Port Beach, 6:30am on a mid-winter morning, Michael Christie wades into the chilly Indian Ocean with a dozen fellow ocean swimmers, and heads for Leighton Beach as the sun slowly rises.
At 73, Michael’s daily 1.5 km ocean swim – followed by coffee and a chat at a beachside cafe with fellow Port Beach Polar Bears – keeps him mentally, emotionally and physically vital.
A combination of mental agility, capacity to change, physical health and emotional stability, vitality is increasingly connected to our capacity to lead longer, happier and more productive lives.
But what is vitality exactly, and how do we tap into it? We spoke to body and mind experts about ways we can all boost and sustain our personal vitality.
Swim in the sea
From Hobart’s Kingston Beach, to Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, ocean swim clubs are uniting tens of thousands of Australians to swim their way to vitality. Unlike many sports, ocean swimming boasts high levels of participation from individuals enjoying their seventh and eighth decade, as it delivers social and physical benefits which boost vitality.
Eat a Rainbow
Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan says a Mediterranean-style diet with a rainbow of veggies, fruit, nuts, legumes, whole grains, seafood, a little meat, and extra virgin olive oil is a great way to maintain vitality.
“Our diets impact vitality and brain health enormously,” she said. “It’s not down to a list of key foods, rather a good dietary pattern that is based on plenty of whole foods and lots of plant foods in particular.”
Get Some Shut-Eye
Although there is a persistent myth that older people need less sleep, Professor Peter Eastwood, Head of the Centre for Sleep Science at The University of Western Australia says the most important thing we can do to stay vital throughout our lives is to get eight hours of sleep every night.
“We need to have sleep for our brain to recover, to consolidate memory and to reset our computer for the next day,” he explains.
The most important thing we can do to stay vital is to nod off for eight hours.
Strong, diverse social networks are associated with ongoing vitality, as they ensure we are constantly coming into contact with new ideas and different ways of thinking. Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, Lynda Gratton says the professional networks we develop throughout our careers are often what sustain our vitality as we mature. “Work plays a very important role in allowing you to build long friendships,” Gratton says. “Not just with your husband or wife or your kids, but actually with the sort of friends that are going to make you happy right the way through your lives.”
Learn Something New
Professor Henry Brodaty, co-director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing at the University of NSW says that “stretching your brain” by learning something new is just as important as stretching your muscles. Periodically challenging our brains to learn new skills and abilities is key to maintaining the capacity to embrace change and remain vital.
This article is intended for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, or to cure or prevent any disease. Please consider your personal circumstances before acting on any information in this article. You should always seek the advice of a qualified health practitioner with any medical questions you may have. Reliance on any information provided in this article is entirely at your own risk and we are not responsible for any medical events, injuries, illness or other outcomes related to or resulting from the information in this article.