On a weekend getaway, you climb five flights of stairs to see the view from an old church — just as you
did on your honeymoon — but now you’re out of breath by the third landing, Your wardrobe has devolved into
thigh-length sweaters, blazers, and slacks with elastic waistbands. Whatever happened to the robust health
you took for granted not so long ago? Never mind where it went — what’s important is that you can get it back. No longer do we have to rely on the age-old advice to “take some tonic and get fresh air.” We have years of scientific inquiry for guidance.
Here, the latest on how to turn back the clock.
1. Eat Strategically
Looking for the next-best thing to a youth potion? Try foods containing antioxidants — substances that neutralize chemicals believed to contribute to most age-related problems, including heart disease, cancer, and even wrinkles. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, as are garlic, red wine (drink in moderation), green tea and, soy (try miso soup and tofu). Eat at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables daily. Choose deep-colored foods, because their dark hues may mean they contain more antioxidants. Also, steam or stir-fry vegetables, since baking and boiling can destroy their age-fighting properties.
2. Get Fit
The fastest way to feel ten years younger is to exercise aerobically for 30 minute — all at once or in
three 10-minute spurts — on most days of the week, says Kenneth Cooper, M.D., president of the Cooper
Aerobics Center in Dallas. Not only do regular workouts boost mood, energy, and alertness, they lower the
risks of heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. New research shows that exercise protects against breast
cancer in particular (see “Health Check,” page 44). Working out also strengthens the immune system. In one
study, women who walked briskly 45 minutes a day, five times a week, had half as many colds and bouts with
the flu as non exercisers.
Do anything that gets you moving: Jog, swim, bike, dance, chase the children around the house, take the dog
for a power walk. Even gardening counts. Alternate among two or three of these activities to work a greater
range of muscles — and avoid boredom.
Don’t forget about strength training. “From age twenty on, sedentary people lose one percent of their muscle
mass each year,” says Debbie Herlax-Durga, an exercise physiologist in Walnut Creek, CA. “By age forty,
that’s twenty percent. The flabbier muscles are, the less glycogen [muscle fuel] they can store, and the
less strength and stamina you have.” So do a few simple strength-training routines at home, three times a
week. They should take about ten to 15 minutes. Herlax-Durga recommends a ten-to twenty-dollar investment in
a pair of three-to five-pound dumbbells or a rubber exercise band, which is about four inches wide and three
feet long. and comes in different resistance levels. Both are sold in sporting goods stores or through
catalogs such as Fitness Wholesale (800-537-5512). To strengthen a weak upper body (common in women), try
these routines — either sitting or standing. Do eight to 12 repetitions of each.
* Rowing: Keeping your arms parallel to the floor, hold the band or weights in front of your chest (at
armpit level) with your hands about six inches apart. Slowly bring your elbows toward your back, like you’re
squeezing a pencil with your shoulder blades. Hold for two seconds, then bring them forward again. (If this
is too difficult, use lighter weights or a band with less resistance; if it’s too easy, switch to heavier
weights or a band with more resistance.)
* Biceps curl: If you’re using a band stand on end and hold the other in one hand. With your palm facing
upward, slowly curl the band up to your shoulder, using only the lower part of your arm. Keep your elbow
close to your body and your upper arm straight. With weights, use the same motions. Repeat with the other
3. Stop Smoking
Aside from killing you, smoking causes bad breath, discovered teeth, and shortness of breath — all of which
make you look and feel decades older. Plus, smoking can lead to sallow, wrinkled skin, and gaunt features.
The good news: Quitting is likely to make you feel better almost immediately (some people may experience
withdrawal symptoms, but these are usually short-lived). Within hours, breathing returns to normal and bad
breath vanishes. Within days, walking becomes easier and food tastes better. Within months, fatigue
decreases. Within one year, heart-disease risk is half that of a smoker.
