Adopting a healthy lifestyle in your 20’s and 30’s is the foundation for aging well and living longer, but it’s never too late to start. In addition to not smoking, refraining from excessive alcohol use, and using sunscreen, a healthy lifestyle includes three key components: healthy eating habits, regular exercise and stress management. While there’s no magic secret for living to 100, it is never too early to plan for longevity.
Start with Healthy Meals
Wellness experts recommend a mostly plant-based diet comprised of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. If the thought of giving up some of your favorite foods sounds hard, it doesn’t have to be. Make small, easy changes at first and work up to the bigger ones. For example, don’t quit eating meat cold turkey, but rather make a small change, like instituting Meatless Monday, and go from there.
Tracking meals is another way to encourage healthy eating habits. Keep a food journal and log what you eat each day. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you notice your eating patterns when you’re writing them down. This will help you identify healthy habits and habits you may need to eliminate. Other healthy eating habits include:
- Increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates are typically high in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Most vegetables are complex carbohydrates, so at lunch and dinner, try to make at least half your plate full of vegetables.
- Avoiding processed foods: Processed foods can be tasty, but they are often high in calories with little nutritional value. If you find yourself reaching into the kitchen pantry for a processed snack, drink a big glass of water or reach for an apple or celery sticks with nut butter instead to satisfy your craving.
- Eating more whole grains: If it’s white, don’t bite! Avoid white breads and opt for more nutritious brown, whole grain breads instead. Other whole grains include brown rice, quinoa and barley.
- Opting for more frequent, smaller meals: Instead of eating three large meals several hours apart, try to eat five to six small meals comprised of protein and complex carbohydrates every 2-3 hours. You’ll notice you don’t feel ravenous between meals, and therefore, are less likely to overeat at meal time.
- Preparing foods at home: While everyone loves eating out, preparing food at home is usually the healthier option. When you cook at home, you know exactly what’s in your meal and are less likely to overindulge. If you have to eat out, stay away from the free bread or chips and opt for a green salad instead.
Aging well is all about prevention. Regular strength training and balance exercises can help prevent loss of bone density and skeletal muscle mass. While it’s recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, even a modest increase in exercise from a sedentary lifestyle can have a positive impact on your health. There’s a huge variety in exercise regimens. Figure out what’s right for you and work your way up to harder exercises.
A strong core is key to maintaining muscle mass and bone density. You can maintain your core strength through yoga, pilates and weight-bearing exercises. Women, especially, should do exercises to strengthen their core and overall muscle mass since women are at a higher risk of bone density loss after menopause.
Here are some other tips wellness experts recommend for exercising to age well:
- Aerobic Exercise: Cardio exercise burns calories and helps maintain a healthy weight, which can lower your risk of heart disease and other illnesses. Getting your heart rate up doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. If you’re just starting an exercise routine, walking is a great low-impact way to raise your heart rate.
- Skip the Gym: You might be scratching your head at this one, but staying fit at fifty and older doesn’t mean you have to log hours at the gym. Take a walk around the neighborhood, rake leaves in the back yard for thirty minutes, or even do push ups while watching your favorite show. These all are great ways to get fit without doing a strenuous workout. There are many easy to use apps as well that can provide exercise routines to do at home.
- Find a Workout Buddy: You’re more likely to work out when you have a partner to hold you accountable. Plus, exercising with a friend can be more fun.
Manage Everyday Stress
Chronic stress can have a negative impact on our health. As we age, we can experience real emotional trauma, like financial setbacks, illness and loss. Exercise is one proven way to effectively deal with stress. Aside from physical activity, meditation is a great way to manage stress. Now, there are many apps that offer guided and non-guided meditations, so you can literally do it anywhere. Other people may find that volunteering or other acts of service alleviates stress. Or simply being around other people may relieve stress.
Managing stress is a lifelong process. Everyone responds to stress differently, so it is important to try a variety of stress management techniques and figure out what works best for you.
See a Wellness Expert
PartnerMD offers wellness experts, who will take the time to find out where you are physically and recommend a personal wellness plan. With PartnerMD’s proactive approach to health and wellness, you’ll be well on your way to live to 100!