Whenever Claudine Padula wants to transport herself into another world, she heads out to the family’s stables to find Polo. Brushing his silken coat fills her with a sense of wellbeing. “I love to groom Polo, as well as our other horses. I bathe them, and I braid their manes. I spend as much time with them as much as I can. It’s very relaxing,” says Claudine.

Claudine and her husband, Luis, raise and breed beautiful quarter horses, like Polo, and rare Andalusian stallions at their farm in South Texas. When Claudine spends time with them she isn’t necessarily thinking about the fact that she’s doing good things for her health in the same way that she does when she’s performing her weight lifting program, but research shows that she is.

Studies find that grooming and caring for animals helps to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, and also leads to an increased sense of wellbeing. Horses especially seem to connote a therapeutic benefit, and so it’s no coincidence that they are used in programs to instill confidence in children and adults. Add to this the exercise Claudine reaps when she goes horseback riding, and it’s easy to see how her program pays off now, and will continue to do so as she ages.

September is Healthy Aging Month, and Claudine is an excellent example of how we can maintain our peak health, even as we grow older. It’s easy to be healthy when you’re young, but after passing the age of 40, changes occur, and that’s when staying healthy requires more attention.

This is exactly what Claudine, who is now 47, discovered three years ago. Blessed with a tall slim build, Claudine found that a few pounds had crept up on her. A tennis player, she also started to feel aching in her shoulder and elbow. “I didn’t like the direction I felt that was heading in,” Claudine recalls. She was also concerned about coronary heart disease. “My father is 73, and he had some stents put in, so I realized this might run in my family,” she noted.

After researching different diets, she decided on the South Beach diet, which focuses on a low-carbohydrate eating plan, seemed to best suit her lifestyle. She also undertook an exercise regimen. “I decided to go to a trainer who knows how to work with women. She gave me a program that includes a lot of stretching. She also showed me how to work out with light weights, and I’ve graduated to heavier weights and gotten stronger as I’ve gone along,” she said.

Claudine also decided that some relaxation techniques were in order. “I learned some yoga, and I like to do that, and also meditate. Everybody has stress, so, little by little; I’ve learned to get to a place where I can be calm. Thinking of nice and beautiful things helps me find my center.”

Claudine and her husband, Dr. Luis Padula, who is an interventional cardiologists, are originally from Ve-nezuela. They came to the U.S. for Dr. Padula’s cardiology training, and then relocated to Texas. Although the love it here, Claudine also enjoyed recently spending some time in Snowmass, Colorado. “I have never experienced a long summer there. I enjoyed it so much. The nature was really beautiful,” Claudine said. Vacations can also play a role in a healthy lifestyle.

For Claudine Padula, this healthy balance of eating right, exercising, and, especially, spending time with her horses has paid off. As she notes, “I have more energy, and I’m happier. I take things lighter now.”

By Charlotte Libov