This story needs to be told, especially now in this era where fitness is the biggest mantra. Fad diets are in, marathons are at their peak, and instant weight loss programs popular. Yes, we all want to get fitter, slimmer, thinner, but what about body strength? What about core fitness? Can we be sure that the diet we follow today or the fitness regime we adhere to will have a long-lasting positive impact on our body? What will happen to the choices that we make now? Will these choices sustain and help us carry on fine for say the next 20 to 30 years? Well, there is no guarantee of that. But amongst all this craze and hype, I have one interesting case study, and the subject in focus is my 88 year old father-in-law.

A bit of His background

I have been observing him for the last 13 years, and for me, he is a fitness role model. Well, a big credit of that could be the genes he was gifted with, but I strongly also believe that it also has to do a lot with the choices that he made.

I am going to pick five lifestyle habits from his daily routine, which I believe have helped him over the years. To give you a short background.

At 88, my father-in-law does not take a single lifestyle medication for BP, Diabetes, Thyroid, or any other ailment!!!

He has never had any surgery or any significant illness. He has an excellent memory, excellent vision (he doesn’t need glasses other than for his reading and hasn’t had a cataract operation either!). At 88, he can sit with folded knees, washes his clothes, and stays alone alert and attentive when we are out. He can climb stairs and can easily walk up to 2-3 km everyday. On our recent trip to Gujarat, he, on average, was walking close to 10kms a day without any problem! I think that truly is something to look up to.

I have been curious about how he has been able to maintain himself. What is it that he has done over the years that is helping him in the old age to remain healthy and fit? So here are a few of my findings which I have gathered through observation and interviewing.

Some Key Lessons Learned

1. Walk Your Way to Health

Born in a small village in Madhya Pradesh, my father-in-law or Baba, as we call him at home, used to walk extensively right from his childhood. Back then, schools used to be in far off villages, and kids would walk up and down to it. This habit continued even when he became a teacher himself. As a Government teacher, he would have to visit different schools spread out in nearby villages. With little funds and little modes of transport available, the most common way was to walk up these lengthy distances. He, on average, would walk 14-15 km per day until he was about 60 yrs old! I think this habit has helped him build up his stamina. Even today, most doctors recommend a simple walking routine to keep lifestyle diseases at bay.

The other important factor has been his dedication to yoga. As an RSS Samaj, Sevak Baba would practice yoga regularly. This, I believe has kept him healthy physically and mentally. I think it has also helped his vision and mental alertness. His yoga routine would include asanas like Shirsangaasna, Adho Mukha Svanasana, and Pranayam. Yoga practitioners recommend these asanas to be included right from an early age to help improve balance, calm the brain, and relieve stress. These asanas surely proved very useful in maintaining his memory, vision and general alertness.

2. Keep your brain active

Baba’s favorite pastime is reading the newspaper and narrating tales from politics. What amazes me is his memory and recall. At 88 he can recall names of politicians, cities, rivers, etc. I guess his being a teacher probably has a part to play in this. As a professional teacher, he used to read extensively and work with students. Reading, solving problems, taking and building notes were a part of his routine until he was around 60. I feel this has helped him keep his brain active and alert all the time. Again, here’s a key lesson – Keep your grey cells occupied in different constructive ways to have a strong mental health in old age.

Studies show that mental workout with puzzles, maths, problem-solving, vocabulary building has a long term positive impact on your memory. There are many ways you can hone your mental sharpness and help your brain stay healthy. Doing specific brain exercises help boost memory, focus, concentration, and makes daily tasks quicker and easier to do.

3. Control your food habits

Food perhaps plays the most significant role in determining our health. Food discipline is essential to maintain a healthy body. Baba’s food discipline surprises me. He eats at fixed hours every day without stuffing himself on any particular item.

“Eat less and don’t fill yourself up” – is his mantra.

Controlling food portions becomes more essential as we grow older.The Dietary Guideline 2015-2020 can give you an idea of how many calories you may need each day based on your age, sex, and physical activity level. You can also use the Body Weight Planner tool to build your own calorie and physical activity plans to help you reach and maintain your goal weight.

4. Don’t take unnecessary stress

Life ain’t easy, and our everyday run in pursuit of our aspirations builds a lot of stress. We are in a constant “ON” mode. Thanks to our mobile phones, laptops, i-pads. Moreover, bright LED lights, night culture, night shifts have robbed us of good sleep too. These little things build up and cause a lot of stress leading to other health problems. As per experts, this stress then manifests itself into problems for us like high blood pressure, chronic pains, etc. However, compared to our lives, that of our earlier generations was relatively less stressed.

In the olden days, people would go to bed early, did not have unnecessary distractions of television, laptops, mobile phones, and professional life was up to 5:00 – 5.30 pm. People would talk face to face resolving their problems and there was no screen time at all. These things played a vital part in keeping stress at bay. And when there is no stress, the body is more cooperative and doesn’t need external drugs, I guess that is the secret of how my father-in-law has led a medication-free life.

The National Sleep Foundation advocates a digital curfew for the entire family, at two hours before bedtime. Read this  to understand how you can include a better sleep routine.

5. Drink water

And here is the simplest health tip. Drink a lot of water. At our home, Baba makes it a point to remind each of us to drink water constantly. He probably consumes more than any of us, and here lies a huge key. Drinking 2-3 litres of water keeps your body well hydrated, making you stay away from a whole lot of ailments. Such a simple principle! But can bring a huge difference. From yoga to modern medicine there are enough reports published that advocate the benefits of drinking water. You can set reminders to drink water at regular intervals until you form this habit.

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The choices we make today will have a long-term impact on our health tomorrow. Few sustainable lifestyle modifications can go a long way in making our lives better in the later years. After all each one of us aspires to lead a healthy, medication-free, independent, dignified life in our ripe years.

As the late Mr.Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, put it, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live in.”

Live well live wisely!!!

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