Can We Stay Forever Young?
|The Fountain of Youth and Chiropractic Care
There is no literal fountain of youth, of course, but there are ways to enhance and extend our youthfulness. Anyone can do this by following a consistently healthy diet, getting regular vigorous exercise, and making sure to get sufficient rest. Additionally, when you add regular chiropractic care to your long-term program, all your efforts provide an even greater yield.
Chiropractic care works by optimizing the functioning of your spinal system. The spinal column plays a very important role, housing and protecting the spinal nerves - branches of your central nervous system that carry messages and instructions to all the other parts of your body. When the various parts of your spinal column (the vertebrae) are working well together, messages can flow freely back and forth along the spinal nerves. By helping ensure this free flow of information, chiropractic treatment helps you get the most out of your exercise and nutrition programs.
Do you consider yourself young at heart, even if you're not actually young in years? Do you wonder if it's possible to remain "forever young" in terms of good health and wellness? Of course, there are positive aspects to getting older that we shouldn't discount in our search for the fountain of youth. Most of us probably wouldn't want to trade our positive life experiences, accomplishments, and the personal growth we have achieved. Our life experiences contribute to our character growth and help us to gain a broader understanding and appreciation of life.
There are many positive aspects to getting older, including gaining skills and hopefully wisdom, but is it really necessary for our physical bodies to break down along the way? We may not be able to hold on to the full bloom of youth as we advance in years, but there are a few things that may help us retain much of our youthful glow and vigor as we get older. Perhaps we may not remain "forever young" in the truest sense, but we can certainly embrace the ideas that "50 is the new 30" and "60 is the new 40". Here are two simple suggestions that may seem rather obvious, but can actually be very effective if you implement them consistently over the long term.
Suggestion #1: Eat a high quality diet and do not overeat! Each individual has their own metabolic balancing point beyond which extra food, especially excess carbohydrates, will be stored as fat. If you are eating a nutrient dense diet - focusing on high quality protein, fats, and vegetables and keeping your average daily calorie consumption in balance with your energy expenditures - then all the energy in the food you eat will be used to repair your tissues and to support your physical functioning.
On the other hand, if you regularly overindulge in excess calories, especially carbohydrates, the excess calories will not be utilized, and will instead be stored as fat. These abnormal fat stores tend to eventually lead to chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. So for your highest likelihood of enjoying long-term health, it's very wise idea to avoid overeating, at least most of the time. Keep in mind that you don't have to be perfect. If you eat a high-quality diet within your caloric range on six out of seven days each week, you can think of that seventh day as a free day when you can indulge a bit more. The idea is to make eating well a lifestyle choice that you can maintain over the long-term, helping you to stay "forever young".1
You may have heard the term "Intermittent Fasting" which has become increasingly popular as a way to receive the benefits of calorie restriction without restricting the amount of calories consumed. Proponents suggest that you can receive all the benefits of "calorie restriction" by not reducing your total daily caloric intake, but instead eating the same number of calories each day during a smaller window of time - thereby fasting for at least 14-16 hours or more, with the balance of the day being your shortened "eating window". The studies that have been done on this technique look promising except for one huge caveat. Most of the studies have been done on men, and the few that have included women seem to indicate that intermittent fasting may have the opposite effect for women - causing hormonal disruptions, insomnia and even weight gain and increased insulin resistance. For women especially, it is prudent to avoid prolonged fasting states, and instead follow the advice above - eating a high quality diet with an appropriate amount of calories - and spacing your meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar and hormones balanced.
Suggestion #2: Get more exercise. Did you ever see a competitive swimmer, gymnast, or professional dancer who didn't look fantastic? These young men and women are in such good shape owing to the high volume of exercise they do every week. Do you know any older adults who were gymnasts or professional dancers in their younger days? Isn't that person still unusually healthy and fit? Such long-term fitness results from a lifelong habit of regular exercise. The wonderful news is that even if you haven't exercised in many, many years, you can still derive benefits for years to come by starting to exercise, right now.2,3 It's never too late to start! Begin wherever you are fitness-wise, and build up gradually. Not only will regular exercise improve your waistline, it will also likely improve your mood, enhance your sense of well-being and even help you to have more energy during the day and sleep better at night. The most important thing is to begin and to be consistent.
Another caution, because many of us tend to think that if something is good for us, then a whole lot is much better. We just finished advising you to get more exercise, and for most of us that is just what the doctor ordered. However, please pay attention to your body. Start slowly and build up. It's easy to get caught up in an activity and overdo it. Try to find activities you enjoy, and get some exercise every day. Also, it is best to vary both the activities and the intensity.
Although the vast majority of us don't get enough exercise, there is a small percentage of people that will tend to consistently push their bodies too long and too hard. Too much intense exercise can actually stress the body. Exercise creates free-radicals and you can eventually deplete your free-radical scavenging antioxidant stores if you continually overdo it, especially as you age. Just like with your caloric intake, it is prudent to find your "sweet spot" with regard to exercise - getting enough to enjoy all of the many benefits, but not so much that you are taxing your body and creating chronic stress. Like most aspects of life, it's all about balance. Exercised should leave you feeling good, relaxed and energized. If you are feeling depleted or exhausted you are doing too much. Back off a bit and give your body a break.
These two suggestions, eating less and exercising more (within reason), have been known for decades. But in order to reap the many benefits, what's required is to actually do these things. We can be "forever young", by taking these simple actions on our own behalf.
1Campbell KL, et al: J Clin Oncol Reduced-Calorie Dietary Weight Loss, Exercise, and Sex Hormones in Postmenopausal Women: Randomized Controlled Trial. 2012 May 21 [Epub ahead of print]
2Umpierre D: Physical activity advice only or structured exercise training and association with HbA1c levels in type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 305(17):1790-1799, 2011
3Betof AS, et al: Effects and potential mechanisms of exercise training on cancer progression: A translational perspective. Brain Behav Immun 2012 May 17 [Epub ahead of print]