three basic principles for living a good healthy long life — eat good nutritious foods, exercise strategically and hang out with fun, positive people. That covers it!

Science has proven that these factors above all else will help you enjoy a long and healthy life.

The www.healthyaging.net website concurs, as do some other sources I’ve gathered for you to consider.

From the book “Survival of the Nicest” by Stefan Klein, research shows that living together in harmony makes people happy and healthy.

Psychoneuroendocrinology studies conclude that the stress reducing hormones oxytocin and natural occurring opioids, which are secreted during positive social interactions, diminish the stress hormone cortisol and protect against cardiovascular diseases, infections, stress damage of the blood vessels and bolster the immune system.

A classic long-term study in San Francisco showed that intensive social relationships halve the risk of death at any given age, and this study was so compelling that other researchers set out to see for themselves. All found the same startling results.

It also appears that the more one cares for others, the more likely that person will live longer.

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT Age Lab Resilience in Midlife Study found that the most common types of stress for people in their midlife and later life where related to finances, health of oneself of family and friends, and changes related to aging. They found that adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s are more likely to cope with stress by being physically active and having strong positive social connections.

As for the physical component, regular exercise is more important for seniors than any other age group because the risk of disease and lost mobility is greater for them, and because the positive effects are shown very quickly.

Use the buddy system, join a class or work with a trainer. That way you not only get the positive effects of exercise but also of socialization.

Older adults should engage in at least two and a half hours of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week, including such activities as brisk walking, water aerobics, dancing or swimming or even more intense exercise, including running, swimming laps or hiking uphill.

These sessions should be at least 10 minutes in duration and add up to a half hour a day, every day. Older adults should also engage in weight training or resistance training at least two to three times a week, using body weight to strengthen muscles, and add in balance and flexibility work to improve those important aspects of fitness as well.

Finding exercises that are fun and not torturous is important. There is absolutely no truth to the old phrase, “No pain, no gain.” Pain is a sign that something is wrong.

This doesn’t mean don’t strive for improvement and that a little post workout tenderness is not appropriate, but it does mean that you want to be moderate in your exercise so that you continue to put one foot forward rather than needing to fall back because of injury.

Using your body weight in sit-ups, push-ups, Yoga, Pilates or a combination is wise. The key to a long-term, sustainable workout strategy is making daily commitments toward achieving optimal health.

Yoga is an excellent low-impact exercise using the weight of your body in various poses. It improves strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and endurance, and reduces stress with its focus on long, slow, deep breaths.

I teach Yoga and Yogalattes classes three times a week in Lihue. If you’d like to come and try as my guest, call me.

The other big factor in achieving optimal health is your diet. Cut out sugars (except for fruit sugar), eliminate fast foods, alcohol, and go natural and green with your food, or choose food that has been especially formulated for nutrition such as excellent quality meal replacement shakes.

Your body needs excellent raw materials in order to build better cells, no matter what your age.

One very good strategy according to the healthyaging.net website is to incorporate some barley into your diet, as it has a good source of beta-glucan soluble fiber — well known to reduce the incidence of Type II diabetes by controlling glucose and insulin responses.

Beta-glucan fiber is also well known to reduce cholesterol, promote healthy blood pressure and help control body weight.

One final word on food. The flu is always a concern at this time of year for older people. Some flu fighting foods are yogurt and cultured milk products (please go organic to avoid all the nasty things in commercial milk products).

Yogurt’s probiotics and Vitamin D boost the immune system. Garlic does as well. Citrus fruits contain Vitamin C and chicken, meat and peanuts contain zinc to enhance immune system function.

Go clean and go lean! You just have to make eating well, exercising and hanging out with good fun people a priority for life!

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Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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