We would probably all like to be that person who’s still active, engaged and sharp at 100 years old, living independently and enjoying time with the great or great-great grandkids.
So you might like to know that if you’re a social butterfly, you’re already half way there.
That’s because numerous studies have indicated that the single most important and determining factor for a long and healthy life is maintaining a social life.
And now, a new study has finally gotten down to the nitty gritty of why — by measuring how your social life benefits your health…
Are close friends the best friends for a long life?
Whether it’s friends or family, remaining socially engaged, no doubt, has a direct impact on longevity.
But why exactly?
Previous studies revealed that being socially connected helped keep depression away. Others indicated a social life makes one more optimistic, less stressed and improves emotional well-being — all factors that could help you live a longer life.
But researchers at the University of Texas at Austin decided to dig a little deeper…
So, they followed more than 300 adults over the age of 65 to determine the impact that socializing might have on their physical activity.
The researchers collected information from study participants about their activities and social encounters throughout their days for about a week. The participants also wore electronic devices so the researchers could accurately measure their level of physical activity.
And, the results were clear…
When participants were engaging with a greater variety of social partners, they also engaged in a greater variety of activities such as leaving the house, walking, talking with others or shopping.
All of this added up to a lifestyle that was less sedentary and more physically active. But having a wide social circle was key.
Think about it… if you only interact with the same people all the time, you probably do the same things all the time.
“Older adults may be able to be more sedentary with their close friends and family — sitting and watching TV or otherwise lounging at home,” said Karen Fingerman, a professor of human development and family sciences at UT Austin and the director of the university’s new Texas Aging & Longevity Center. “But to engage with acquaintances, older adults must leave the house, or at least get up out of their chair to answer the door.”
So, even though close friends and family are grand, if you want to live longer, your social circle must expand.
The spice of life
So, if you want to stay active, healthy and sharp no matter what your age, remember the old saying, “Variety is the spice of life.”
Some ways you can do that is to reach out to acquaintances, attend an organized group event, get to know your local mall walkers or form a neighborhood walking club.
Reach out to your local church, synagogue or community center for special activities, like bingo night.
Instead of drinking your coffee at home every morning, choose one morning a week to visit a local coffee shop (better yet, walk to it if you can!) and spark up conversation with the barista who makes your latte. It will make you more active without even breaking a sweat.
Start a wandering potluck supper club with friends, hosted at a different house each time.
Whatever you do, just add it to you social calendar — and watch the prospect of healthier, happier years add up along with all of your activities.
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