Some great television on BBC1, starting last week the second series of “How to Stay Young”. How to Stay Young might be an off-putting title as at SGSC we think that it’s all about owning being older but at the same time being the best older you can be. However, it turns out that the programme is about the difference between what we’d call your biological age and your chronological age, which they call ‘body age’ and ‘birth age’ in the programme, and how to have a positive impact on that difference.
The starting point of the series is that although people are living longer, in general they are not ageing well, so the first programme took as it’s subjects a number of people whom tests revealed had far higher biological age than chronological age. The three people featured in the first episode were either aged in their forties or fifties but had a biological age up to 24 years higher! The problems the three people faced, and which caused them to age quicker, were bad diet, bad sleep (following cancer treatment) and the inability to handle the stress and anxiety of a job. Following a thorough assessment, each person was given an individually tailored regime of activities of one kind or another, and in each case, over a period of just 12 weeks, was able to have a significant effect of reducing the difference between body age and birth age.
The man with high blood pressure was given a healthier diet with lots of fresh ingredients, nuts, olive oil, cutting out the fry-ups and fatty snacks. This was alongside the fact that he was already an assiduous exerciser. The woman with sleep problems was given a regime involving spending “LESS” time in her bed in order to train her that the time spent in bed was just for sleep. All entertainment - TV, books, etc - was removed from the bedroom. More exercise was prescribed for her as well. The woman unable to deal with stress and anxiety was prescribed High Intensity Interval Training, but when that didn’t work for her she was introduced to a form of meditative practice called Mindfulness. The stress had left her with overly high levels of inflammation throughout her body and the mindfulness training enabled her to deal with stress better so that it had less of an effect on her body and also allowed her symptoms of stress - blood pressure etc - to return to normal following stressful episodes at work, for instance.
In each case, following the prescribed guidelines led to a reduction in the difference between body age and birth age of between 6 and 14 years, after only 12 weeks.
But as well as the individual treatments for specific issues, running throughout the programme was the idea that the best thing people can do for themselves in order to age well is to exercise, and build up to exercising hard. In particular, the sleep deprived woman went from less than 10 minutes a day of physical activity to a stunning 10 hours per week!
Overall, the programme endorsed two ideas that we hold at SGSC. Firstly, the way one ages is as individual as, well, the individual. People age differently, it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal. Secondly, and very importantly, the negative effects of ageing on one’s body are not unalterable, they can be extremely effectively altered by one’s actions in many different areas, either preventatively or even, as shown in this programme, by being able to reverse them.
The second programme in the series airs tonight (20th Sept) and it deals amongst other things with a woman who is advised that good muscle is an essential element in healthy ageing - something that we’re always going on about. We’ll be commenting on that later in the week.