4. Pamper Your Skin
If you wear a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 (or higher) sunscreen and a hat every time you go outside, you can actually undo sun damage over a period of five years or more, says Albert Kligman, M.D., a professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. While you may be able to slightly accelerate the repair process by using skin-care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids, “the less you do to your skin, the better,” Dr. Kligman claims. His advice: Every day was with a mild liquid soap such
as Dove or Oil of Olay, and apply moisturizer with an SPF 15 sunscreen and a peasize dab of Retin-A to keep skin supple.
Countless studies have documented the benefits of chilling out. Fatigue disappears; backaches vanish; colds
and flu are kept at bay; blood pressure drops; and chronic conditions such as migraine, irritable bowel
syndrome, insomnia, and adult acne improve. The best ways to de-stress:
* Exercise. A 30-minute aerobic workout increases the brain’s alpha-wave activity — an indicator of
relaxation — and its production of soothing neurochemicals called endorphins.
* Try the “relaxation response. Choose a word, sound, or prayer, and repeat it to yourself or aloud to focus
your mind. When everyday thoughts intrude, disregard them and return to your repetition.
* Streamline. If you find yourself panicking over how to fit all your obligations into one lifetime, examine
what “extras” you can live without.
* Adjust your attitude. Some things are beyond your control, and others aren’t worth it. Be more selective
about your worries.
6. Slim Down
Shaving off excess body weight may not let you slip into a size ten again, but it can help you live longer — and feel better. If your body-mass index (BMI) is over 26 (see “What’s Your BMI?,” page 138), weight loss can help prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It can also fight fatigue. “Often, overweight people forget what it’s like to feel energetic,” says David S. Bell, M.D., author of Curing Fatigue. “The fatigue that accompanies being overweight tends to be the gentle, nagging type that’s easy to get used to.” For more information on dropping pounds, see “How Much Should You Weigh — Really?”
Some tips from researches who have studied successful dieters:
* Perseverance pays. Few people manage to maintain initial weight loss.
* Regular exercise is essential
* Planning healthful, low-calorie meals is key.
7. Drink Water
Water is a surprising rejuvenator of mind and body. Upping intake improves breathing; lubricates joints and
muscles, possibly preventing backache; and fights fatigue. Drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day. Consume even more when you’re exercising, traveling by plane, or dieting. And remember, alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated tea (herbal brews are okay) act as diuretics. For every cup of coffee or glass of wine. drink eight ounces of water.
8. Sit Up Straight
Poor posture causes shallow breathing, which impairs circulation and depletes energy. Over time, it causes
improper alignment of joints and ligaments, and can lead to back pain. Can You Buy Youth in a Bottle?
Health-food stores would like you to believe you can. Here’s what experts have to say about some popular
supplements making antiaging claims: Melatonin Made by the pineal gland, this hormone regulates our sleep/wake cycles. Because production dwindles as we age, supporters say that taking synthetic supplements helps turn back the clock.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence of this effect in humans. Bottom line: Wad for more definitive research.
Ginseng This herb is said to boost energy and concentration, and reduce stress. But research is scarce, and
long-term side effects are unknown. Bottom line: Save your money and exercise.
Coenzyme Q-10 An antioxidant found in the body, this substance is thought to fight aging because its
production begins to decline at age 20. It’s being studied to treat head enlargement and heart failure, but
side effects are unknown. Bottom line: Await further research. Dhea Like Coenzyme Q-10, DHEA is produced by the body, and is found in smaller amounts after age 20. Supporters claim that taking 50 milligrams (mg) of the hormone daily — an amount equal to levels found in young adults — increases energy and improves immune function. But no studies investigating these claims
have been done on humans, and DHEA may cause acne, elevate cholesterol levels, and even increase heart
disease risk, because it’s converted into the male hormone testosterone. Bottom line: Don’t take it.
Vitamin C Research has shown that it may help stave off heart disease, cancer, and cataracts — especially
in high doses (up to 1,000 mg). But extremely high daily doses of Vitamin C (more than 10,000 mg) can cause
kidney stones and diarrhea. Bottom line: Feel free to take it in moderate doses.