The 7 Simple Steps to Longevity
There are a million fad diets, “natural” suppliments and trendy health plans out there from those that claim to melt fat away like butter, build muscle as dense as steel and even those that are built upon actual healthy concepts – but tend to stray or expect you to maintain an extreme lifestyle to achieve a more healthy you. The path to eternal youth and immortality has always beckoned and we seem to be in search of the quick-fix pill rather than the path.
And guess what? – Surprise! None of these ever works. Oh sure, you may get lean and mean for a season or two. You might even stick with a group plan for a couple of years with peers. But eventually, you will stop. And there is always a price; because the body – your body – was not built to live in the extreme. Yes, it was built to adapt, somewhat, over time – but health and longevity are met with balance and moderation. Eating like a caveman, obsessive exercise regimens and bacon with every meal will always, always catch up. Adrenals (liver and kidneys) will take a beating, gall bladder will get overloaded, cholesterol will go through the roof and knees will wear out. Your car’s tachometer shows when you step down hard on the gas – riding up into the red – but if you run it there all the time you’re going to overheat and burn up your engine. Same with your body.
So, what’s the answer? It probably won’t surprise you that it’s the same answer it has been for a long, long time. It may not be as easy as popping a “miracle” pill but it is simple and your doctor is much more likely to support it than the latest “Neanderthal Nutrient Program”. Here we go:
The 7 Simple Steps to Longevity
(1) Hydrate and eat a BALANCED diet
It’s pretty amazing how little water most people drink throughout the day (the water in your coffee doesn’t count as water). When you are under hydrated your blood thickens and moves slower – that means slower oxygen delivery to the brain – ie slower performance. Many of us think more caffeine is the answer and don’t even realize we are actually setting ourselves up for more distress. Yes, have your coffee – but as you start to get sluggish – check your water intake first. Consider starting your day with a glass of water before you have your first cup of coffee. *Tip – Little sips all day help the brain to chug along.
As with diet – I alluded to this earlier. All meat is not the answer and all plant – while a healthy pursuit – can be risky if you are not extremely diligent every day to ensure all nutrition is present (seriously – most of us are not likely to maintain the level of diligence required, every day, for a lifetime, to do this right). Portion control is huge here and the “kids’ rule” of a colorful plate at every meal are good ways to get started. An adult portion of meat, as a rule of thumb, is the same width and thickness as the palm of your hand from the closest point of your wrist and not including any fingers. Plant should always outnumber meat in volume and simple starchy/carbs do need to be present – but in small portion. Your doc can help you with this or contact a Registered Dietician *Tip – Check out foods that naturally have anti-inflammatory properties and work them into your regular diet – these have a lot more impact on cancer prevention and many other maladies then much of the information we grew up learning in school or with the fitness coach.
(2) Adopting a lifestyle of MODERATION
You’ll notice I do not say boring, lackluster or monastic. Moderation means without excess. You want to take a power yoga class – cool! You want to get in fit enough to do a marathon or a long distance bike ride – fantastic! But power yoga every day, 2 hours at the gym lifting weights every day and running the bleachers every day – is going to take it’s toll. You will not be able to do those things like that over a lifetime. Be clear with that and know it. And you do not have to be that extreme. Daily, rigorous activity will change over your life just as you will – but if you commit to activity, you will likely be able to be much more active, much longer than those around you. That is the measure of the quality of life and with life expectation ever-extending – there will be a lot of years there for many of you that you will want to be active for. *Tip – if you are setting up a fitness regimen or having a fitness trainer or coach set one up for you – write it down. Then take it to your physician and actually go through it and talk about it with them. You wouldn’t let the lab tech do your heart surgery – don’t let the guy at the gym with a 6-week certification be the final say on your health regimen.
(3) Get ENOUGH sleep
I know you are busy – and there are a million reasons why you “just can’t” but this is one of those things that you simple have to man up or woman up and make it happen. If it means saying “no” to some folks or letting some things fall to another day – than so be it. Sleep directly impacts mood, memory and motivation. Sleep deprivation, even moderate, can really beat up on your effectiveness, in every thing you do. Most of us are the first to jump up and defend this for children – but fail to even consider it, let alone to defend it for ourselves.
Lack of sleep degrades your ability to remember things quickly, inhibits your ability to solve everyday problems and conflicts, impacts your mood which in turn will impact how you engage others and degrade relationships and it will quickly siphon off whatever resolve you had to exercise or do anything else constructive. *Tip – Don’t skimp on sleep. Period. No excuses.
