SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: New Year's perfect time to launch new you

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As the New Year approaches, many people tend to reflect in joy or sadness about the start of another year.

Not only are we a day away from a new year, but a day away from the start of a new decade.

Instead of losing weight this New Year, try making lifestyle changes to add another decade to your life. People know that working out is good for their minds, bodies and hearts, but that is not motivating Americans to get up and start moving.

Why not think to yourself, "This year in 2011, I am going to live my life to become 100 years of age."

In the year 2030, an estimated 70 million people, 20 percent of the U.S. population, will be over 65, and people over 85 are the fastest-growing population in the U.S.

The human lifespan is increasing, with the maximum about 110 years of age, and these days most people should be able to live to be 80 if they maintain healthy lifestyles.

Living to 100 may not be appealing to many people. However, that may be due to thinking quality of life will take a dive as the years go by.

Currently, there are 131,000 centenarians in the U.S. In 2050, statisticians estimate there will be 834,000 centenarians worldwide.

So what is the secret of a centenarian? Research shows that physical, mental, emotional and social components are vital to longevity.

Centenarians' lifestyles were studied to find that their diets are mostly plant based, with little meat or dairy, and that they get daily exercise. Exercise included biking and walking, but they also contained an active lifestyle of working in a field, building homes or gardening. In addition, centenarians tend to be nonsmokers, have good blood lipid profiles and are connected to their communities.

Mentally, these folks are happy-go-lucky types who do not hold grudges. Also, centenarians continuously learned about life through faith, reading or exploration. I believe that your environment factors into your health and outlook on life. For example, Sardinia, which has an unusually high concentration of centenarians, is very aesthetically pleasing and calming to the eye.

One factor I find intriguing is the financial cost of being a centenarian. When analyzing health care costs, the annual cost of health insurance for a 60- to 70-year-old is approximately $24,000. However, centenarians' annual cost of health insurance is approximately $8,000. In addition, exercising saves people thousands of dollars of medical and prescription expenses.

There are many theories as to why our bodies age. No matter which theory you subscribe to, exercise is known to reduce Type 2 Diabetes, increase stroke volume of the heart and vascular elastation of people aged 60 and up.

As we move into the New Year, realize that our bodies are a machine that needs to be "lubed" with exercise to avoid stiffness and problems. This year set your goals to be achievable throughout the year. New decade, new life, new you!

Elizabeth Kovar has been working in the fitness industry since 2006 with international experience from India and Australia. She has a master's degree in recreation and tourism and is the associate director of healthy living at the YMCA. She can be reached at ekovar@wwymca.org.

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