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Staying healthy through your sixties

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Keeping to a healthy lifestyle

We all know we're supposed to live a healthy lifestyle to help us live longer, but what exactly does that mean, and what is sufficient? For some, keeping in shape involves regular sessions at the gym, a disciplined diet of steamed vegetables and salmon, and cups of green tea to wash down granola bars. For others, a good diet involves eating less fry-ups and thinking about (but not doing any) exercise. Unfortunately, with a conveyor belt of fad diets springing up in magazines and on daytime television, then an influx of contradictory advice about what's good and bad for you, the whole idea can seem like just too much effort. Maybe you manage just fine the way things are; but if so, perhaps you've just been lucky.

Luck, as we all know, can change however.

Healthy living is one of the keys to longevity

Unless you're one in a million, you'll have noticed a gradual decrease in your energy levels since you hit six-oh. Perhaps a little extra insulation too. All part of growing older, you tell yourself. It happens to everybody. But, if you're honest, some days you wish you had a little extra va-va-voom. Here's where taking better care of yourself comes in; making a few small changes to your lifestyle can help. Like a dynamo, once you get going, you'll have extra energy to do more, which gives you even more energy to keep going and going and going... And the changes you can make to get you on track don't involve running around a track, eating food you don't recognise, or hiring a personal trainer.
Motivation: staying off the slippery slope
With the exception of sudden illness, the decline into an unhealthy lifestyle is often a steady one. Sometimes we don't even realise until something goes wrong. Paired with decreased energy levels, a lack of motivation (not necessarily will) to make any changes puts us on a slippery decent - just when you're ready to enjoy retirement. Really, having your body work the best way it can is your right. You've probably worked hard to get to this point in life, you deserve to enjoy it. But the truth is, if you don't look after your body, it won't look after you.
Factors contributing to a bad lifestyle: stress
We often hear how stress is one of the biggest killers. Indeed, over 90% of all disease can be linked to stress. However, stress-related illnesses cover a broad spectrum and Stress wears many disguises. Eliminating the causes, wherever possible, means that your body can function properly in its normal state - one capable of fighting disease and making a full recovery. Stress can be placed into four categories: psychological (emotions), physical (trauma), psychosocial (relationships), and psycho-spiritual (values). For instance, a high-pressure job working long hours in a polluted city covers most types of stress factors. The implications could result in more stress caused by relationship problems and having few real friends outside of work. Do this until retirement and your body will eventually start to fail you.

Lessons we can learn from the Med

When you hear about people in the Mediterranean living longer, you can put these stress factors into context. There's no wonder over a million Brits choose to spend their retirement in a more laid-back place with a climate kinder to old bones. Maybe we can all bring a bit of the Mediterranean into our lives and live longer too?

It's not uncommon for people in the Mediterranean to live until they're 100 years old. In Acciaroli, a small Italian village, more than one in ten of the population live a century-long life. There are similar stories in Greece, Spain and other places. So, what's their take on living well?
a balanced diet accounts for much of our well-being. And while not every country is blessed with endless life-giving sunshine, most northern European countries like the UK grow and produce plenty of great food. A diet of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables no doubt counts for something; even a Mediterranean-style evening meal in place of a fish and chip supper is a step in the right direction. It's true that you are what you eat, and Grandma's age-old advice still applies: eat at least one proper meal a day.
nobody feels like exercising all the time. For some, getting out of bed is an assault on tired bones. But if you don't keep active, your body will slowly cease up like any unused machine. The people in the Med take long, steady strolls at least once a day. It's common sight to see shrunken-down, ancient-looking pensioners tottering about town in places like Acciaroli, and they always have a smile on their face. Walking isn't the only way to keep in shape, swimming is another, often easier, method of exercise. If you suffer from joint problems, swimming is less strain on your body; aqua therapy is used globally in the rehabilitation of both humans and some animals. You might even enjoy it.
there's been much focus lately about the negative impact of isolation. If you're on your own, loneliness can creep in and stifle you. People in the Med are very sociable; like teenagers, they sit around for hours (nibbling on sunflower seeds), gossiping about the goings on. If you don't know anyone to go for a stroll with or find it hard to make new friends, you could always strike up a conversation in the greengrocers about Mediterranean vegetables and exploring new flavours. There's usually a swimming session for pensioners in most areas too.

A lesson from the wise: I think, therefore I am

One of the fathers of modern philosophy, René Descartes, coined this simple but really important phrase. We'll not analyse it too deeply, but in short he believed that many things are not the way they appear to be, and he questioned many common beliefs. He summed up his ideas in this way: that one's reality is whatever he or she thinks it is. In other words, we become what we think we are. If we convince ourselves that we are hopeless failures (or,as happens far too often, other people put those thoughts into our minds), then that is what we will become; if we are sure that we are well balanced, successful individuals, then that will be our (much happier) future. Negative and positive thoughts affect our well-being. There's thousands of books and websites dedicated to the subject!
Become a positive person
Globally, people spend millions on activities to help keep them balanced. Yoga retreats, therapy sessions, New Age alternative village escapes - all structured to help change the way you think and view the world. A positive attitude is absolutely fundamental to healthy living. The power of the mind can be extraordinary to the point of miraculous and self-healing, or it can be self-damaging. We live in a more connected world, finding support and someone to talk things through with is easier than ever. Remember, however, that negativity is contagious; shun it, like the plague it is.

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