First things first: What does successful aging mean, anyway? It’s true that the idea of “aging well” feels a bit subjective—the approach and mindset of one person might look a little different from someone else. But from a scientific POV, we define healthy aging as supporting your body and wellbeing in a way that allows you to live your life the way you want to, for as long as possible. And that means building a foundation of healthy habits, no matter what life stage you’re currently in.
Most of us probably already know that balanced nutrition is a huge part of this—filling your daily diet with a spectrum of nutrients, and ideally taking a quality multivitamin to help fill gaps. (Part of this is also recognizing that your nutrient needs evolve as you age.) But scientists have also zeroed in on another potential key component of healthy aging: something called Activity Theory of Aging. (1)
What is Activity Theory?
While the name might imply that it’s all about exercise or moving your body, Activity Theory also refers to keeping busy and maintaining social activities as you age. The earliest studies on this phenomenon (which first came into play in the ‘70s) correlated this definition of an “active lifestyle” with greater life satisfaction in older people—something that researchers have only continued to prove out over time. (2,3)
In one study on Activity Theory published in 2014, for example, researchers found that adults who participated in discretionary activities—that is, extracurricular activities of their choosing—over the course of 8 weeks reported a more positive outlook on life and their overall wellness. And if you’re at all familiar with Blue Zones—aka the regions of the world where people reportedly live the longest, most healthful lives—you might recognize that Activity Theory is something Blue Zone residents live out every single day: They lean on friendships and family, they engage in moderate physical activity, and they prioritize activities that make them happy. (1)