by Ilyse Streim, Massage Therapist, Center for Integrative Medicine at Good Samaritan
I just finished an inspiring and easy-to-read book, Optimistic Aging (from Midlife to the Good Life—an Action Plan) by Margit Cox Henderson, Ph.D, a Denver psychologist. As I journey through midlife myself, I am encouraged by Henderson’s assertion:
“What most people think of as the inevitable effects of aging are, in fact, the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices and are preventable. Midlife is the ideal time to build healthy habits that will improve your life now and enable you to be at your best…studies have shown that 70% of what is thought of as normal aging is preventable.”
Henderson begins this motivational crash course on aging well with several chapters on building a positive mind-set and generating the self-confidence needed for solidifying new habits. The next chapters focus on four areas of wellness: physical, mental, emotional, and social. Throughout the book she includes worksheets to assist in designing action plans for establishing new habits.
The chapter on physical wellness especially intrigued me as I find it so challenging to exercise regularly. Just when I think I’ve established a consistent routine, an especially busy week will throw me off track. Henderson reminds us that, “The research about aging well is unanimous on the subject of exercise—use it or lose it. Both aerobic exercise and strength training are essential for optimal aging.”
I was encouraged by Henderson’s findings: “The research on aerobic exercise shows that it doesn’t need to be vigorous to be effective, but consistency is a must. Dancing, walking, and even gardening will do the trick, as long as you do them regularly.” Strength training is beneficial for maintaining and building muscle, and can also treat or prevent arthritis and strengthen bones. *It is important to get checked by your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
In her chapter on physical wellness, Henderson emphatically states, “Don’t go on a diet…overall diets don’t work for the long haul. They yo-yo body weight around and leave you feeling depleted and discouraged.”
For those struggling with obesity, she recommends focusing on self-compassion as the first step and suggests the book The Self-Compassion Diet by Jean Fain as a guide to building the emotional foundation that is the necessary bedrock for effective behavior change. She suggests getting support from a nutritionist who can help to develop food awareness and assist in meal planning. A therapist can give support in developing a healthier relationship with food.
Every step of the way, whether the goal is to stop eating junk food or to improve ones sleep habits, Henderson encourages the reader to, “Pick something doable.” For example, eliminate one unhealthy item, such as potato chips, from your diet for two months as a realistic goal.
Henderson also emphasizes reaching out for help if someone is struggling with depression. Self-defeating, negative thinking may be the greatest threat to aging well, hampering ones ability to create and achieve goals for long term self care.
When I’ve gotten off track in my self-care, I have found that a massage, a yoga class, or an acupuncture session can be the perfect “reset” button for getting back to a healthy and positive routine. As Henderson puts it, “The first and most critical step toward life-long vibrancy is to enhance your self-efficacy, your can-do spirit. Research clearly shows that this type of confidence is crucial to maintaining health and functioning with age.”
Here at the Center for Integrative Medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center, we are dedicated to assisting our clients in taking greater responsibility for their own health. We integrate rich, healing traditions with the latest in preventive care to help people find balance in mind, body and spirit. Let us help you “reset” your “can-do spirit”! We are available to community members, patients, employees, nurses, physicians, and volunteers. Our comprehensive services include:
Therapeutic and oncology massage
Pre and post-natal massage
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction