Motion Is Lotion

When I meet a person who seems to be aging extraordinarily well, I am always curious to know their secret:  what they do to keep moving forward through the aging process with relative ease. 

As a medically-based speech therapist, I have this opportunity often when I meet a new patient or family member who glows with a look of youthful health and moves with agility, seeming to defy their apparent age.  I don’t let these opportunities pass by because I know they have something to teach me, some inspiration that I may be able to take from them to help me in my aging process.

“I want to be like you when I grow up,” I often tell them.  This is not an exaggeration.  When I see that radiant skin glow, that smooth gliding movement that carries them along in their light steps, I know I want to be sure to sign myself up for some of this.  I also know it takes work on my part, there is no magic formula, no potion that I can take to achieve this overnight. It takes work, dedication and daily discipline.  It is best started early in the aging process.

When I ask this question, the answers generally are two-fold, and generally cover the same two solutions:  keep your body moving, and keep your mind moving.  Here are some of the exact responses I have received, I keep adding to the list:

  • I exercise every day.”
  • “I stretch out as much as I can.  Yoga and tai chi are good.”
  • “I try to get in as many steps as possible every day.”
  • “I take the stairs instead of the elevator, and I try to park far away so I can walk more.”
  • “Rest, but don’t rust.”
  • “Everything in moderation.”
  • “Sleep is important.  I make it a priority.”
  • “I drink enough water.”
  • “I do things I enjoy doing.”
  • “I work my brain.  Keeping it sharp is important.”
  • “I don’t stress over the small, stupid stuff.  I reserve my mental energy for the important things.”
  • “I try to understand others when they have differing viewpoints.  I may have something to learn from them.”
  • “I stay on a schedule for my exercise, and I try to walk with others, they keep me accountable to showing up and doing the work.”
  • “I try to expand my brain with reading.  There is so much to learn from books.”
  • “I travel as much as I can, but I read about the places I can’t go to, it’s the next best thing.”
  • “I’ve lived long enough to know every day is a gift.  I’ve lost loved ones too early, so I know that time is precious.  I don’t waste it.”
  • “Age is a gift.  Don’t ever dread having another birthday.”
  • “Listen to your body.  It is smarter than you are sometimes.”
  • “Our health care system is not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good.  I take advantage of annual doctor visits, recommended tests and therapies, and screenings.”
  • “Doing what I can for others takes my mind off my worries.  It doesn’t take much to realize how fortunate I am.”
  • “Smile.  It can not only turn a frown upside-down, but can turn your day around, too.  Maybe you will brighten someone else’s day, too.”
  • “I’m not afraid to tell someone ‘no.’  It leaves more room for the things I want to say ‘yes’ to.”
  • “Let go of regrets and grudges.  They are only hurting you and no one else.”
  • “Spend time with those you love.”

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I have a friend who is one year older than me.  When we met and we were discussing our ages, she told me initially we were the same age.  It was very difficult for her to accept that she was older than me.  I found out the truth on her next birthday, and I have never let her live this down.  I tease her about it, but I also reinforce the fact that age is indeed a gift.  Please don’t forget that on your next birthday if you, too, don’t like adding another year to your age.  These annual trips around the sun are indeed a gift.

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These long-term suggestions can be modified for the short-term as well.  When you find yourself feeling a little blue, sluggish or in need of a boost, here are some two-minute (give or take) activities that will give you a healthy lift:

  • Take a walk around the block.
  • Turn up the radio and sing along, or dance to one song—or both.
  • Complete a household task that makes you move, such as vacuuming.
  • Try to whistle your favorite song.
  • Gently bend and stretch while breathing in deeply between stretches.
  • Send a card to someone via snail mail for no special reason.
  • If you have stairs, and it is safe for you, go up and down them five times.
  • Lie on the floor for two minutes and breathe deeply.
  • Call or text a friend who may need some cheer.
  • Clean out one drawer or straighten one shelf of dishes in the kitchen.
  • If it’s night and the weather permits, throw a blanket on the ground and look up.

Never forget that if you find yourself feeling down or depressed for an extended period of time, there is help available.  Talk to your health care provider as soon as possible.  You needn’t spend any more of your precious time feeling blue. 

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As long as you can, as much as you can, keep moving!