How to grow old, superhero style

It’s not easy being a superhero: They have enemies. They have huge tasks to complete. They are constantly being beaten. However, beyond those dangers, they also practice some healthy behaviors that can carry them into old age.

That’s what a team of Australian researchers Just discovered, as published in the magazine’s Christmas light-hearted 2021 issue BMJ. During the pandemic, researchers immersed themselves in the world of Marvel superheroes. Their goal was to discover what these champions are doing or not doing well when it comes to keeping their minds and bodies healthy as they progress into their senior years — information that the We mortals can take on New Year’s resolutions and apply them to our own lives, too.
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Lead researcher Ruth Hubbard, a professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Queensland, started watching movies with her children and then realized she could have fun analyzing superhero behavior while gathering information. for her major: “Find out why some people experience a decline in their health,” she says, and others stay healthy and independent. “

Hubbard has watched 24 Marvel movies released since 2008 (Iron Man) and 2021 (Black Widow). Her team paid special attention to five characters: Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Black Panther, and Spiderman.

Here are the top tips:

Exercise regularly

“Superheroes display a variety of positive behaviors, particularly when they engage in high levels of exercise and physical activity,” Hubbard said. They also often recorded bursts of intense training during combat. Although it is best to avoid fighting, Hubbard recommends that you do exercise regularly that challenges your muscles, your balance and your heart.

Constantly on the move

Even when meeting to discuss how to deal with extraterrestrial adversaries — ala being the first Avengers movie — superheroes stand up and go around. “Sitting for long periods of time can negative for your state of health”, says Hubbard, and increase the number of steps you take each day as much as possible increase your lifespan.

Connect with others

“Loneliness and social isolation can very negative for the aging trajectory,” says Hubbard, so her team is happy to see that superheroes rely on each other When necessary. “They have disagreements, but they have a common purpose and they come together and unite as a group.” Spider-Man, for example, has positive male role models, plus a loving relationship with his aunt.

Work your mind

As Hubbard notes, 40% dementia cases are “preventable or modifiable”, so it’s great for a superhero like Iron Man to use his wits often. Some superheroes are “highly educated, in need of protection, like you increase your cognitive reserve and reduce your risk of developing dementia. ”

See what you eat

Aside from Iron Man and Thor, alcoholics, superheroes stay away from heavy drinking. They also don’t smoke and maintain a healthy weight. (Hulk is an exception — his body mass index is “much higher than recommended,” says Hubbard.) These factors not only keep them physically healthy, but they also help prevent dementia. memory. And although Black Panther benefits from consuming the herb that has given him superpowers, “Performance-enhancing drugs are generally not positive,” says Hubbard and should be avoided. On the plus side, Black Panther is a vegetarian, maybe reduce obesity and the risk of problems like heart attack and stroke.

Stay away from loud noises

“The exposure of superheroes to planetary collisions and explosions presents a risk of hearing loss,” Hubbard said. “Especially for older men, whose hearing loss is not resolved by wearing hearing aids is associated with increased risk of dementia. “Therefore, wear hearing aids if necessary.

Avoid dangerous activities

“The skirmish itself has the potential to be negative for them,” Hubbard said. Consider Black Panther: after multiple hits to the ground, a hit in the face, and a spear in the chest, he was thrown over a waterfall and ended up in a coma. Possible head injury increased risk of dementia, or superheroes may suffer from life-changing physical disabilities. Also, Spider-Man’s crime-fighting mostly takes place at night, so he’s probably not getting enough sleep. This may lead to obesity, poorer mental health, higher pain levels and higher risk of injury.

Overall, “It’s all common sense,” Hubbard said. And the things to do can go on — from controlling your rage, unlike the Hulk, to living in a privileged country where possible, like the Black Panther in Wakanda, where it is concerned healthy aging and longevity.

Hubbard itself started running after parsing these characters. “I realized that heart health is very important,” she said. “It’s time for me to practice what I preach.” Of course, when she’s not busy enjoying the movie.

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