By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Death and taxes are understood to be the only inevitable elements of life. But, there’s a third issue that many of us automatically assume is unavoidable as well—getting old.
We chalk our flagging energy levels and stiffening joints up to what Larry Matson, Ed.D, co-author of the book, Live Young, Think Young, Be Young…at Any Age, calls the, “immutable and mysterious aging process.”
But the notion of aging as an uncontrollable, unstoppable force may, in fact, be faulty.
According to Matson, once a person reaches their physical peak (somewhere between 30 and 35 years old) less than one percent of physical and mental decline each year can be attributed to the aging process alone.
“We think it’s normal to be over-weight at 40, have multiple chronic diseases at 60 and be totally dependent at 70,” he says. “But age is really a measure of time, not how ‘old’ we are.”
How to Avoid Feeling Your Age
Matson provides a list of the factors that cause people to physically and mentally feel the effects of advancing years—and simple tips for reducing their impact:
Absence of physical activity: Matson points to physical disuse as the number one thing that accelerates age and is associated with the vast majority of chronic diseases. Even if you can’t make it to the gym every day, there are still things you can do to stay active. Pay attention to your posture—keep your shoulders back, stand and sit up taller, and don’t slouch. Take deeper breaths. Always walk as if you’re going to be late for a meeting or an appointment, and look for ways to insert small bouts of physical activity into your day.
Meager mental stimulation: Mental neglect comes in a close second to physical disuse in the rankings of factors that make us feel older. “As we get older, we just don’t realize how much less we use our mind,” Matson says, “We get zoned into a particular job task and get good at it, but we don’t use other parts of our brain.” After a long day at the office, you probably just want to sit and veg out in front of your favorite reality show. Instead, try adding one mentally-stimulating activity to your nightly routine. Tackle a Sudoku puzzle, knock out a few chapters of that book club book you promised you’d read, commit to learning a new hobby. Anything that forces you to use your brain in a way that you normally wouldn’t.
Disastrous dietary decisions: Fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins—you’ve heard the balanced nutrition spiel before. Another way to optimize your eating plan is to munch more mindfully and slowly. Recognize the rule of halves: half of the pleasure of eating happens in the first bite and is then reduced by half with each subsequent mouthful.
Read on to discover seven more causes of aging…
10 Things That Make You Feel Old–and What To Do About Them originally appeared on AgingCare.com.