We all want to live a long, happy, active, and healthy life. But the way of going about it isn’t as easy as you probably think. (No, it’s not as simple as hitting the gym and eating your chicken grilled instead of fried—though that will definitely help.) Longevity requires a certain attitude, the right support system, and a keen eye for diagnostics—as well as a taste for the right foods and a healthy lifestyle. With that said, here are the 25 top secrets for looking better, feeling better, and living a longer and more fruitful life than you ever imagined. And if getting really fit is your goal, don’t miss the Best Cardio Workouts for Men Over 40.
All right, maybe not everything. But finding a reason to smile when feeling stressed out or upset can do wonders for your health and longevity. “It’s up to the individual to mine the humor from each situation, which in some cases takes work,” says George Resch, better known as Tank Sinatra, a comedian, Instagram star, and author of Happy is the New Rich. “Sometimes you have to wait a while to be removed enough from the situation to do so, but if you’re okay with a little pretend time travel, you don’t have to wait three years to be able to laugh at whatever is troubling you now.”
There’s plenty of science to back him up. “Think about how you feel after a good belly laugh—it makes me smile just thinking about it,” says,” says Dr. Pat Salber, MD and founder of The Doctor Weighs In. “So turn on your favorite cat video, watch Robin Williams reruns or join a laughter club, it will make you feel better. For more advice on living longer, here are 100 Ways to Live to 100.
This is another youth-giving strategy from Tank Sinatra: “Living honest versus being honest has to do with how you act versus how you relay information to people,” he says. “If you think it’s okay to cheat on your wife as long as you tell her about it, you aren’t living honestly—you’re just being honest. If you were living honest you’d know that the pain you will personally feel after being unfaithful is not worth the temporary excitement of a new woman.”
There’s a good chance that every minute spent in your head—worrying about work or money or any of the other million reasons to feel stressed—is adding wrinkles to your face. “Self-inflicted stress and worry will burn out your adrenal glands leaving you feeling like you’ve run a marathon, while in reality you’ve done nothing, except worry,” says Resch. “A little action goes a long way compared to a lot of worry.” If you need help cutting stress, here are some proven stress-busting techniques.
A little delayed gratification is healthy. But delaying your gratification for too long becomes damaging. “Perhaps it’s a vacation, special day of celebration like a birthday or anniversary, a milestone like retirement, a hard-earned completion like a graduation,” says Ken Druck, an expert in aging, mindfulness, and grief, and author of the forthcoming book Courageous Aging.
“Whether we’re caught up in trying to speed up time, or slow it down, self-management [of stress] begins with a stepping back, taking a deep breath, calming our thoughts and doing whatever we can to best insure a good outcome.”
Looking too far into the future can add on years to your life, but so can dwelling too much on the past. “Self-indulgently holding onto regrets, failures, grudges, anger, resentments, and losses that we may never have processed (from an emotional standpoint), collapses rather than compresses time,” says Druck. “Stuck in a revolving door of unpleasant memories, lingering sorrows, and self-defeating narratives, we are miserable, and we lose time.”
By catching ourselves in this kind of thinking and to reframe it, Druck emphasizes that we are actually able to “compress, lengthen, lighten, fill and sweeten our time.”
One of the best ways to prevent day-to-day stress from taking a toll on your health and longevity is to think like you’re young. “If you are dealing with a trying situation, think how a young child how they might handle it,” suggests Allen Klein, a speaker and author of You Can’t Ruin My Day. “It may or may not solve your problem but chances are it will give you a chuckle and perhaps a fresh perspective.”
“Studies of Blue Zones regions of the world where people live extra-long lives have shown that socializing with friends and families are a contributing factor to their longevity,” says Dr. Salber. “We also know that stress floods our bodies with stress hormones, like cortisol, that wreak metabolic havoc on our metabolism.”
Investing in friendships can provide a wide range of health benefits, both mental and physical. And we have plenty of advice on how you can build strong friendships here.
While treating others with kindness and acceptance is a valuable way to reduce stress and enhance your sense of well-being and longevity. “What does this mean? Well, approach yourself, others, and situations with a sense of acceptance, curiosity rather than judgment, openness, kindness, and gratitude,” says Karen Whitehead, a licensed master social worker and trained mindfulness practitioner. “These attitudes promote positive emotional well-being and over time shift the way we relate to challenges in our lives to minimize stress.”
