What does it mean to live long and prosper?
I know you know that famous Vulcan saying, but have you ever considered what that means for your life, your vitality, and your longevity?
I bet you if you polled most American’s to ask them their health goals their answer would probably be to lose weight. It’s doubtful that probably you’d find many people who said their goal was to live to age 98 while not being bedridden in a nursing home.
Sure, everyone wants to live longer, but what you might not have in mind is living longer in a nursing home. I don’t think anyone wants to spend their days lying in a hospital bed being occasionally visited by nurses who provide food and the next round of medications. Unfortunately this is happening earlier and earlier these days as we are plagued by ever increasing rates of chronic disease. It’s called the “golden years” of adulthood, and it truly should be. The Golden Years is defined as the span of time between retirement and the beginning of age-imposed physical, emotional, and cognitive limitations, and today would roughly fall between the ages of 65 and 80+.
I think when most people say they want to live longer they picture themselves playing with grandbabies and great- grandbabies, traveling the globe with their loved ones and seeing all the things they didn’t have time for in the hustle and bustle of younger adulthood. No longer held static by jobs and kiddo extracurriculars; meetings and scheduled bed times, our Golden Years should be the stuff of memory making and freedom. The question then becomes how to go about achieving that? How can you protect yourself from succumbing to Golden Years spent in doctors offices and drug stores. The answer is simple. Reverse engineer your life to make it happen using healthy lifestyle, regular movement and nutrition that serves your body.
Redefining Lifestyle Habits for Longevity
If you want to live the longest, healthiest life possible then starting with your overall lifestyle habits is a must. Do you drink alcohol more than one night per week? Do you drink soda/ juice/ sugary coffee beverages every day? Do you smoke, dip tobacco or vape? Do you work night shift and never see daylight? Do you burn the midnight oil and sustain yourself of 4-6 hours of sleep every night?
These things matter the most in the grand scheme of things and all have been proven to shorten your lifespan. Changing up these habits is the first step you can make towards living a longer, healthier life. Aim for trading in the alcohol and nicotine for more water and different stress outlets like meditation, journaling, coloring or low intensity movement. Work night shift? Great! Prioritize getting some sunlight each day, even if it’s for 15-30 minutes preferably first thing when you wake up to start your day. Prioritizing your pre- sleep routine to make sure your sleep efficiency is optimal is another positive step towards a longer life. Getting little sleep each night and running yourself ragged? Take a look at your commitments and start saying no to those commitments that no longer serve your healthy lifestyle. It might be difficult at first, but what’s the point of being the YES person if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Once you’ve swapped some habits that weren’t serving you to habits to do… and gotten really good at those habits (this is the key), you can begin adding additional healthy habits to your day that will help you move the needle forward in health. Making sure you’re drinking ½ your bodyweight + 15 in total ounces per day is a great place to start. If you aren’t even close yet, don’t try to jump all the way there, but instead, add 15 ounces per week and allow your body to adjust to each increase before adding more. Another additional healthy habit would be blocking blue light from your devices/ home beginning at dusk each day and continuing through sunrise the next day. You can do this by wearing blue blocker glasses to block out the light and/ or setting the blue blocking settings on your phone, tablet and computer. Quality blue blockers can be found through Amazon for as little as $15! Here’s the link for the highest reviewed pair https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WT59ARS?creativeASIN=B00WT59ARS&linkCode=w61&imprToken=UoIwCuWyqyFr9aQgjWLfaQ&slotNum=0&ascsubtag=st[p]cjr80jgez001517yes7zpd1vn[i]jkNJEb[d]D[z]m[t]w[r]google.com&tag=thestrategistsite-20
Either way, the healthier your habits are, the healthier you will be too.
Redefining Movement for Longevity
In a world where exercise programs are ever increasing in intensity and type it’s become difficult to know which one is right for you! From taking aerobics, spin or Zumba classes to joining a bootcamp to doing yoga, Pilates or Barre to high intensity options like CrossFit, Orange Theory and F45 the possibilities have become so vast it can be confusing and overwhelming. That list doesn’t even include all the sports related ways you could be staying active. Activities like swimming, golf, cycling, hiking, squash and tennis.
So which types of exercise can you engage in that will help you live long and prosper? The honest answer is whichever one you enjoy doing! There’s absolutely no point in forcing yourself to do something that you don’t enjoy and you probably won’t stick with it long term if that’s the case either. Finding ways to be active that you enjoy not only help you stick with it long term, but also help you become stronger and gain muscle which has been proven to increase lifespan.
Aim for 150 minutes per week or more of activity each week from a combination of the above activities. Get fitness both indoors and outdoors. Try new things and see what you think. Make sure you’re getting 10k steps per day by taking the long route, parking farther from the store and grabbing a neighborhood friend for an afternoon stroll.
Adding more movement into your days not only increases your metabolic output, but also your cardiovascular health, your stamina and therefore, your longevity as well.
Redefining Nutrition for Longevity
I saved nutrition for last since it’s arguably the most misunderstood category of health. We live in a society that is plagued with misinformation perpetuated through new fads seemingly every week and celebrity endorsements of those latest weight loss gimmicks. Contrary to what the media makes you think on a day to day basis, eating to live a long, healthy life free from chronic disease is not that hard.
It starts with looking at what your body needs. What is essential for you to live and your body to function? There are three essential macronutrients, 16 essential minerals and 13 essential vitamins that your body needs each and every day. The essential macros are protein, fat and carbohydrate. The essential minerals are calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, chromium and fluoride. The essential vitamins are A, D, E, K, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyroxidine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) and Cobalamin (B12).
Each of those can be obtained by eating a balanced, healthy, whole foods rich diet. Start by prioritizing fruits and vegetables as your main sources of food. These foods not only contain all the vitamins and minerals you need each day, but they provide carbohydrates which are needed for energy, fiber which is essential for gut health and proteins that are the building block of every cell in your body. Next add in portions of healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut and olives. Healthy fats are the essential building blocks of both our steroid hormones and the myelin which protects our nerve cells and allows them to properly conduct messages through our central nervous system. The great thing about those sources of healthy fat is that they all contain carbohydrate, fiber and protein. Finally, choose a source of protein to round out your meal. The more variety of these sources the better. Females need a portion the size of the palm of their hand, males should opt for a portion that covers the palm and up to the second knuckle on each finger. If you are more hungry, add in a healthy starch option like beans, lentils, whole grain rice or potatoes. If you are less hungry, make your portions of both protein and fat slightly smaller. Your intake of vegetables and fruits should always remain the same.
Easy, breezy, lemon squeezy, right!? Creating a plate like what’s described above roughly 3-4 times per day (depending on your activity level) ensures you are taking in an adequate amount of essential nutrients that will help you thrive for years to come. It’s truly that simple! You might be thinking, “But what about gatherings, birthdays, holidays and events!?” It’s because those situations happen rarely to occasionally. Your approach to them should align with that reverse engineering you did of your goals. Treats/ indulgences should be kept to those special occasions, and I suggest employing mindfulness when determining food choices and serving sizes at those events.
Getting healthy and staying that way isn’t hard. It isn’t about restricting the things you love or never having fun. It’s about making the choices necessary to make being healthy long term the main point. Therefore, enjoying the indulgences every now and then will create much more memorable occasions without detracting from your healthy lifestyle.
Cheers to living long and prospering!