Longevity Lifestyle: Big Benefits from Simple Changes
80% of healthy aging and longevity is determined by the lifestyle choices you make, not your genes.
There is no need to become a half-starved fitness fanatic to get the benefits of healthy aging. In fact, you’d be surprised how easy it is to build lifestyle habits which lead to a long, active, and rich life.
Sleep, movement, health tracking, moderating bad habits and stress reduction are just as important as nutrition and longevity drugs over the long run. You will quickly find that optimising for longevity boosts your energy levels and quality of life.
This section of the Age Well Times covers longevity lifestyle habits – along with social, environmental and political aspects of healthy aging. Ethics, climate change and how society shifts with productive, energetic 85-year-olds must be addressed before it hits us.
Longevity and Lifestyle Overview: An Unfrail Future Without Sacrifice
Good news, starting the journey to an unfrail future you is easy – and has big benefits for your current health too.
The amount of exercise you need to start feeling the benefits is smaller than you’d think. Add simple sleep hacks and you are already moving forward. Sure, bad habits which age you will have to go. That said, you don’t need to become a virtue-signalling puritan to live a longer, healthier life.
Here are the topics included in this section of the Age Well Times:
- Exercise: Three short exercise sessions a week is all it takes to get major longevity benefits. When you start feeling the positive effects, you’ll be keen to optimise for even greater rewards.
- Sleep Quality: I think of this as the 200-pound gorilla of longevity habits. Get sleep optimised, and everything else gets easier. Good sleep unlocks a better diet, motivation, and the strength to resist life’s toxic temptations.
- Bad Habits and Toxins: For me, it’s sugar that triggers cravings. Alcohol, smoking, processed foods and pollution all shorten life. Longevity habits are about balance. Social life revolves around booze, let’s start by managing it – rather than quitting cold turkey.
- Psychology: Loneliness is a hidden epidemic, and new clinical data proves that it shortens life. Stress is a silent killer too. This section covers mindset in relation to longevity, and some simple ways to think positively about your future health.
- Longevity Habits: Sauna and cold exposure are proven ways to trigger cell rejuvenation. Add meditation to this list, along with managing light exposure through the day.
- Ethics and Society: This section of the Age Well Times zooms out to the big picture. Longer lives are coming, whether society is ready or not. We must address sustainable living now, not after the fact. The question of happens when the rich get longer lives than everyone else must also be addressed.
The Longevity Lifestyle – Misconceptions
There is a major misconception about the longevity lifestyle.
The belief that to live a long, healthy life, you need to sacrifice everything pleasurable is not only ubiquitous, but also plain wrong.
Who can blame people? Half-starved fitness gurus shaming anyone not following their specific diet are just the starting point. Demonise alcohol, sugar, and carbohydrates. Tell people they need to stop eating completely for days at a time…
Well, let’s say it is hardly surprising that newcomers to this space say, ‘interesting, but I’m busy, let me come back when they invent that miracle longevity pill.’
They don’t come back.
Longevity lost a potential supporter, and another human being doomed themselves to a frail old age.
This section of the Age Well Times shows that it is easy to begin the lifestyle habits that promote future health without big sacrifices.
In fact, those changes to your diet, sleep and exercise habits will improve life in ways you never thought possible.
Pension Parallel: Saving for an Unfrail Old Age
Everyone is familiar with saving into a pension fund, yet nobody would save their entire income each month, leaving nothing to enjoy now.
Healthspan works in the same way.
By switching habits here, and adjusting your lifestyle there, you give yourself the best shot at being healthy, lively, and robust in old age. There is no need to spend all your effort on this future. Just like a pension, you pay in what you can – depending on your personal circumstances and stage of life.
Every time you find the time to exercise, optimise your sleep, avoid poisonous chemicals in food and the environment, eat healthily and avoid stress, you are making a payment into your longevity pension.
As you feel younger, fitter, and healthier, your contributions will naturally increase.
Your robust 80-year-old self will thank you – while you don’t miss out on the best possible life at your current age.
Best of all, it is super-easy to start your longevity pension today.
Your first contribution can be tiny. Take the stairs, avoid sugar, stop eating late at night and have one less alcoholic drink.
Once you start to build a lifestyle which is healthy now and beneficial for the future, you will see that sacrifice was never the right path. Feel great now, and have a fit, healthy future.
Longevity Habits: The Roadmap for a Fitter Future
Longevity habits are a reoccurring theme throughout the Age Well Times.
My overview, which explains my 20/10 days approach, habit stacking, and the longevity habits snowball can be found on my Longevity Habits page.
This approach is different to what you’ll find elsewhere in these key areas:
- It does not recommend giving up on life’s pleasures right away. Instead striking a realistic balance between social life, pleasurable foods and natural ups and downs of motivation / willpower.
- The focus is on simple habits which bring immediate, noticeable benefits in your energy levels, motivation, and clarity of thinking.
- Once you feel these benefits, it will be easy to hit the next level, snowballing simple habits as the benefits accrue. My structured approach allows for failed attempts, using a built-in time for reflection and fine-tuning.
Best of all, my approach works for other areas of life too.
