Recently, a young LCO student asked me what it means to age successfully. My answer was to describe the vision that I work towards every day. It includes a fit figure with moderately toned muscles. A face that reflects my life experiences, but is not ravaged by them. To be surrounded by family and true friends. To continue working with students and help them grow their holistic practices. Ideally, I will be walking my dogs, practicing yoga, Pilates and swimming at least three times a week well into my 90s. In my model of aging, I try to take responsibility for my own health and wellbeing, the very foundation of which I believe lies in one key holistic principle. Rest. By rest I don’t just mean getting more sleep although yes, that is essential. I am referring to “rest”  on a physiological and emotional level.

Science has confirmed that our cells are programmed for rebirth only a set number of times. Countless studies are showing that this number depends just as much on genes and lifestyle factors as it does on the energy that we spend. Consider that every obligation, every “yes” we say instead of the “no” we mean, impacts our nervous system and ultimately causes premature cellular expenditure. Every promise we make that we are unsure how to keep, every pessimistic thought or guilt ridden action takes a physiological toll. This extends to poor nutritional choices. Erratic sleep patterns. Overbooked schedules. Judgements and grudges. Ultimately, it is our physical bodies that pay the price. And that is why, it is essential to try and be kind to your cells and give them the one thing they need to maintain themselves. Rest.

To learns more about the biology of aging, visit LCO’s comprehensive gerontology course page. In addition, there are a number of excellent books on the subject of successful aging including Shock of Gray by Ted Fishman, Prime Time by Jane Fonda, The End of Illness by David B. Agus and Conquering Any Disease by Jeff Primack.

Rita Shpilt is an osteopathic practitioner, massage therapist and yoga enthusiast.