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What are five things anyone can and should do to stay mentally and physically fit as they age?

What are five things anyone can and should do to stay mentally and physically fit as they age?

Ro DiBrezzo, University Professor of kinesiology and vice provost for academic affairs, answers:

1) Move

2) Move

3) Move

4) Play

5) Move some more

That may have been a bit too simple but, unfortunately, the truth. Let’s try this:

The human body is designed to be dynamic, and moving is a big part of that. We learn about our environment as newborns by moving, and we express ourselves by moving, dancing and negotiating space. In some very exciting studies conducted at the University of Arkansas and other places, it has been demonstrated that there is a strong correlation between exercise and cognitive fitness, another reason to keep moving.

In fact, the single most important thing anyone can do — at any age — to remain healthy and cognitively fit is to move. Most individuals think of exercise as hard, boring or just time consuming. But the sheer joy that comes from moving is invigorating and the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves. Exercise shouldn’t be painful or exhausting.

The goal is to integrate moving into our daily life. Parking the car away from the store entry and walking a bit further, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking a memo down to a colleague instead of using e-mail — all are easy ways to increase our activity level. There should be a progressive overload involved in all activities, and we have to consider muscle fitness and heart fitness independently. Walking is a terrific exercise and will help heart health, but for muscle and bone fitness, we have to do some resistive exercises.

The second thing we should do for physical and mental fitness is to rehydrate. Most of the body is made of water. Although there are
many commercial drinks on the market, and each day there are millions of dollars spent trying to get us to drink the different brands, nothing is more important, better for us and easier than drinking water.

The third thing that we should do to remain healthy and vibrant is to make sure we get enough sleep. In a recent study conducted at
the University of California, Berkeley, it was estimated that as many as 65 percent of Americans do not get enough sleep each night. Sleep helps to restore both the physical and mental aspects of fitness.

The stress of work, family and relationships can eventually take a toll on individuals. Exercise, proper diet and a good night’s sleep can help us sustain some sense of balance.

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