Recently I came across an article titled ‘Graying of America’ in the New York Times. The article indicates that, “by 2050, 83.7 million Americans will be 65 or older, compared with 43.1 million in 2012, the report said. Fewer than 10 percent were older than 65 in 1970.” Another statistic often thrown around is that 10,000 people a day are turning 65 years of age. So our society is aging and it got me thinking: whether you’re 65 and older or a 22 year old recent grad living on your own—what are the ‘essentials’ for living a longer, better life?
About seven years back, I gave a presentation at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA entitled “The 12 Principles for Longevity: The Intelligent Guide to Living Well.” I pulled together the ‘Principles’ over the course of a year from my various clients and professional experiences. For you, the reader, if you put just ONE tip from the list into practice in your day-to-day life—if you shed light on a single risk factor in your family history that you haven’t paid much attention to—then this list was worth reviewing. So, I present to you…
The 12 Principles for Longevity: The Intelligent Guide to Living Well
Principle 1 – Move with Fluidity: Improve Movement
Quick Tip: The Joint by Joint Theory has become very popular in exercise program design. For example, if you have knee pain look at the flexibility and strength in the joints above and below the area of pain, i.e. ankle and hip joints.
Principle 2 – ‘Heart Felt’ Strategies: Cardiovascular System Function
Quick Tip: Interval-based training has become a popular approach to improving heart and lung function due to research demonstrating the benefits of such training for almost any age group. An example of an interval workout is 1 minute of work followed by 2 minutes of active recovery (i.e. walking).
Principle 3 – ‘Brain Health’: Building a Buff Brain
Quick Tip: Multi-tasking exercises such as lunging with biceps curl to excite your central and peripheral nervous systems. Additionally, activating large muscle groups like legs and core push large amounts of oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to all parts of the body including the brain.
Principle 4 – Get Moving: Front Line of Prevention
Quick Tip: Physical activity is a modifiable risk factor. Many chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease can be prevented or managed through basic movement including walking, running and biking.
Principle 5 – A Strong Foundation: Build Your Body Inside/Out
Quick Tip: ‘Core training’ as it’s often called build strengths in the torso and surrounding muscles. These muscles are involved in rotation, extension, and flexion. Static positions such as sitting upright use core muscles. Planks and medicine ball rotations are common core strengthening exercises. Deep breathing is a great exercise to practice which can build the strength of the muscles involved in respiration.
Principle 6 – Intangibles We Don’t Think About: Social/Communal
Quick Tip: Find people with common interests and get involved! Building bonds with others creates a sense of belonging and an ownership in something other than you. Give yourself over to something greater than just you and it will come back tenfold!
Principle 7 – Nutrition
Quick Tip: Eat breakfast, drink water and have your largest meals earlier in the day.
Principle 8 – Sleep
Quick Tip: Before going to sleep at night let your eyes ‘rest’ by shutting down surrounding stimulus. For example, don’t stare at your smart phone before bed.
Principle 9 – Manage Those Risk Factors
Quick Tip: Risk factors can be divided into modifiable and non-modifiable. Factors you can modify include physical activity, nutrition, cholesterol, etc. Non-modifiable include age, gender, family history, etc. Family history is of particular importance, thus make sure you know your family history.
Principle 10 – Healthcare
Quick Tip: Thousands of blog posts have been written on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Healthcare Reform. To keep yourself informed, learn about terms such as Health Savings Accounts, Accountable Care Organizations/Narrow Network Health Plans, Consumer Directed Health Plans (CDHPs) and other related terms. Quality of patient care is being measured more closely by healthcare systems.
Principle 11 – ‘Fiscal Health’: Enjoying the Fruits of your Labor
Quick Tip: In a recent survey by Insurance.net, healthcare expenses are the #1 concern for retirees. Employee healthcare expenses are the #2 line item expense for most companies. Individuals and companies need to save and invest smartly for retirement and growth. Control your health expenses through healthy living and preventative screenings. Balance out your fiscal health by consulting with an experienced financial professional or similar service offered at your company. You see a doctor for your health; why wouldn’t you see a financial professional for your fiscal health?
Principle 12 – Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): Welcome to Mainstream Medicine
Comment: CAM can no longer be called ‘alternative.’ Acupuncture, meditation, massage and related techniques for managing and preventing illness have become part of contemporary medical interventions. Controlling stress, for example, has a direct connection to lowering the inflammatory response thus lowering risk of developing cardiovascular-based conditions.
In closing, after reviewing the Principles Checklist, determine which ones you need to spend more time on. We all have areas of our lives where we can better our health. Take it with one principle at a time!
WILLIAM SMITH, MS, NSCA, CSCS, MEPD, completed his B.S. in exercise science at Western Michigan University followed by a master’s degree in education and a post-graduate program at Rutgers University. In 1993, Will began coaching triathletes and working with athletes and post-rehab clientele. He was a Division I Collegiate Strength Coach and has been competing in triathlons and marathons since 1998, finishing 7 marathons and 1/2 Ironman. Will currently works for the #1 Ranked Hospital developing Employer-Based Health and Wellness Programs for Companies, specializing in installing On-Site Medical and Health Suites to assist in lowering employee healthcare costs. Will has advanced specialty certifications in cancer, post-rehab exercise and athletic development. Will has also co-authored the definitive guide to triathlon training, Tri Power. He is also the author of several books in the popular Exercises For series including Exercises for Heart Health, Exercises for Back Pain, Exercises for Brain Health, and many others.