Yes, it’s obvious, but it bears repeating. “The truth is, high levels of physical activity can provide a much as a nine-year advantage over people who are sedentary and a seven-year advantage compared to those who are moderately active,” explains Leah de Souza-Thomas, a health and wellness specialist and founder of The Thrive Practice.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort, either. “For men it’s 40 minutes of jogging per day, five days a week. While for women it’s 30 minutes. If that’s not realistic for you, make sure you’re engaging in some form of physical activity that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. You can chunk these activities throughout the day too,” she says.” If you need extra help getting to the gym, here’s how smart men motivate themselves to exercise.
Souza-Thomas recommends mind-body techniques such as tai chi, yoga, and meditation, which are “great at not only helping you become relaxed, centered, and in control but also helping reduce inflammation at the cellular level caused by stress,” she says. “This in turn reduced the risk of inflammatory related conditions and disease like cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer and arthritis which reduces the risk of premature death.” We should also note that yoga can do wonders for your sex life.
Variety is the spice of life, and a secret ingredient when it comes to longevity. That extends to the fitness regimen you follow. “Have different workouts throughout the week so boredom is not an option where excuses quickly follow,” says Mary Beth LaRue and Jacki Carr of Rock Your Bliss, a yoga-inspired coaching organization. “Monday and Wednesday can be yoga days, while Tuesday and Thursday are outdoors on a run or hike. We say leave the weekends open for sweaty adventures.” You should also try ditching these common exercises.
Another obvious one, but one which should not be underestimated when it comes to slowing the aging process, both physically and mentally.
“Sleep is a huge indicator of overall health and vitality; I prioritize it over nutrition,” says wellness lifestyle coach Kristen Battistelli, CEO of Discernible Tastes, LLC. “Your body and brain go through so much work and play during the day, they each need proper rest and recovery to process learnings/experiences and build muscle and cleanse/detox. Your body is an incredible piece of machinery and will naturally detox and repair itself but only with proper self-care.” If you need help falling asleep, here’s our primer on having your best sleep ever.
“People aiming for ‘agelessness’ can really benefits from lifting weights, especially if it’s not something they’ve done before,” says Tyler Spraul, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and head trainer at Exercise.com. “I’m not just talking about using the five- or 10-pound weights; heavier weights and full-body movements like squats and deadlifts actually happen quite a bit in everyday life—picking things up off the floor, getting out a chair or car—and training these exercises with weights can help increase your strength and mobility.”
He adds that a long-term health bonus is that performing these movements with heavier weights, while making sure to always use proper form, will lead to stronger and sturdier bones to fight degenerative diseases like osteoporosis. Speaking of strength training, be sure to check out these great one-move, total body workouts.
Perhaps the best way to keep reduce your years is to commit to all these things: a combination of aerobic, high-intensity strength training, and yoga.
“Strength training exercises helps to build muscle mass. This not only increases our overall metabolic rate somewhat, but it also helps combat the onset of fraility, a disabling condition of the elderly,” says Dr. Pat Salber of The Doctor Weighs In. “Tai Chi and other exercises that tone opposing muscles help with balance and may prevent falls—another plague of the aging body. Programs like Pilates help with core muscle strength helping us to maintain a good posture. It is never too early to build these type of exercises into your training program.”
“The aging process mostly occurs as a result of oxidative stress, which occurs in our body every day due to normal processes like metabolism,” explains Dr. Akil Palanisamy, author and holistic medicine expert as well as a Harvard-trained practicing integrative Medicine Doctor at Sutter Health’s Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco. “Just like an apple turns brown when exposed to air, oxidative stress over time can lead to body changes like wrinkles and cell damage.”
To help counteract this natural process, he urges people to seek out foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. “These include berries like blueberries and strawberries, leafy green veggies, legumes (all types of beans), and spices such as turmeric and ginger,” says Palanisamy. “Incorporating these foods regularly will combat oxidative stress and help extend one’s youth.”
“Absolutely the single most essential nutrition tip is to maintain a healthy weight for life,” says Salber. “In people with a genetic predisposition to become insulin resistant when they gain weight, particularly when they accumulate fat in the intra-abdominal area known as visceral fat are very likely to develop Type-2 diabetes with its associated life-shortening complications like heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, foot ulcers and amputations, kidney disease and blindness.” Good news, here are 20 delicious foods that will keep the pounds off.
While she emphasizes that “all other nutrition tips are secondary” to maintaining a healthy weight, Salber adds that a plant-based diet, such as the Mediterranean Diet (characterized by a high proportion of vegetables and olive oil with minimal protein), goes a long way to helping a person stay young.
