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Features | Live Well

Positively Young: Aging bodies crave movement for happiness

As hard as it is to swallow, November is just a couple of days away. Here comes the season of feasting — a time when the cornucopia of comfort food emerges and free-for-all desserts arrive to the office lunchroom. Are you ready?

Society’s increasingly dysfunctional relationship with food has led to epidemic unhappiness. For some, it operates like the drug of choice for those seeking comfort and emotional satisfaction. Yet, unlike other vices — you just can’t get away from it. Food is everywhere — especially during the holiday season where every social gathering includes so much food.

If you eat more, it’s important to know that your body wants you to move more. In fact, your body craves exercise more than it does food.

Recently I’ve added to my regular exercise plan a few barre classes. Barre incorporates moves from ballet, pilates and yoga. These classes move at a slower rhythm and it’s a nice change of pace. Age is reinventing my fitness routine.

Regular exercise has a part of my life since my 20s and was the key to my losing 30 pounds. Plus, I feel good when I exercise.

Did you know that physical activity for as little as 10 minutes a week can significantly improve your chances of feeling happy? This is according to a 2018 report in the Journal of Happiness Studies. University of Michigan researchers behind the study looked at 23 previously published works — all of which found correlations between physical activity and happiness.

Being active instantly improves our mood by bolstering dopamine production, which makes us feel great. Exercise reduces depression, anxiety, stress and panic. It betters mental processing, lengthens your life, improves sleep and strengthens the immune system.

We can also boost our well-being by spending time outside and unplugging from technology. We all know we should do these things, but changing our behavior and forming new, healthier habits is not that easy.

Remember, little shifts can create big gains and here are some ways to start:

>> Move more. Set your mobile phone alarm to go off every hour. When it sounds, get up and move around a bit. Put the dishes away. Clean out a drawer. Get the mail. Seriously, anything that gets you moving quenches the body’s desire for exercise.

>> Savor the sunset. Make it a point one day a week to connect with nature. A stroll around the park or the neighborhood at sunset (or even dawn) creates an opportunity for some easy exercise while you enjoy a breathtaking view. If you invite someone to join you, it’s even sweeter.

>> Boost your brain. All you do to love your body also benefits your brain. As we age, brain functioning slows. Regular exercise can slow cognitive decline, which in turn bolsters our memory and learning processes.

Physically active people are just plain happier. So when you indulge in that holiday cookie, consider adding a little more movement to your day. It will improve your outlook.

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