• A 2008 study of centenarians by researchers at Boston University, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that the majority had what is referred to as "compressed disability" or "compressed morbidity." What this means is that the long-lived remain highly functional and without debilitating diseases until they are close to death.

It's nice to know that you can live to an exceptional age and not be an invalid.

Feeling better

Now let's look at the psychology of all this.

Many studies have found that regular exercise is good for treating depression and improving your overall mental well-being, but what I'd like to examine is how it affects your self-confidence. The self-efficacy theory, developed by renowned Stanford University professor Albert Bandura, holds that we become stronger — better, in a way — through persistence and overcoming obstacles.

Say you're in poor physical shape and make a determined effort to change your eating habits and adopt regular exercise. And say your efforts are successful. You've achieved a degree of mastery that boosts self-confidence. This success raises your expectations, and you then try to achieve more ambitious goals.

Ultimately, the sky's the limit

Using diet and exercise to get in shape takes planning, patience and persistence. Being successful at it helps you become a problem solver and righteous goal achiever, spurring you to successes in other aspects of your life.

The diet-and-exercise approach changes you from the inside out — for the better. This is something that no surgeon, no matter how fancy the degrees hanging on the wall or how hefty the bill, can accomplish.

That isn't to say that lifestyle and cosmetic surgery offer a cut-and-dried either/or choice. Many people live healthy and active lifestyles yet still get some strategic nipping, tucking and sandblasting to improve their appearance, and that's all cool.

But if you've got the opportunity to achieve your goals in a non-surgical manner, then consider doing it. Your body (and inner self) will thank you.

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada.

james@bodyforwife.com

health@latimes.com