Growing old with health and vitality

Is there a miracle cure for growing old with health and vitality? In a PEP talk, David van Bodegom, aging scientist at Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing and professor of Vitality at Leiden University Medical Centre, talks about the influence of moving more and sitting less still during normal daily activities. In addition, the environment you live in has a major impact on how healthy you stay.

Healthier lifestyle
Van Bodegom gained his insights during years of fieldwork in rural Ghana. In that country, age-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are rare. Because of their lifestyle, Ghanaians often grow old in a healthier way than people in the Netherlands. David explains why in this PEP talk video (in Dutch).

Our environment
Van Bodegom and Rudi Westendorp (University of Copenhagen) have bundled their most important insights about aging, health and vitality in a Dutch book (translated into ’10 years extra. A new approach to living healthier for longer’). Is it really possible to give yourself ten extra healthy years of life, as the title of this book suggests? Yes, according to the authors, who claim the key to this lies in our environment.

Towards a healthy daily routine
In the book various environments from everyday life are discussed, such as the kitchen, living room, bedroom, supermarket, work and the neighbourhood. Don’t expect raised fingers; this approach is based on seduction rather than prohibition. By surrounding yourself with smart and healthy choices, a better lifestyle can unnoticed become part of your daily routine. Swap large wine glasses for small ones, walk to the supermarket and use a backpack, walk or cycle a part of your daily commute. All these small adjustments, repeated over and over, add up to a large and lasting effect.

Four words
Van Bodegom and Westendorp introduce the readers to four leading words. The first strategy is that of ‘remove’: put unhealthy stimuli out of sight. So don’t store cookies in a glass jar but in a closed drum, and don’t put it on the coffee table but in a kitchen cupboard. That way you won’t always be tempted to grab another one. You can also ‘replace’: exchange those cookies for unroasted nuts. And place a bowl of carrots at eye level in the fridge where the cream puffs are normally located. In public spaces it is more difficult to remove or replace temptations, here it is better to ‘avoid’: if you know that you always give in to a cheese croissant at the bakery, then walk around the block. Or you ‘prepare’: eat a banana and drink a bottle of water before you go to that reception. Then you can better resist the tempting snacks and dr, wine and beer.