Recently I attended a celebration in Chicago for my mother’s milestone birthday. 90 years old! I must add, it was not celebrated in a hospital or a long-term care facility. Nor did she enter the party sporting a wheelchair, a walker, or an oxygen tank. In fact, it appeared as if we were celebrating 70 or even 60. As if the bakery had accidentally placed the “9” upside down on her birthday cake.
I am no health and fitness guru by any stretch of the imagination, although I do believe simple lifestyle changes can be the key to finding the fountain of youth. I see how so many people live longer and healthier lives when they choose little ways to better survive poor health pitfalls. Here are some of the rules I follow to pretend I have found that magical fountain, having been inspired by my mother’s health and living on the Nicoya Penninsula in Costa Rica. I live near the town of Nicoya, which is considered one of only five “Blue Zones” in the world – special places on earth which boast a higher concentration of centenarians (100+) than anywhere else. Perhaps we can learn from these old and wise people and take our own journey to the fountain of youth….
Take in fewer (or the same) amount of calories than you expel
This is one of my easy rules for weight loss or maintenance. I am not saying you need to start counting calories to the Nth degree or anything. Rounding numbers and having a general idea works too. For example; 2 cheese enchiladas, rice, and beans: 1200 calories. An hour-long Zumba class: average 350-650 calories burned. Better skip the second enchilada! But you get a general idea here. There is also a multitude of apps which can help you count these calories (such as MyFitnessPal), rather than walking around with a notebook. Side note: a typical sexual encounter for 25 minutes burns less than 100 calories. You can’t exactly call that a workout. Although, it is good for you!
Sleep 7-8 hours per night
Many times I hear people boasting about how little sleep they ‘need’. Yet, I have never heard a doctor suggest less sleep. The body needs that time to restore and heal itself from the damage you do to it all day long. Sleep is important to revitalize the mind and body. If you have trouble falling asleep, there are many natural sleep aids out there. Or try a guided meditation regime.
Drink copious amounts of water
Our body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain all bodily functions. We lose water while breathing, sweating, and digestion. So it is extremely important to rehydrate by drinking water. I aim for 8 glasses per day.
Have a lover in your life
Loving a mate ranks very high in the Blue Zone studies. Intimacy and sexual contact are important for the physical aspects of health and well-being. But long-term love is also proven to keep your body and mind happy and challenged!
Engage in daily physical activity
Do you need to be a cross-fit workout machine? No. However, daily activity beyond breathing, sex and walking from your car to the office is a must. Take the dog for a long, brisk walk. Join a gym. Don’t like gyms? I don’t either. You can work out at home to YouTube videos. There are tons of them for every level of fitness. Dance. Elevate your heart rate and throw some weights into the mix. Just 30 minutes a day will get you closer to the fountain of youth.
Have a strong community with family and friends
This is also a big factor in the Blue Zones. Be social beyond the community at your job. Get out and enjoy doing things with others. Take in a concert, volunteer, join an art class, help your neighbor rebuild his fence. Interaction keeps the brain alert and helps you feel a greater sense of belonging.
Stay away from processed and fried foods – focus on fruits, veggies, whole grains
You have heard it before. You are what you eat. Documentaries and investigative reporting have exposed the horrid modified ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, sugars, etc. which go into our food sources. It is slowly killing us. Eating natural foods keeps things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and diabetes at bay. Can’t give up the “bad stuff”? A few tastes of desserts or french fries or red meat are certainly ok to satisfy your cravings once in a while. Just don’t make a steady diet of it. I have found the more healthful your diet, the less you will crave the bad stuff anyway.
Floss and brush your teeth multiple times daily
Nature only gives us 2 sets of teeth. The primary set and then a full set, with your total molars established by the age of 12 or 13. You do the math. You want to live to 100? You will need these teeth for 9 decades. They eventually become delicate and prone to cracks, receding gums, and root issues long before you die. Care for them now and reap the benefits later in life.
Wear sunscreen and moisturize your skin
Did you realize our skin is the largest organ? It’s the body’s first defense against disease and infection, and it protects your internal organs from injuries. It also helps regulate body temperature. With all those important functions, why do we constantly abuse it? Over time environmental exposure takes a toll on our skin’s elasticity. And overexposure to the sun causes wrinkles and skin pigmentation irregularities. Keep it supple and protected!
React positively to what happens to you
There are times when unpleasant and stressful things happen to all of us. It is impossible to escape this truth. However, you do not have to react angrily or become the victim. These reactions not only make you unpopular amongst others, but they raise your stress level to unhealthy highs. Being positive is a learned behavior, however, it is absolutely possible to react to issues in the “glass is half full” mode. Turn that obstacle into a win. Attitude is everything.
Color your hair
Okay, you may call me out on this bullet point. This is not a health tip and is completely cosmetic (but hey, I did not suggest botox and lipo). First let me say, there are many known reports of skin issues from hair dye. So use at your own risk! But it takes me back full circle to my mother. When she was 50 she thought about letting her hair go naturally grey. Then it was 60, then 70, and now she tells me if she is ever bedridden I better be sure to find a hairdresser to color her hair bedside! If we live long enough all of us will go grey. Personally, I do not buy into the “distinguished” look for myself. I have seen hints of mine growing in. It only makes me look and feel OLD. And finding that proverbial fountain is also about how we look at our reflection in the mirror.