What you can do to live longer
Living longer is not magic; it just takes a bit of effort. What matters when it comes to being healthier later into life is sticking to various routines and habits that encourage good health.
A mountain of studies have been conducted to try to best measure what to do, how often and how much, but all these results point to building upon the basic truth of what your mother might have been saying all along: get outside and run around, eat your vegetables, cut out the candy, and go to bed. There are plenty of details to go over, but the truth is still the truth.
What are the major factors in determining longevity?
You’re never too old to start getting fit. As one study published in the American Journal of Medicine concluded: “People who newly adopt a healthy lifestyle in middle-age experience a prompt benefit of lower rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality.”
When scientists look at what influences mortality, they generally settle on a few separate practices in your life that each independently affect mortality risk:
- Controlling and maintaining proper weight
- Level and amount of physical activity
- Quality of diet
- No smoking
- Little to no drinking alcohol
- Managing and relieving stress
- Regular, quality sleep
Doing just one alone, while helpful, will not make you healthy overall. When done together, they’re benefits become greater than the sum of their parts. It’s this idea of integrating multiple aspects of your lifestyle to achieve complete health that sits at the core of Olumia Life.
Genetic, occupational and environmental factors, like air pollution, all play a role as well, but we have less direct control over how these aspects of our lives influence our health, apart from living a less sedentary lifestyle.
It’s common knowledge that part of being healthy is keeping trim. The state of being overweight or obese corresponds to a shorter average lifespan. Knowing your current BMI and waist size are important ways of gauging which category you may be in, as well as what your goal will be. In this regard, weight is something of the over-arching concern related to all the others. It’s why maintaining motivation for weight loss and control is imperative.
Physical activity: Gotta keep movin’
Unquestionably one of the primary factors in longer life, maintaining a routine of regular physical activity is an absolute must. A 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at the effects of regular moderate (walking) to vigorous (running) physical activity on over 200,000 adults aged 45 and up.
They found that even moderate physical activity extended the average lifespan. Vigorous exercise actually had an inverse relationship with mortality. Basically, the greater the amount of vigorous physical activity the less likely someone was to die over the 8-year period of the study. Even running for 5 minutes can be very beneficial. This held true for those who were fit, the overweight and the benefits were the greatest for the obese. Exercise helps everyone.
This goes beyond cardio/aerobic exercises, like running, swimming, etc., and includes strength training as well. A study in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) followed 9,000 men between 20 and 80 years of age for just under 20 years. Researchers concluded that “Muscular strength is inversely and independently associated with death from all causes and cancer in men.”
That means healthy muscles help lower the risk of death from all causes. You name it: cancer, heart disease, and a litany of other diseases and health issues, such as sarcopenia, strength training helps.
You keep your muscles healthy; you tend to live longer.
The current guidelines for exercise from the American Heart Association recommend:
“At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 OR at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; OR a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity AND moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.”
Olumia Life is designed to help you manage the activities you need across cardio, resistance training and core exercises.
Diet: You are what you eat
Eating a variety of healthy foods in proper proportions, sticking to 3 meals each day, minimizing sugar and avoiding over-snacking are all part of a proper diet. If you eat healthier, you’ll be healthier.
First and foremost, eating healthier means getting lots of fruits and vegetables. You should be eating them at every meal.
Numerous studies have shown the myriad ways that of a diet containing fruits and vegetables is good for you. Some of the long list of benefits are:
- A lowered risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure
- Improved gastrointestinal function, thanks in part to the dietary fiber present in fruit and its benefits to gut flora
- Improved ocular health, including increased protection against cataracts
- Better protection against some forms of cancer, such as prostate cancer
Olumia Life doesn’t recommend any multivitamins, but there are some particular nutrients that are worth buying. Fish oil and its content of omega-3 fatty acids is important, as is vitamin D (especially if you aren’t getting enough sunshine). Whey protein and BCAAs are also essential to weight and workout optimization, and glutamine is very beneficial as well.
- Olumia Life Chief Scientist, Dr. Steven Willey, recommends taking 5 grams of a glutamine supplement every day, whether you work out or not.
When it comes to protein, it should be of a greater amount than the total starch portion of a meal. Fish and chicken are the best meat sources of protein, while vegetarian options include quinoa, amaranth, tofu and many more. Starches include grains, pasta and potatoes.
Excess sugar is one of the chief substances to avoid for a healthy diet. It causes weight gain, cavities, insulin resistance and many other problems. Unfortunately, sugar is often added to many foods labeled “diet.” The fat naturally occurring in many foods is often removed at the cost of taste, so most low-fat foods contain lots of sugar. Sugar is also similarly added to frozen and processed foods. It pays to read the Nutrition Facts on the packaging!
Smoking and drinking
OK, smoking is bad for you. If you need to learn more about that, the CDC has all the info you can handle.
When it comes to drinking, it’s worth noting sugar again before talking about alcohol. Sugary drinks, like soda, sports/energy drinks and many dessert-type coffee beverages, are some of the most common offenders when it comes to unhealthy drinks. Water, milk, tea and coffee with little to no sugar are the staple beverages of a healthy diet.
When it comes to alcohol, despite the various benefits of antioxidants in red wine, alcohol negates any potential health benefits. For every potential benefit that may accompany an alcoholic beverage, there can be an equal, if not more powerful, downside.
In a study published online by the journal Lancet, researchers used data gathered by 12 different countries participating in the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study. By crunching the numbers on a huge collection of data involving nearly 115,000 participants, researchers found out quite a few things, not least of which was that drinking alcohol:
- Increased mortality rates
- Increased the risk of some cancers
- Led to no overall health benefits
This isn’t to say that alcohol has zero benefit. The same study also found a lowered risk of heart attacks among moderate drinkers and some studies have shown the antioxidants in wine to be helpful too. However, taken as a whole, these benefits are negated by the deleterious aspects of alcohol consumption.
Stress: Taking it easy, taking a break
Stress can be an acute/sudden problem or a long-lasting, chronic one. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder, and other illnesses.”
Of course, a little stress is actually a good thing and can keep our bodies from becoming lethargic due to understimulation. For the vast majority of us, though, stress is something we need a lot less of.
Some of the best ways to relieve stress are
- Getting quality sleep
- Yoga and tai chi
- Enjoying a few moments of quiet time or meditation
When you’re stressed out, it’s even more important to stick to your exercise routine.
Quality sleep: There’s more than one sort of hygiene
Every aspect of your health is connected, meaning what happens in one area, positive or negative, can affect all the others. Sleep is the foundation of everything you do while awake, so it’s natural that quality sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Sleep deprivation creates all sorts of problems, including overeating, weight gain, cognitive impairment and more. On the other hand, exercise and losing weight (proper diet) helps you sleep better.
Olumia Life offers a sleep plan designed by sleep experts to help you monitor and improve your sleep habits. One huge aspect of sleeping well is proper sleep hygiene, which includes:
- Maintaining a proper sleep environment
- Avoiding stimulants
- Sticking to a routine
- Not eating right before bed
- Working out
- Avoiding the “blue” light of hi-tech devices
- And more
Olumia Life recommends getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
If you get less sleep than that, you’ll develop sleep debt, which you can repay with naps and sleeping more later. However, don’t think that one weekend is enough to time to set things straight if you’ve been burning the midnight oil all week.
Originally published at olumialife.com on February 22, 2016.