I've been feeling "old" since I turned 20. I remember hitting that new decade and thinking, "Well, that's it for me." Of course I was just being silly and sentimental about my age, but I still sometimes feel weird about getting older. It's not that I am afraid of a number, per se. It's more about desperately wanting to stay feeling young and healthy.
And I know that's pretty much the case for everyone. You probably feel your knees pop, or suffer from a bit of stiffness after sleeping on your friend's couch, and realize with horror that you're not a "kid" anymore. Everyone laughs it off, but deep down you feel a bit worried, and make silent promises to hit the gym, and eat a little better.
That's really all you can do, too — learn to take better care of yourself. By all means, eat pizza, stay up late, and go out drinking with friends. But mix that up with a bit of damage control, and some thoughts towards your future health. If you do, you can stay feeling young and healthy for many years to come. Below are some ways to do just that.
1. Quit Being So Stressed
I know, it's pretty much unavoidable, especially in our busy, 24/7-connected lives. But stress is just about the worst thing for your body. It makes you tired, it makes you sick, and it makes you feel way older than you actually are. As Marisa Fox said in Fitness Magazine, "Recent studies show that stress causes physical changes in the body that can accelerate aging. Surges of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol cause blood pressure to rise and the heart to beat faster ... chronic doses of adrenaline and cortisol take a heavy toll on our physical and emotional health." The best way to prevent all that is to meditate, exercise, practice yoga, and take some gosh darn vacations. You deserve them.
2. Don't Overdo It On The Exercise
If hitting the gym on the regular helps you feel your best, then keep at it. But it's not necessary to workout every single day to stay healthy. In fact, too much exercise may even lead to problems down the road. That's because prolonged exercise can produce oxidative stress that produces inflammation, according to wellness expert Thorbjörg on MindBodyGreen.com. And that's not going to make your joints feel very healthy, or young.
3. But Make Sure You Exercise
The key with exercise is consistency, and moderation. As Thorbjörg said, "Even 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week will give you noticeable benefits, and when it comes to lifting heavy loads, short bursts of activity are more effective and lead to fewer injuries."
4. Eat More Good Fat
A lot of diets tout "fat-free" as the only way to be healthy. But a totally fat-free diet is actually a horrible idea, since you need healthy fats for energy and cell growth. The key there, however, is healthy fats. Look for omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, walnuts, and seeds), which will help maintain bone strength, and prevent visible signs of aging by reducing inflammation in the body, according to Fox. All good stuff, right?
5. Eat Less Sugar
I'm not saying you should never eat sugar ever again. That would be pure madness. You do, however, want to limit how much processed sugar you have in your diet if you want to stay feeling young and healthy. All kinds of sugar — white, brown, raw, glucose, dextrose — will put your blood sugar on a roller coaster, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic, according to Thorbjörg. To feel better, cut some of it out of your diet, and you'll notice a huge difference. I promise.
6. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep
Sleep is where it's at if you want to stay feeling young. Because, unsurprisingly, a lack of sleep will wear you down and make you feel about 100 years old. As Jené Luciani noted in Shape, in an interview with Dr. Jennifer Landa, MD, "While you sleep, your body enters a sort of ‘repair mode,’ repairing damage from the day and preparing your body to handle whatever comes next ... Ideally, you should achieve seven to nine hours of sleep each night — and that’s actual time sleeping, not just lying in the bed.” Got it?
7. Take Supplements
You know you're getting up there in age (AKA not 19 any more) when you're bones and joints start cracking. If that's already begun, then you might want to start taking supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, which have been shown to keep joints healthy. As Mahsa Tehrani, MD, noted on EverydayHealth.com, "Lab studies have revealed that chondroitin sulfate can actually suppress inflammatory pathways in the body. Some studies also postulate that this supplement can actually ward off or slow down the progression of joint damage."
8. Get Your Hormones Checked
You're never too young to check those hormones of yours, and see if they're out of whack. If they are, you can feel all sorts of lethargic and terrible. Plus, it's a good habit to get into as you get older. "Monitoring your hormone levels throughout your life and taking action to maintain balance or repair imbalances can combat many of the conditions of aging, including insomnia, low libido, [and] memory loss ... " Luciani said.
9. Actually Do Some Yoga
If you haven't unfurled your yoga mat in a while, then it may be time. Sure, stretching is hard, and getting into any sort of a "practice" can seem daunting. But yoga is such an all-encompassing workout, that it may be totally worth getting into. "More energy, better posture, greater flexibility, improved mood, and less stress are just some of the rewards of this mind-body workout," Fox said. "Yoga poses are designed to work the inside of your body as well as the outside, which helps rejuvenate the digestive system, the reproductive system, even the immune system." Seems totally worth it to me.
10. Have A Daily Tea Date
A nice little ritual, such as having tea everyday, is good for those stress levels I was talking about. It's also pretty well-known that tea is incredibly good for you, mostly due to its antioxidants. As Linda Carroll noted on Today.com, "Antioxidants work to prevent the body's version of rust and thus help to keep us young and protect us from damage from pollution." So sip away.
11. Get Some Sun
If you're feeling all cooped up and miserable, do yourself a favor and take a little adventure outside. "Sunlight encourages your body to produce serotonin, a brain chemical that's a natural mood booster. So revel in every opportunity you get to spend time outside (after putting on sunscreen, of course)," suggested Alyssa Etier on EverydayHealth.com. It'll perk you up, and keep you feeling your best.
Because, let's be honest, getting older is kind of scary. It doesn't, however, mean that you have to fall apart at the seams. If you take care of yourself, limit your stress, and throw in some exercise, you stay feeling twenty for decades to come.
Images: Pexels (11); Unsplash, Lena Bell