Topics Covered in the Longevity Lifestyle Section
Movement, Exercise and Longevity
A small amount of exercise unlocks major longevity benefits.
Just three short sessions per week of the right type of exercise will boost your healthy lifespan. Mix workouts that raise your heart rate with resistance training for the best results. Depending on your age and current fitness level, you will then optimise based on your personal goals.
Best of all, fitness works together with sleep and a healthy diet – creating a virtuous circle.
Lack of Fitness: The Silent Killer
Lack of physical fitness is a silent killer.
The inflection point happens when being overweight, frail, or unwell stops someone from moving.
‘Use it or lose it’ applies to muscles, especially those that keep you stable. Stop even moderate exercise, and your body gets into an aging spiral.
Key is to make movement enjoyable. Group classes, swimming, walking or a martial art might work for you. That first day you wake up feeling fitter, fresher, and more positive will stick in your mind for a long time.
After that, you’ll wonder what took you so long to get in shape.
Longevity Lifestyle: Sleep is the Bedrock Habit
Improving your sleep is critical to a longer, healthier life.
Best of all, everyone has a ‘quick win’ or two to benefit from in this area. Insufficient sleep directly affects the other important longevity habits. You’ll find it harder to eat healthily, to work out and to resist those dangerous toxins like sugar and alcohol when tired.
Measures as simple as when you eat, getting natural sunlight in the morning, a better sleeping environment, destressing and reducing caffeine have a wonderful effect on your sleep quality. When you prioritise sleep, your mood improves.
I get that busy careers, young children and even aging itself affect sleep duration and quality.
Whatever your starting point, there are actions you can take to make sleep work for you. I recommend starting by measuring your sleep quality, using a free or paid app. After setting a benchmark, you can monitor improvements. Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) is not just for people with sleep problems – it is packed with insights which will help everyone get the best from their sleep.
Society and Longevity: From Climate Change to Ethics
Environmental sustainability of longer lives is the most common push-back I hear from people new to longevity science.
They are right, our planet can’t sustain lively, active 100-year-olds, let alone a future where people live to 150.
A knee-jerk reaction is that the science should be banned, for the sake of the environment and greater good of everybody.
There is a major flaw to this thinking – longer, more active lives are inevitable. Each year the average age increases. Breakthroughs in medicine, healthier lifestyles (for example less smoking) and longevity research are all contributing.
Now is the time to be discussing how to balance longevity with sustainability.
This is a complex area. My favourite thought experiment is this:
Imagine a drug was discovered that meant an active life with a 40-year-old body up until 110 years old. It gave you a shorter decline period, with hardly any time spent suffering from chronic conditions before death. This drug is cheap, legal in 72 countries around the world, and completely safe.
Would you decline to take it, instead dying at 85 after 15 years on average battling chronic conditions, to save the environment?
Ethics of Life Extension:
The ethics of life extension is a fascinating topic.
Areas covered here at the Age Well Times include:
- Everlasting Dictators
- Rich vs Everyone Else in Length of Life
Bad Habits and the Longevity Lifestyle: Nobody Wants to Live Like a Monk!
If there is one thing bound to put people off taking steps into the longevity lifestyle, it is rules to immediately give up booze, sugar and fast-food.
Nobody wants to live like a monk, in the hope that it they can get a few more years of monk-like living.
I fight back against the fanatics and recommend a balance between enjoying life and living longer. Let’s be clear, if you smoke, drink excessively, binge on sugar or simple carbs or regularly get sunburned, your life will be shorter, and your decline will be uncomfortable.
There is a middle ground.
Enjoy life, enjoy the treats and relaxation aids on which our social lives function – yet keep moving towards a healthier future you.
This balance is easier than you think and is tied to stacking longevity habits.
As you feel the benefits, look younger and more vibrant, and enjoy the clearer thinking that comes with a healthy body, you’ll want to keep going. Whether that is swapping sugar for healthy alternatives, cutting out dead-carbs, or simply remembering to apply sunscreen, it all contributes to a longer, healthier life.
Good Stress for Your Cells and Other Longevity Habits
Whether you run hot in a sauna or cold in an ice bath, your cells benefit.
These are examples of hormetic stress. You give your cells a little stress, and trigger rejuvenation through apoptosis. Exercise does the same thing, along with prolonged fasts.
Small wins add up for a healthy lifestyle. Whether this is avoiding prolonged sitting, cryotherapy, hyperbaric chambers, of simply being at one with nature on a regular basic – science is quickly catching up.
Psychology and the Longevity Lifestyle: From Reinvention to Loneliness
Imagine a future where retraining for a new career at 50 is standard and seeing 80-year-olds start something new does not raise an eyebrow.
For me this is a huge positive. While middle age changes in career are already here, they are challenging. Today’s society is based on picking your path at 18 to 21, training and then going with it. Will we adjust with multiple sabbaticals, interspersed with periods of work? Will someone at 70 training for a new career become the new normal?
Conversely, loneliness is already reaching epidemic proportions. Friendships are harder to form in later life. The demand for a solution is huge. Recent studies showed that loneliness has a direct effect on longevity. Healthy, active bodies in old age will provide opportunities to meet new friends and enjoy time with your existing ones.