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Lon-gev-i-What?

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The theme of this month's column is longevity - long life - something that may not be high on your priority list, if you're like most teenagers.

The theme of this month’s column is longevity - long life - something that may not be high on your priority list, if you’re like most teenagers. The real-time pressures of school, friends, relationships, and parents make the distant future seem awfully, well, distant. The thing is, most of us hear the word “longevity” and think about getting old. But that’s only part of the story. Longevity isn’t just about the quantity of your years; it’s also about their quality. It’s not about getting older so much as it is about maintaining your youthful health for a good long time. And that’s something you can start planning for right now. The benefits will show sooner than you think.

We tend to look at our teenage years as a time when we can take our good health for granted: eat any old thing, not worry about regular exercise, even try smoking, booze, or drugs without serious consequences. While it’s true that a 16-year-old can “bounce back” a lot faster than a 36-year-old, these behaviours set the stage for possible future health problems or, at the very least, instil habits that might be a lot harder to break 20 years down the road.

But let’s not focus on the negative! You already know the “shouldn’ts” about your health, so let’s concentrate on the positive changes and choices you can make to ensure that you stick around for a long time.

The four biggies for longevity (and better health in the short-term) are:

  • Good nutrition, including lots of water
  • Exercise that includes cardio, flexibility, and muscular strength
  • Restful sleep
  • Stress relief and relaxation

If that list looks like a pretty tall order, fear not! No one’s saying you have to turn your life upside down - in fact, it’s a lot more realistic to tackle one thing at a time. Start by making small changes: enjoy some organic whole-grain cereal for breakfast, go for a quick walk at lunch, or start a journal to help you deal with stress.

If you start replacing a few chips-and-pop snacks with natural food choices, you’ll be amazed at how much it can influence your attitude and your energy level. The best part is that these four elements play off each other, so that when you exercise to stay fit, you also relieve stress and sleep better, too. Before you know it, seemingly little changes add up to a healthier you.

In the coming months we’ll be looking at more health concerns specific to teens, and your comments and questions are always welcome. Congratulations on reading alive to get the information you need to make good choices about your health. That means you’re already on the right track for a long and healthy life.

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