The speaker was very clear about his recipe for a healthy life. The recipe is to ensure that each day you exercise your body, exercise your mind, exercise your social instincts, drink red wine in moderation and sleep for no fewer than five hours and no more than seven hours.
When I first heard this advice I was only about 20 years old and I must admit I was just a little skeptical to say the least. My girlfriend’s father was a Rotarian and he’d taken me along to a Rotary meeting. The speaker was one of the founder members of this particular club. His name was Joseph. He claimed he had lived by this credo since he was seventeen. He told us he was 85; I understand he lived until he was 102. At the time, I just thought this was just a talk by a boring old man. But now I’m older, I have to admit that maybe he had something.
There are few people today who would disagree that exercise is good for us. Even in my skeptical youth, this was one of the points that Joseph made that I could not fault. I wasn’t sure exactly what exercise he took at 85 years old; however, I was told some years later following Joseph’s death that he used to walk for thirty minutes almost every day up until he was 99 years old. And this just goes to show that physical exercise is a relative thing.
Joseph was a bit of a minority proselytizer for exercise whatever your age; today, however, there are plenty of converts. Below is advice from the UK government on one of its websites nidirect.gov.uk:
If you’re in your 80s or 90s, regular, gentle exercise can help retain muscle strength and improve mobility. Through daily activity you can retain mobility and flexibility.
This is not simply advice for people in their 80s and 90s. Remember that Joseph had been following his healthy living regimen for 70 years when I heard him speak.
Joseph claimed that every day he completed The Times crossword. That may not be for everyone. Cryptic crosswords seem to be one of those types of puzzles that either you can get your head around or no matter what the clues are simply meaningless to you. But the point about regularly stretching the old gray matter is almost universally accepted. As cluedetective.com says:
Doing puzzles on a regular basis is known to have an effect on warding off dementia. An active brain is much healthier and less likely to be affected by the disease. [Also a]… brain that is active and stimulated by puzzles is a brain that will function well at work.
It seems that the type of mental workout is very much down to the individual. Anything that gets you thinking is good for you.
Joseph spent quite a good bit of time expanding upon what he meant by exercising your social instincts. Essentially, it boils down to this: human beings are sociable, clubbable creatures. Aristotle said that we are social animals. We are hard wired to seek out other human beings and to interact with them.
There is little room for argument that most of us want to feel loved and wanted – few of us are truly misanthropic. We have this need to form bonds throughout our lives. The friends we have become increasingly important. The ability to share with others both the joys and sorrows of life is what makes us human.
Joseph, however, was making a further point. Social interaction is good for us as human beings. But not everyone is in a position to enjoy this human contact. There are increasing numbers of people who live on their own. There are many people who need a little bit of help from another human being. What Joseph was saying is that by helping others we are helping ourselves. As examiner.com explains,
A satisfied feeling will develop within people when they have done something to make a difference for society. People do not need a lot of money to make a big difference… because it is not how much money they have, but how much heart people put into their time…
And it’s not just that helping others makes us feel good, it actually does us good.
Drinking Red Wine
I can do no better than to quote medicalnewstoday.com,
Wine, especially the red variety, has been studied extensively over many years with impressive findings suggesting it may promote a longer lifespan, protect against certain cancers, improve mental health, and provide benefits to the heart.
It goes without saying that we are talking about the moderate consumption of red wine. Doing anything to excess is not a good thing. There is substantial agreement that red wine is a good thing, but it seems that there is disagreement about precisely how red wine causes its beneficial effects. Frankly, if drinking it is good for the heart, lowers cholesterol, prevents blood clotting and is very enjoyable: who cares how it works?
Don’t Sleep Too Much Don’t Sleep Too Little
Looks like we’re back to moderation, here. I doubt many people would disagree that we need to get enough sleep. Fewer, perhaps, would guess that we can have too much, but it seems that we can. Some experts have linked too much sleep with such conditions as heart disease, diabetes and even premature death.
The obvious question is: how much sleep is too much sleep? There appears to be no easy answer to this. We all differ in what we need. Factors such as age, lifestyle and your general level of health will affect the amount of sleep you need. If you have gone for a fifteen mile hike on Sunday you’ll probably need a bit more sleep than if you were slumped in front of the TV all weekend. If you have a heavy cold, you’ll sleep longer than when you are full of health. Although there is no simple answer, expert opinion suggests that for most of us between seven and nine hours of sleep per night is what we need.
Old Joseph may have known a thing or two that experts are now discovering evidence to substantiate. There’s no guarantee that you’ll live until your 102, but you’ll lose nothing by adopting Joseph’s recipe for good health and a long life.