“My general rule of thumb is don’t eat anything that has ingredients on the side of the box that you don’t recognize. Food was not meant to last forever,” says Salber. “Stick with fresh, avoid processed whenever possible.” Plus, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the secrets Italians have for healthy living.
This often means eating more slowly, which allows us to savor the flavors and freshness of the food, but also ensures that we don’t stuff ourselves before our stomach has had time to absorb the additional food and alert us we’ve eaten enough. “It all starts with mindful eating,” says Chad Walding, speaker, author, physical therapist, and cofounder of wellness blog The Paleo Secret. “Start an inner dialogue where you check in with yourself. Be connected to your body: Does your body really need or want what you’re about to eat?”
It sounds a little hokey, but “our bodies are incredibly capable of telling us exactly what we require to stay healthy,” he says. “Your mind may say that you want that slice of pizza, but your body knows what vitamins and nutrients you need from fresh vegetables, fruits and lean proteins. When you start thinking of food as nourishment to feed your body, not just your face, you start making different choices. Choices become habits.”
“Breakfast really is the most important meal. It sets the tone for how your body will feel all day long,” says Walding. That’s even more important as you grow older. Walding recommend you “eat a lean protein and a healthy fat for your first meal of the day. It’s extremely satiating, jump starts your metabolism, and you’re less likely to depend on sugar for fuel throughout the rest of the day, which we know causes spikes in blood sugar and stress on the body.” And we have some great healthy breakfast options for you here.
As we age our hormones become out of balance, which can accelerate the aging process.
“This is not a matter of luck of the draw. It is a direct effect of our environment, from what we put in our bodies, to what we put on our bodies,” says Lorraine Miano a certified Integrative holistic health coach and author of The Magic of Menopause. “There are numerous endocrine disruptors contributing to our out-of-balance lives. To extend one’s youth, a good start would be to eat a diet specifically geared towards balancing your hormones.”
She says this includes eating more organic fruits and veggies (including green smoothies or juices).
We know that hydration is crucial to keeping skin supple, but Stella Metsovas, nutritionist and author of Wild Mediterranean, suggests taking this a step further by infusing one’s body with foods that are rich in minerals. “’Eat your minerals’ is a phrase I use quite often with my clients,” she says. “For example: foods rich in zinc (pumpkin and watermelon seeds are great sources) help boost your skin and the health of your gut too. Selenium is also a powerful antioxidant (found in sardines, grass-fed beef, brazil nuts) that is needed for an ageless formula.”
“I am a big believer in do-it-yourself prevention and, luckily, now that we are in the age of digital health you can buy accurate, inexpensive tools to do a simple check-up on yourself at home,” says Dr. Salber. Rather than waiting for your annual checkup to hear your health statistics, invest in some at-home diagnostic screening devices.
Salber suggests a range of instruments which can allow you to monitor your health and longevity stats, including a digital scale, digital blood pressure cuff, digital pulse oximeter (if you have asthma or other breathing disorder), digital thermometer, digital glucometer (if you are at risk for developing diabetes) and single-lead EKG monitor (if you have irregular heart rhythm). “A tracking app that can automatically upload and integrate all the data to show you a clear picture how you are doing over time,” she says.
Even the most consistent wearers of sunblock are vulnerable to skin cancer and should keep a close eye on potential signs. “With the summer sun in full effect, take care of your skin,” says Rock Your Bliss’ LaRue and Carr. “Ask the doctor to check your freckles and moles every visit!” Regular “mole mapping” will help you spot any dangerous signs early.
It’s not the sexiest topic, but your gut plays an important role in your broader health and longevity, with doctors sometimes referring to it as your “second brain.”
“Ask your doctor for lab tests to check your gut health to see if you need to add pre- or probiotic supplementation,” says Battistelli. “This usually involves a stool test that you can do at home and then mail in to the lab (fun!). But so much information about your health—or lack thereof—can be gleaned from your stool.”
As we age, our vision naturally declines, so getting annual eye exams is a valuable practice. “It’s critical in identifying the need for vision correction like the inevitable development of Presbyopia (which affects everyone eventually),” says Dr. Howard Purcell, senior vice president of customer development for lens company Essilor of America. “Eyes are the window to overall health. By taking precautions, staying healthy, wearing proper UV protection, and keeping in regular contact with an eye care professional, it’s possible to address issues as soon as they appear rather than waiting until quality of life is affected.”
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