I watched an interesting BBC REEL film by David Robson and Pierangelo Pirak recently.
In the film (pictured), Robson and Pirak visited the Italian island of Sardinia to learn from Dr Raffaele Sestu about his theory of Vita GAIA and how a long and healthy life can come from positive engagement of the mind with the body and the challenges of life.
In a nutshell, Dr Sestu’s theory is that a combination of genetics, environment, diet, integration and self-esteem have come together on Sardinia to create the perfect conditions for such a long and healthy life. Robson investigates this theory and the conclusion he comes to is that only 15 to 20% of a person’s longevity is down to DNA and that the major driving factor in having a long and healthy life comes from a positive mental attitude.
Specifically, Robson puts across the proposition in the film that attitudes to stress determines the physiological response, as stress is damaging to the body (and mind). So, if it is possible to see stress as a damaging and depleting thing, you are more likely to be damaged by it.
If, however, you see (or can see) stress as a challenge to overcome or something positive that is important for growth it changes the body’s hormonal response to it by reducing the fluctuations in cortisol (the stress hormone) which causes damage to cells and can also encourage the release of anabolic hormones that can repair and energise the body.
The key to achieving this positive outcome is, apparently, in understanding its underlying principle of epigenetics, which is concerned with how genes are regulated by the body and how they can be controlled by our thoughts and feelings - or, to put it another way, how our mental state can have an effect on our cells and their health.
Robson also shares the theory that epigenetics can have an effect on ageing and longevity and can even reverse ageing, restoring a more biologically youthful state by altering the genetic expression (the epigenetics) of the person concerned.
Or, to put that another way, you are as old as you feel!
I wholly endorse this argument. Mental positivity is a powerful tool, both for living a full and active life and also in living a life which retains its youth and zest. How we think is as important as what we think and the foundation for a vibrant engagement with the world around us. When training clients, I encourage a positive and strong mental attitude, both in training and in life more generally. It is the way to get things done and make progress in the gym, home and workplace.
So, it is encouraging to hear that this approach can also temporise, slow down (or even reverse) the ageing process.
Check out the BBC REELS short film and see what you think.