Who would have thought doing the Silly Walk created by John Cleese in Monty Python could hold the key to a happy and healthy life in your 90s and beyond?
According to Californian neuroscientist Michael Merzenich, making your body move in a new and complicated way each day will challenge your brain and help grow new synapses and neurons. And that can go a long way towards making you a happy and healthy centenarian.
Reaching 100 is becoming more commonplace around the globe. By 2020 there will be 12,000 Australians who live to a hundred and that figure is expected to blow out to 50,000 by 2050.
But living a long life is only good if it’s a healthy life. There’s no point your heart still beating if you have long lost both your mental and physical capabilities.
So what are the secrets to being a healthy and happy centenarian?
Aside from the Silly Walk, there are many mental activities that can help keep your brain sharp. Crosswords, sudoku, bridge, learning a language and even studying for a degree are all excellent brain workouts. The sports maxim “use it or lose it” rings true when you are looking at mental agility.
A positive attitude is also an important factor. The more optimistic you are about life, the happier and healthier you will be.
Lack of stress also plays its part so pursuing such activities as yoga can help keep you calm and help you towards a healthy long life.
But it’s not just your brain that you want to keep in good shape. You also need to be physically fit.
The top tips most often mentioned for a long and healthy life are to avoid smoking, eat a balanced diet, drink in moderation and maintain a healthy weight range.
Keeping up physical activity is also important. Bowls, walking, the gym or swimming, for instance, all help to increase wellbeing.
Of course, the sooner you start these practices the better. It’s no good deciding at 80 that you are suddenly going to eat sensibly.
Eating less might also prove significant. In Okinawa in Japan, an island which has the highest percentage of centenarians in the world, the locals claim to stop eating once they feel 80 per cent full. Eating less means your metabolism has less work to do so this puts less long-term stress on your body.
Genetics also plays a major role. If your parents have lived to a ripe old age then you can probably expect to have a similar experience. And given advances in medicine, education about lifestyle choices, improved sanitation and disease control, it is likely you will live even longer.
A question of balance
One UK newspaper report listed 25 simple ways to extend your life and they were as simple as eating three walnuts a day, drinking tea rather than coffee and even balancing on one leg while getting dressed to strengthen your core.
Regular sex is also meant to help you live longer, according to a Welsh study that found not only will it extend your life but you could look up to seven years younger in the process!
Of course, if you are going to live to 100 it’s smart to make sure you have enough money to go the distance. Taking out an annuity (a regular payment until you die) with part of your retirement savings is one option that may provide you with peace of mind.
The Who may well have sung “hope I die before I get old” but if you plan your retirement successfully a long life can be a happy and healthy one.