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Don't Stress. Be Fit. Live Longer

Simple ways to acquire stress-less habits for those over 50 from the BeThereDoThat blog.

This blog post was originally published on betherdothat.hylands.com.

Contrary to popular belief, as we get older, responsibilities do eventually lessen. The day to do activities of going to work, “fixing-up” the house, taking the kids to school or helping a friend move, just become less daunting in our lives. At this stage in our lives we tend to substitute these responsibilities for other types of activities. Depending on which activities we choose, one can effectively shorten or prolong one’s life. Take this opportunity in your life to change past habits that lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.

We are living longer, retiring later, and staying active at a much more mature age than ever before. According to the Center For Retirement Research at Boston College, the average age of retirement is age 67, while the average life expectancy in the U.S. is around 78. What can we do in the span of these 11 years that will lead to a healthier lifestyle? The key to a successful second chance, is to start early.

In most cases we have a gauge of when our lives are about to change, preparing for this life change in stages is just as important as staying active. The stresses that accompany change has a physical affect on the body. Holmes & Rahe’s, 1967, “Life Change Scale,” a psychological tool which measures the amount of change experienced by a person over a given time interval, says that whether the change be positive or negative, it can still have the same negative physical effects on the body.

As early as possible we should begin cutting down activities in our lives that create stress and allowing oneself a smooth, healthy transition into the later stages of life. Here are a few bad habits and suggestions that will help change in your life be a much smoother transition.

Smoking

Smoking has already been associated with some many forms of physical ailments. And there is an incredible amount of stress associated with getting your next cigarette that is just as detrimental as the habit itself. Learn how to control your stress without smoking. Do whatever it takes to stop. Research the different ways and find the ones that may work best for you.

  • The patch
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Natural cures
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Substitution with a more healthy choice


Television

Cut down on the amount of time you watch television. Not only does Television create an increasing number of couch potatoes, but it also cause information overload. Our acceleration of change is accompanied by an increase in the information needed to keep up with all these developments. The psychologist David Lewis, who analyzed these findings, proposed the term “Information Fatigue Syndrome” to describe the resulting symptoms. Other effects of too much information include anxiety, poor decision-making, difficulties in memorizing and remembering, and reduced attention span (Reuters, 1996; Shenk, 1997).

  • Limit yourself to an hour of television per day
  • Chose specific shows that make you think differently
  • Unplug your television, and chalk the effort to plug it back in as exercise
  • Read a book
  • Watch activity specific shows
  • Invest in Wii


Unhealthy Eating

When we are depressed or stressed, we tend to run to comfort foods to relieve that stress. But those foods may be the very thing that depresses us or stresses us out. Coffee can have some of the same effects as nicotine if the habit is bad enough, but the caffeine wreaks havoc on the nervous system, by allowing the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate to run free throughout your nervous system. Very often foods high in sugar and fat can increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body. After some time the body may fall into stress after levels fall far below threshold.

  • Drink less coffee and more water
  • Eat a well balanced meal, bigger in the morning and less at night (energy to weight balance)
  • Consider an alternative food source
  • Cut out fast food
  • Snack on nuts and Celery sticks


Lack of Exercise

Not only is exercise good for the body, but it also decreases stress levels and puts the mind in a good mood. Exercise is like meditaion in motion. Your mind has to work in coordination with your body. This “chewing while walking” effect is a great practice in forgetting the problems of the day, or unplugging. Your body is also producing endorphins, the brain’s feel good neurotransmitter. Endorphins create that smooth feeling one gets after a run, a game of tennis,  a long walk or nature walk. The hardest part of exercise is getting off the couch and doing it. Here are a few little tricks, that will make it easier.

  • Get a dog and follow Fido’s pattern (Eat, walk and companionship)
  • Join a social group or like-minded people to interact with and talk over fitness goals
  • Take a hike! There are many beautiful trails and hikes in many part of your neighborhood.
  • Workout with a friend
  • Play with the kids
  • Stretch in the morning and at night to activate your muscles.


Eventually you will see your activity levels grow and your stress levels decrease. However stick to a plan that best works with you, results may very person to person based on lifestyle, age and social interaction. But just getting off the couch is a start to a healthy stress free life.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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