How old are you, really? Are you in your 60s and have the health of a marathon runner? Did you just turn 25, but feel more like a bed-bound 80-year-old pensioner?
Forget about the pesky number on your birthday cake for a moment. That’s only your chronological age. How do you feel inside? Your biological age can be older or younger than your chronological age depending on a variety of factors such as how well we eat, the amount and type of exercise we take and how effectively we deal with stressors.
These are our top tips to become healthier, happier and biologically younger.
Up your Weights-to-Cardio Ratio
To maintain a healthy and youthful body composition it is essential to incorporate heavier weight training into our exercise routines. Try to do two or three weights sessions for every cardio session. Lifting heavier weights for fewer repetitions makes muscles grow, fires up our metabolism and increases the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which helps you retain bone-building calcium and fat-burning muscle as you age.
HIIT and Cardio Sessions
Research has shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) slows cellular ageing while enhancing lung, heart and circulation health to keep your body young. Cardio sessions like spin classes, sprints or CrossFit classes will keep your weight down and strengthen your heart and lungs.
Stretch, stretch, stretch
Incorporating yoga and other dynamic flexibility training styles like animal flow in your workout routine is great to keep your hips and joints open. We spend 8 hours or more of our day sitting in a desk which is deemed to increase our biological age by eight years.
And, given that not everybody has the ideal home office set up, taking regular breaks to move and stretch is essential in order to nama-stay young.
Walk it out
The lockdown made everyone excited about walks, even homebodies. 30-minute walks for a minimum of five days a week is a gentle form of exercise that packs a powerful punch! Steady state cardio of this kind is a potent fat burner, is gentle on the joints, dramatically contributes to boosting metabolism and reduces toxic, inflammation-producing, visceral fat that sits around our belly – and also surrounds our internal organs.
Moderation is the key to life
According to Brigham Young University, 40 minutes of exercise five days a week suffice to cut your biological age by nine years. However, moderate exercise is fine for lowering blood pressure.
Eat plants and antioxidants
The World Health Organisation, Harvard Medical School, The British Medical Association, and The Complementary Medical Association all agree that eating a plant-based whole food diet is the best way of ensuring our health in general – disease resistance, and maintenance of a desirable body composition, with a healthy ratio of fat to muscle. Also, keep in mind that dark green leafy veg and colourful fruit (especially berries) are high in antioxidants and promote longevity. Aim for half a plate of non-starchy vegetables per meal.
Not all fats are created equal
Good fats like omega-3 fatty acids you get from oily fish, olive oil, raw nuts, seeds and avocado get broken down into anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body, which help keep your cells young.
Europeans do it better
Research suggests that changing to a Mediterranean-style diet, even later in life, brings a 25% reduction in all-cause mortality and helps ward off dementia and memory loss.
Adequate hydration is key to looking and feeling great – it is also vital for the optimum function of your brain. If we are even slightly dehydrated our cognitive function really takes a hit – making us functionally ‘older’ than our years. Cut out caffeine and drink pure water.
Sleep Yourself Younger
Get a good night’s sleep – and yes, we’re talking the full 8 hours. Now that most of us work from home, we may feel we can go to bed at 3am and wake up at 8:59am. No commute, no grooming. Why not, right? Well, there are a few reason why you shouldn’t do it.
Set your alarm clock at the same time every morning. This will eventually reset your body clock if you’ve been experiencing insomnia or other sleep difficulties. Various studies suggest that sleep deprivation elevates inflammatory markers associated with hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, while sleeping less than 5 hours a night ages your heart by 5.1 years. Missing out on sleep affects our decision making, temper and health. People who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to chronic disease due to gaining toxic visceral fat.
You also need to consider your sleeping environment. Sleeping in total darkness helps your body and brain rest and repair themselves properly. Adequate sleep also establishes healthy hormonal balance. Avoid using screens of any sort for an hour before bedtime as they emit a blue light that stops the production of melatonin, a hormone that controls sleep cycle.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Stress is the enemy of longevity. Becoming resilient to stress is crucial and responding to stressors poorly easily adds over ten years to your biological age. How often use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’? That’s a good indication of your stress levels. Thinking in extremes and absolutes is a sign of stress.
One of the most potent age-rewind techniques that has been proven to make us measurably younger is a form of meditation called the ‘Relaxation Response’. Have you heard of mind dump? Keeping a daily journal and writing all your thoughts and worries down can help you process your emotions more easily.
In pursuit of happiness
The power of happiness cannot be overestimated when it comes to getting biologically younger. You can actually ‘rewire’ your brain to increase your own capacity for happiness by creating a gratitude practice. We talked about putting the negativity on paper, but what about all the good things you should focus on? Before bedtime note down five things you are grateful for that happened during that day. Really put colour into them. Describe how they made you feel, what was so wonderful about them and more. The more you practise, this happier you get!
Nature’s the answer
Getting out into nature improves our health on all levels. Physically, it is best for us to exercise in natural surroundings, emotionally, being in nature makes us happier, and it also helps us to foster a spiritual connection with our natural environment. All of this contributes dramatically to becoming biologically younger.
Mindset is 95%
Potentially, over 95% of what we believe about ageing is responsible for how we age. Psycho-neurological research shows that our bodies and brains believe everything that we tell them and respond accordingly. All the practices mentioned above will dramatically contribute to a more positive mindset. Do whatever it takes to cultivate kindness towards yourself – particularly with the language you silently use. If your message to yourself is that you are worthy, loved, happy, fit, well and youthful, your body will respond in kind, to reflect exactly that.
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