By Cynthia Luisi, WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach
Imagine if someone told you that you could add 12 to 14 years to your life just by sticking with five habits. Recent research tells us you can do just that. You can add more than a decade to your life by following five healthy lifestyle patterns. That’s a full decade or more of fun with the grandkids, time to travel, or whatever your dreams may be for retirement and taking care of your loved ones. And at the same time, you can feel good, energetic, and be less likely to suffer a debilitating lifestyle disease.
What are these 5 healthy habits?
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Don’t drink too much alcohol
- Don’t smoke
Harvard researchers recently published a new study that spanned over 30 years. It found that U.S. men and women who successfully maintained these five healthy lifestyle habits were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer. What that means is that woman gained about 14 years of extra life, while men gained an average of 12 compared with others who did not maintain these healthy habits.
Let’s break this down into common sense ways you can implement these 5 healthy habits.
- What does a “healthy diet” look like?
There are many different diets out there but Harvard researchers offer up some sage advice. They recommend focusing on a dietary style, such as low carbohydrate, or the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean diet is not an exact menu of items; it is really about how people who live near Mediterranean Sea tend to eat. This generally includes in a variety of high quality whole foods such as
- A high intake of extra virgin olive oil, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and cereals
- A moderate intake of fish and poultry
- A low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets
- Some wine in moderation that is consumed with meals (2 glasses for men, 1 glass for women)
To make small changes, start by taking a look at your plant intake and determine if you are getting four to five servings of vegetables per day, and four servings of fruit per day. A diet that is primarily based on plants is the way to go. Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oats instead of simple white rice, white bread, and white pasta. Use healthy fats like olive oil and avocados along with a one-ounce portion of nuts or seeds every day.
Stay away from the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) staples of red meat, refined flours and grains, sugary drinks, and white potatoes and instead go for healthier options like chicken, fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and drink water in place of any sugar or sugar-free “diet” drinks. If it comes in a box or a bag or you can’t read the ingredients it’s a sure sign that you are about to eat something that is not considered a part of a healthy diet.
- What does ‘Regular Exercise” look like?
According to the Mayo Clinic, try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you are trying to lose weight, you may need to exercise more. To achieve even more health benefits and increase your weight loss, increase your exercise to 300 minutes a week. Drivers and office workers run a great risk of metabolic problems from sitting so much, even if they are getting the recommended amounts of exercise. To counteract this, aim to take short breaks and get 10 minutes of walking or stretching in if you can – take the stairs, park further away, walk around your truck or car while getting fuel, anything that can break up your sitting time.
Focus on the 4 most important types of exercise to ensure you are getting the most benefits. The new Rolling Strong app offers a variety of all of these exercises in easy to manage time frames, so be sure you check them out. You’ll want to get in aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, and balance exercises to ensure the maximum benefits.
- Aerobic/Cardio: Try to do cardio at least three times per week. Aerobic exercise relaxes the blood vessel walls. It can lower blood pressure, burn body fat for fuel, lower your blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation throughout the body, put you in a good mood, and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. If done consistently, aerobic exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, stroke, depression, and falls.
- Strength training makes you feel confident and strong. It also stimulates bone growth, lowers blood sugar, helps with weight maintenance and improves your balance and posture. Proper body alignment along with increased strength takes the pressure off your lower back and joints.
- Stretching becomes extremely important as we age. Because of aging as well as a sedentary job, our muscles and tendons shorten, increasing the likelihood of cramps, falls and joint issues.
- Improving balance is key to preventing falls and injuries. Working on simple balance exercises can circumvent the natural aging decline in this area.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
There is no better way to maintain a healthy weight than by following the guidelines above for healthy diet and exercise. But what is considered a healthy weight?
Medical practitioners generally look at body mass index, or BMI, as a way to determine if a person is at a healthy weight for their height. It is used as a screening tool that tells you if your weight could be putting you at risk for health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, BMI is used to define different weight groups in adults 20 years old or older. The same groups apply to both men and women.
- Underweight: BMI is less than 18.5
- Normal weight: BMI is 18.5 to 24.9
- Overweight: BMI is 25 to 2 9.9
- Obese: BMI is 30 or more
Your Rolling Strong CDL Wellness Coach can show you what your BMI is and help you find ways to reduce that number to lower your risk factors. Checking in weekly with your coach can help you monitor your weight so that if you start to slack off on your healthy eating or exercise and begin to gain weight, you can quickly get back on track.
- Don’t Drink too Much:
The Mediterranean way of eating indicates a small amount of alcohol can be heart healthy. That means no more than two glasses of red wine for a man, and just one glass of wine for a woman to reap the health benefits.
- Don’t Smoke:
If you are a smoker, there are many ways and methods out there to help you stop. Work with your doctor to find the one way that is most suitable for you.
There you have it; five healthy ways to add over a decade to your life! Small steps and small changes can help you reap some incredible rewards.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Following five healthy lifestyle habits may increase life expectancy by decade or more.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180430075619.htm>.