In the world of health and graceful aging, the word holistic is one we hear quite often. You could even say it’s become a bit of a buzzword, yet so many of us don’t have a clear understanding of what it really means. Holistic aging is a concept that embodies everything about embracing the natural aging process, but in a way that allows us to be the best possible version of ourselves – long into our golden years.
Holistic aging isn’t just about finding that miracle face serum that magically erases a decade from your face. A holistic approach to aging involves taking care of yourself in a way that nurtures your mind, body, and soul. When we take the time to take care of ourselves on all these levels, we tend to look and feel physically younger than we are.
Why a Holistic Approach to Aging Is Important
There’s no stopping the hands of time, and while many of us may give it our best attempt, aging is a completely natural process – and one we should be honored and grateful to take part in. Our modern ideas about aging are mainly culturally influenced, and as a result so many people view aging as sliding downhill toward frailty and the loss of vibrancy that surrounds the young. It doesn’t need to be this way.
Today, more than ever, we’re witnessing how we can live long, healthy, and vibrant lives well into our 80s…and beyond. With all the negative things you can say about social media and our constant connection to the internet, the online world has opened our eyes to the fact that we don’t need to settle into our rockers and let aging consume us. Each day of life is worth living to its fullest, and a holistic approach to aging can enable you to get the most out of each day on this earth.
There’s also a more practical side to taking a holistic approach to aging. Holistic aging involves nourishing your body with nutritious foods, making time for regular physical activity, spending time with friends and family, taking care of your mental health, and looking after your outward appearance so you feel confident and comfortable in your own (changing) skin.
Just by taking the initiative to eat a healthier diet that’s filled with fresh, nutritious foods, rather than processed junk, you’re making huge strides towards reducing the risk or potential impact of many of the chronic illnesses our society is plagued by today. This step alone can reduce the amount of time you spend at the doctor’s office, the amount of money spent on medications, and add years to your life.
Our general mindset about the aging process is also important. When you dread something, you tend to fight it and therefore don’t handle it very gracefully. This isn’t a character flaw, it’s simply human nature. Taking a more holistic approach to aging, which involves being less passive in the process, allows you to see that you have some power in how you age, and how you’ll spend the coming decades.
Where To Begin With a Holistic Approach to Aging
Changes, no matter how big or small, can be difficult. If you’re looking ahead at the coming decades and thinking you’ve got a lot of work to do if you want to age gracefully, it’s ok to stop and give yourself some breathing room. You don’t have to change your entire approach to aging overnight. In fact, taking small steps in a healthier direction is likely to produce more successful – and sustainable – results.
The best starting point is to just stop and think about which aspects of aging concern you most. Are you more concerned with how your outward physical appearance affects how others view you, especially if you’re in a “youth dominated” career? Maybe you’re worried about becoming frail or concerned about a specific health issue. Whatever concerns you most should be your first target area because this is where you’re going to find your motivation.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to be completely honest here and admit if your concerns about aging are mostly vanity focused at this point. Our bodies go through tremendous changes as we age, and it’s difficult to really comprehend how those changes will affect us until they’ve made themselves known. Physical appearance is a little different. We’ve all had those days when our skin looked less than its best or experienced the shock when those first few fine lines become visible. Physical appearance is something we can all associate with, so it’s completely natural if this hovers at the top of your anti-aging priorities.
The Natural First Step
A holistic approach to aging contains many different components. Of course, each person is different, but the primary areas of focus are exercise, diet, skin care, intellectual stimulation, mental health, and social health. Each of these are equally important, although their placement in your list of priorities is certain to change over time.
Of all of these, the area that may provide the most significant impact on your aging process is exercise. It’s something that some of us love, and some of us loathe, but any way you shake it, exercise is key to longevity and quality of life.
As modern medicine continues to perform miracles on a daily basis, we’re living longer lives – even in the face of serious disease. While medication may keep certain health conditions at bay or prolong our lives in the presence of serious disease, there remains an imbalance between our current life span, and how much life we’re really living.
According to a study, exercise might be the cure to this conundrum. When a group of both men and women aged 55-79 who exercised regularly were compared against a control group who didn’t, the more active individuals showed significantly slower and healthier patterns of aging.
For instance, those who exercised didn’t experience the loss of muscle that we tend to associate with aging, and they had fewer age-related increases in body fat composition and cholesterol levels. These are just a few of the noted benefits. If we were to look even further below the surface, we’d probably see additional details like decreased inflammation, improved flexibility, and less age-related mental health issues.
What does all of this mean? Well, if you’re looking at a way to redesign your approach to aging so that it’s more aligned with a holistic philosophy, adding regular exercise to your routine is a great starting point.
Benefits of Exercise in a Holistic Aging Routine
Exercise is important at any age, but especially as we grow older. By older, I’m not just referring to reaching an age where you’re granted a senior discount. Taking steps to age more holistically can be beneficial as early as your 20s or 30s. Regular exercise provides many benefits that lead to healthy aging, including:
Improved Sleep: Getting some good shut eye on the regular is important for long term health. While you’re asleep, your body is hard at work repairing itself from all the damage of the day and spending some much-needed time in the rejuvenation process. Regular sleep has been associated with a decreased risk of certain chronic diseases. Exercise promotes a deeper, longer lasting sleep – plus, good sleep can also keep you feeling cognitively sharp as you age.
Injury Prevention: As we age, we become more susceptible to injury. This is due to multiple factors, including loss of balance, decrease in muscle tone, poor eyesight, and bones that have become frail over time. Another main contributor to injury as we age is a loss of flexibility.
Being flexible enables us to move our bodies the way they were meant to be moved, rather than in stiff awkward movements. Flexibility also means that when we do fall, the body can move in a way that naturally protects itself. Regular exercise, including stretching and strength training can help keep you flexible and avoid injury down the road.
Improved Bone Health: Speaking of ways to reduce your risk of injury, strong bones mean fewer broken bones and fractures. Osteoporosis, which is a condition where the bones become more porous and structurally weak, is a growing concern as we age – especially for women.
A good supply of calcium in your diet is important, but experts are beginning to think it doesn’t play the crucial role that we once thought it did for bone health. What has been shown to consistently improve and maintain bone strength is exercise, especially weight bearing exercises that help to strengthen the surrounding muscles.
Reduces the Risk of Cognitive Decline: We tend to make light of the little bouts of forgetfulness we experience as we age. We blame losing our keys, misplacing our sunglasses and forgetting the occasional appointment on the simple fact that we’re just growing older. Here’s a newsflash for you – it doesn’t have to be this way.
A few minor glitches in the memory can be expected, but a true decline in cognitive function isn’t a normal part of aging. Exercise can help increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, making sure that it gets all the good stuff it needs to stay in peak working condition.
Exercise Puts a Smile On Your Face: Let’s face it – we might be grateful for the opportunity to grow older, but it isn’t always fun. With aging comes changes that catch us off guard and can challenge even the sunniest disposition. Mental health is a major concern for the aging population, with more seniors being diagnosed with, and medicated for, mental health disorders such as depression.
Exercise might not be a cure all for mental health issues, but it can help put a smile on your face. Between the rush of endorphins and knowing you’re doing something great for your body, there’s plenty of reason to smile.
Only the Beginning of Holistic Ageing
Recognizing the importance of a holistic approach to aging and realizing that regular exercise is a key part of it, is only the beginning to embracing your new approach to growing older. Each day presents a new opportunity to be the best version of yourself – now and into the future. A comprehensive, natural approach to holistic aging is a mindset you can adopt to live your happiest, fullest life.