You can never be too rich or too slim or too young, is a saying that most of us have heard (and yes, it can be seen to contain some discriminatory notions, but let’s leave that aside for now). Let’s think about age just a bit: Age, or chronological-age is how long we have been alive. Health-age (aka biological-age aka real-age) is how well or “young” our bodies and minds are. The two are not the same.
- Chronological age can be measured precisely but it cannot be changed – we know how old we are but we cannot change it.
- Health-age cannot be measured precisely but it can be changed – we may not know exactly how well or “young” we are, but we can take steps to be more well and “younger”.
Health-age is really the focus of the entire wellness industry. Wellness is about staying “young” by living well and making smart choices. The oft-asked question is “how much younger can I be if I live well?” and the answer is that we do not know, exactly. But it seems likely that healthy living can make a person up to 20 years younger (in wellness terms) than some of their same-biological-age peers. 20 years is a lot. 20 may be a bit extreme but even a difference of 5-10 years “young-ness” is hugely significant, and entirely possible for most of us.
What we mean by healthy living in this context, is the usual lifestyle dimensions including nutrition, exercise, weight, stress, not smoking, drinking alcohol only moderately, avoiding drugs, managing medical conditions, etc.
Please notice that this is not really about living longer. Well people do live longer but the far-more-important consideration is quality of life. It is well-known that, as a general rule, younger adults enjoy more quality of life than older adults (there are complexities and details here, but as a general rule it applies). By living well we can be more well, which is almost the same as being younger – it’s exactly the same in many ways although time does eventually catch up with us all. Wellness gives us more good-quality years. It also gives us more years but that is less important than more good years.
Healthy living makes the biggest impact when it is a life-long habit but it is never too late to start living well – benefits can be seen in even the very elderly among us. It is probably fair to say that, for most us, we get old because we get inactive and live poorly rather than the other way round – see?
So there you have it. If you want eternal youth, you’ll need a time machine or some other “magic”. But if you want more youth and delayed ageing, you can have it. Start living well and you’ll live both better and longer.