While you're young, society tells you that you're in the "prime of your life." While it may be true that you may have looked fit and energetic, many young people fall victim to terrible health habits: lack of sleep, crash diets, fad workouts, and overindulgences of all sorts.
As the years go by, certain changes are inevitable, and our idea of what constitutes as "healthy" must change. The upshot is that we're finally allowed to be more gentle and generous with ourselves. We've teamed up with Kellogg's to examine how we can actually improve our well-being as we age.
How have your views on health changed? Let us know in the comments below.
You realize that "no pain, no gain" is not a sustainable philosophy.
It’s one thing to push your limits while you're working out. But studies show that overtraining is not only brutal on your body but counterproductive to your health goals and mental wellness – no matter how old you are. Instead of interminable cardio sessions or endless hours on the weight machines, you’re more inclined to bring a better sense of intention to your workout: a good mix of exercises that build aerobic capacity, strength, flexibility, and balance. If you do experience pain, don't be too proud to dial it back or seek physical therapy to sort things out.
You can go to bed early and not feel like you're missing out.
In fact, the only thing you’re missing out on is possible memory loss, brain degeneration, decreased attention, a shorter lifespan, and a host of other conditions that come with sleep deprivation. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health recently found that older adults who got inadequate levels of sleep (i.e., between 5 and 7 hours) show elevated deposits of a protein called beta-amyloid in their brains, a common sign of Alzheimer's disease -- although the findings do not necessarily demonstrate a causal link. It's not that you can’t have your fun, but you come to realize just how important your eight hours are.
You’ve stopped chasing the magic bullet: no fad diet will substitute for a balanced diet and plain old willpower.
Crash diets are still rampant -- juice fasts, Master Cleanses, one-food-for-days diets, baby-food diets -- but you know that there's no quick fix for an unhealthy lifestyle. While losing weight may still be a goal, you can do so by following a much more sensible, sustainable diet. According to the American Heart Association, if you're overweight, even a small weight loss can reduce blood pressure or prevent hypertension. And their prescription is simple: eating well and moving often.
You're not afraid to try new things, even if it means looking a little silly.
When you were younger, it was easy to fall into an exercise rut. You were comfortable with pounding out a few miles on the treadmill, power-squatting until you dropped ... and worrying about your knees later. With the wisdom of years, you now recognize the importance of protecting your joints. A well-rounded fitness routine that incorporates low-impact exercise will go a long way. Consider it your "next act" of fitness: try martial arts, yoga, rowing, or aqua jogging. (It’s a good workout! Really.)
You're giving your skin a break.
Smoking to curb your weight, tanning to maintain the “glow of youth," and sweating the small stuff are major stressors on your skin. While you may have done a lot of damage in the past (and have the wrinkles to prove it), it's not too late to treat your skin right. Of course, you'll want to slap on the SPF, since it's always the best and safest form of protection from the sun's harmful rays. If you want to give your skin an extra boost, try eating fruits with Vitamins C and E: According to the National Institutes of Health, these vitamins contain antioxidants that can help protect cells from the damage caused by harmful free radicals.
You aren't afraid of a little peace and quiet.
According to Grandparents.com, one in seven people between 45 and 64 experience hearing loss. Though your younger self may have ignored the possible consequences, years of high-decibel damage -- blasting your headphones, standing next to the speakers at loud rock shows, and the various disturbances that come with city living -- have taken their toll. As you get older, you learn that a cheap pair of earplugs can go a long way.
You have evolved beyond TV dinners, late-night takeout, and other meals of convenience.
Gone are the days when you used your oven for storage and your refrigerator for the care and keeping of condiments. While eating for convenience is tempting, the amount of saturated fats in these foods can be harmful to your heart, which becomes a much more present concern as you age. According to the American Heart Association, cutting back on sodium can help reduce blood pressure and decrease your risk for stroke. When you ditch the fast food and frozen meals for home-cooked whole foods, your intake goes down considerably.
You learn that your brain is a powerful "muscle," too.
When you're younger, it's easy to underestimate the importance of keeping your brain engaged and healthy. Although aging is often associated with cognitive decline, you can start make healthier choices about how you treat your brain. Eat foods rich in monounsaturated fats, lutein, and omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer's disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Another way to stay youthful? Keep active and don't be afraid to learn some new skills.
You learn that your health is about your happiness.
Being young is associated with so much tumult, personal and professional stress, and self-questioning. While that doesn't abate as you get older, participants in a study by UC San Diego's Stein Institute for Research on Aging showed that feelings of well-being may increase with age. Even if their physical health was declining, participants who reported feelings of well-being were resilient and able to cope with change. Embracing negative emotions and practicing mindfulness through meditation are just a few ways to keep yourself happy and healthy.