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Six Tips to Prepare Yourself for a Vigorous, Healthy Old Age

One of my happiness-project resolutions is to take steps now that will lay the groundwork for my life decades from now.
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"Old age ain't no place for sissies," H. L. Mencken proclaimed.

We all want to be energetic and pain-free for our whole lives, but just watching how older people walk down the street (or are pushed in a wheelchair) is a reminder of how differently people age.

Some people look great and move easily; other people who are about the same age are obviously frail.

One of my happiness-project resolutions is to take steps now that will lay the groundwork for my life decades from now. Studies show that even modest changes can have a dramatic effect on health and longevity.

Here are six tips I follow that will, I hope, set me up to be strong and healthy in my old age:

1. Exercise regularly.
There are different theories to explain why aerobic exercise promotes brain regeneration and wards off decline, but for whatever reason, it does have that effect.

2. Yoga. Falls are a major danger to older adults, and working on flexibility and balance means that we're less likely to fall.

3. Strength-training. We naturally lose muscle as we age, and working out with weights helps offset that process. I started working out with weights fairly recently, and I've been astounded by the difference it has made in my body. I thought I was one of those people who just couldn't develop muscles; turns out I was one of those people who didn't have a very effective exercise regimen.

4. Wear sunscreen every day. Dermatologists agree that this is the best way to ward off wrinkles. (Okay, this is about vanity, not frailty, but still important to me.)

5. Floss and go to the dentist.
My father is haunted by a line from the movie "Peggy Sue Got Married," when one character remarks that she wished she'd taken better care of her teeth. I hate to admit this, but I've always been pretty lax about tooth-care, beyond brushing -- but I've reformed.

6. Act happy, be happy. Montaigne observed, "It seems to me that in old age our souls are subject to more troublesome ailments and weaknesses than in youth." No one wants to age into a querulous, isolated person. Being happy is a safeguard against many ills. Having fun, making time for friends, and keeping up with family traditions are important steps to happiness now and forever.

I don't need to quit smoking, take blood pressure medication, lose a bunch of weight, or keep my cholesterol down, but these are obviously important steps to take if necessary.

A key to all these steps is being able to stick to your resolutions. If keeping resolutions is a challenge, you might be interested in this post.

I'm sure there are many other things I should do...any suggestions?

If you'd like to read more about happiness, check out Gretchen's daily blog, The Happiness Project, and join the Happiness Project group on Facebook to swap ideas.

Gretchen Rubin