What is your real age? | The Hindu.

 

Exercise is definitely the closest we have to an anti-ageing pill. Expensive skin creams that promise to make your wrinkles disappear, cosmetic surgery, laser ablation and botox are but superficial solutions. They cannot come close to the benefits attained from a regular heart-pumping, well-planned exercise routine.

There are two aspects to ageing. Your chronological age, which is calculated form the day you were born and the number of years you have lived, and your biological or “real” age, which refers to the current condition of your physiological body at the basic cellular level. The two are not necessarily the same. An individual may chronologically be 30 years old, but have the body and mind of a 45-year-old. She could be overweight or underweight, lethargic, with inadequately conditioned muscles and deficient lean body mass. She may have a poor immune system setting the stage for infection. She may have several degenerative lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes and hypertension. We see more such people these days. Young chronologically, but way beyond their years physiologically.

On the contrary, some individuals may be 45 years old chronologically and have a biological age of 25 in terms of energy, stamina, strength, mind power and pure joi de vivre .

What are the parameters to measure your real or biological age? Factors like blood pressure, blood sugar and other metabolic parameters, eyesight, condition of the lungs, heart, vocal cords, skin turgor, energy levels, physical appearance, condition and tone of muscles, mental acuity, memory, level of independence, fat percentage, lean body mass and fitness levels (cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, strength, agility, reflexes, balance, coordination and so on). Obviously, the advent of lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol with the concomitant heart problems ages the body much faster than time.

What determines “real” or biological age? Good genes set the stage for a good or poor quality body. Environment and lifestyle choices, however, are the final predictors of the ageing process. No matter how good your genes, rapid ageing is inevitable if you subject your body to stressors like tobacco, alcohol, drugs and poor lifestyle choices like unhealthy food, lack of exercise and sleep.

The right kind of food is next. Foods with antioxidant properties and fibre like fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, whole unrefined grains and pulses are the best options.

Have a regular fitness routine that includes some cardiovascular activity like, running, speed walking, cycling or aerobic sessions. This should be balanced with adequate strength and muscle building.

Flexibility decreases with age. Sustaining and improving flexibility of various body parts with modalities like yoga and simple stretches keeps the body limber, prevents pain and poor posture due to muscle imbalance.

Stress is a part of our daily lives. Eliminating it altogether is too much to expect. Managing stress properly, however, is possible with proper training, meditation, relaxing techniques, time management and a basic willingness to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

Simple things like developing a hobby, having strong family ties and/or close friends that one can count on and relate to.

Working at something you love or nurturing relationships, especially those with pets or children, can be enormously rewarding and add meaning to life.

Learning something new or developing a new skill improves neurological function. It appears that keeping the body and mind active slows the ageing process.

People who exercise regularly and make the appropriate lifestyle choices have been found to have not only higher longevity but also a better quality of life. A youthful body and mental attitude along with the maturity and experience that comes with chronological age is something to aspire towards.

There is nothing wrong with ageing. It is the most natural process of the human body and certainly cannot be arrested. It can, however, be done gracefully with every attempt made to remain independent and productive.

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