(4) MAINTAINING regular, active exercise
Okay, so here’s the unscientific rule of thumb; “90% of weight loss comes from what you eat and 90% of internal/organ health comes from how you exercise”. I hear this quote or some variation fairly often at the running trail and the gym. But if you really look at the science there is a very important part we are not discussing and it holds a lot of folks back from even getting started. Thirty (30) minutes of brisk activity a day has a much bigger benefit on heart and organ health (and your mobility as you age – ie ability to have an active life) than three or four multi-hour or extreme workouts.
Think back to the story of The Tortoise and The Hare you probably heard as a kid. The high bursts of speed didn’t end up serving the rabbit very well – but the turtle kept pace and ended up finishing the race as the winner. For the majority of us – especially those with full career and/or family lives – our best life, in the long run, is a steady and committed path of healthy living.
*Tip – Walking even 20 minutes around your neighborhood,apartment complex or in the parking garage during your lunch break at work is a step toward a healthy and longer life.
(5) Make and take a day of REST
There has to be a down day – your body and your brain actually need it. This is something we are usually willing to schedule but somehow always let some other obligation take it over. Along with sleep, the day of rest is likely the most routinely hijacked of health habits. You’ll note the title says “make” AND “take”. Funny thing is – your brain and body will function much better as a standard if you put this into consistent practice. This is not a catch up day (talking to you Super Moms) and this is most assuredly not a day to live on the tech and TV either. It is a day of rejuvenation and play. A friend of mine who is retired clergy told me once that every great religion has a time of rest – usually to be observed by it’s followers and some even in it’s story of the deity. He told me, “God rested on the 7th day – what makes you so special that you think you don’t need a break to?”. (Props to you, Maynard – love and gratitude.)
*Tip – if you really can’t think of what to do for a day of rest and play – go to the experts – ask a kid. Without all the “obligations” and “have to” messages stampeding about in their brains they are often much better and helping you out in this area than another adult.
(6) Yearly CHECK UP with your doc
This should be an obvious one, but I will rant along on it nonetheless. Science is amazing. A mediocre doctor, let alone a phenomenal one, can see what you don’t even know is coming – if you use them. Long term health involves many things including, lifestyle and genetics – it also includes PREVENTION.
Getting a heads up on a part of your healthcare at the beginning and having the opportunity to diminish or remove the risk and problems is a gift your own ancestry didn’t have – at least nowhere close to as good as you have it. This is one day a year…one day. For a couple of hours – in terms of even just financial cost – you will save thousands over a lifetime – that mean’s keep thousands of dollars by taking a preemptive stance on your medical needs. Then there is mobility, health, togetherness with loved ones and all the other benefits.
*Tip – your exam each year should be thorough and your doc should sit down and go over the results with you. If this is a quick, 20 minute, pat-on-the-back visit then you may want to talk with your friends and find a more invested physician. A good doctor today knows his patients are more well read and more involved in their own care than in generations past – an amazing doctor will welcome it.
(7) LISTEN to your doc
This should be so very obvious and in many ways is an extension of #6. Still, many of us hear the suggestions and have every intention to take some of it to heart and maybe even act on a little. This is about your commitment to you and this one is really simple. List your takeaways from your doc visit and post them wherever you need to to not forget: on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror or even as a screen saver on your work computer. Be creative. And take action. If your doc says you need to lose weight – take some steps towards calorie reduction and portion control. If the message is less cholesterol then do it – and if it seems overwhelming, get some help.
*Tip – As human beings, in general, we are very communal creatures – we like to be with others, it’s empowering. Get a friend or co-worker to help you put some of these steps from your physician into practice. You won’t have to look very far to see someone else in your circles who would benefit from more exercise or more balanced and healthy eating.
ONE FINAL COMMENT – the reason fitness plans like “Work out 5 times a week” and resolutions like “All my lunches will be rice cakes” don’t work is at one level, psychology. They are set ups for failure. The very first time you don’t meet it, by definition you have already failed. And then the “why try?” thoughts set in. Give your self permission to be human and room to be successful. Try goals like, “I will exercise more often” and “I’ll take my own lunch to work more frequently”. You can always increase and tighten your goals as you go – but start out in a way that you can feel good about the progress you make.
It’s life changing without being life overwhelming –
just take it one step at a time.
You CAN do it.
Live Better Live Now / Houston / Texas