5 Fun Ways to Stay Young and Healthy
Friends I know who seem to stay young naturally are playful and open to new, fun experiences. They like to explore their surroundings, take classes, meet new people of all ages, and try something different and surprising once in a while. Here are some ways you can add a sense of playfulness and fun to healthy activities that really do promote longevity.
1. Catch some rays.
Sunbathing can lift your spirit and provide some of the vitamin D that not only helps keep bones and muscles stronger, but can extend your life. Your best bet: Enjoy up to 20 minutes of sunbathing each day, exposing your forearms and face, at a minimum. (The more of your body you expose, the better. Just don’t stay out long enough to burn.) But also take a vitamin D3 supplement to assure you get all the vitamin D you need. Many experts recommend 1,000 to 5,000 IU a day to achieve optimum levels. It’s best to get your blood levels checked regularly to make sure you are taking enough.
2. Dance the night away.
The most consistent, enthusiastic exercisers are those who do activities they like, whether it’s dancing, hiking or aqua aerobics. Exercise has a strong, anti-aging effect on cells’ DNA. It influences telomeres, “caps” at the ends of DNA strands, kind of like the tips on shoelaces, which protect chromosomes from destruction. Telomeres shorten progressively over time, leading to cellular damage due to the inability of the cell to duplicate itself correctly. This causes cellular dysfunction, aging and eventually, death. Exercise slows down the shortening of telomeres. One study found that, for every hour of physical activity, you gain an hour of life. So enjoy that dance. Think of it as “free time!”
3. Sip some red wine.
Moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine, is linked to a longer life. Reason: a compound in red wine (and grapes) called resveratrol influences the genes that play a role in controlling your lifespan. Like light switches, these genes can be turned on and off. A study showed that resveratrol changes gene expression toward tissue maintenance, which has been found to extend life by cutting down on the degenerative diseases of aging. To avoid the downsides of daily alcohol consumption, drink no more than 1-2 drinks a day for men, 1 for women. Plus, take a resveratrol supplement that contains 200-400 mg of standardized resveratrol. That’s a sure way to get enough resveratrol to have an anti-aging impact.
4. Enjoy a bit of chocolate.
Dark chocolate is naturally full of healthy antioxidants, including flavanals, also found in green tea, red wine, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that eating small amounts of dark chocolate regularly reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. It improves blood flow to your brain. It may even significantly increase your genetically-determined lifespan. The darker the better, for flavor and health. Most commercially processed cocoa and chocolate products have little flavanol content, and not even all dark chocolate is rich in flavanols. Your best bet is to opt for organic dark chocolate with at least a 70% cocoa content. Avoid milk chocolate and “Dutch-processed” cocoa. If you don’t want the calories of chocolate, you can get flavanals (part of the polyphenol family of plant compounds) from fruit and berry powders and green tea extract. I like to have a small square of chocolate along with whatever berries or fruits are in season. It’s my one sweet of the day.
5. Have a tea ceremony.
Make green tea part of your daily ritual. Two large studies from Japan found that people who drank 5 or more cups of green tea a day were less likely to die, from any cause, than people who drank less than one cup. The biggest decrease was in heart disease, but green tea also provided protection from cancer. Green tea is loaded with antioxidants that protect your blood vessels and cells. It also contains a calming substance, L-theanine. Drink 3 cups a day of high quality green tea, or get its equivalent in an extract. Look for a decaffeinated, standardized extract providing 240-320 mg of EGCG, green tea’s most active ingredient. I drink my green tea from a beautiful Tamba woodfired Japanese cup. That makes it extra special.