If you’re eager to find the secret to a long and healthy life, relax. You already know what to do.Eat fruits and vegetables, regularly and lots.
Exercise both body and mind. Do everything in moderation And enjoy. Happy people live better and longer. These take-home messages flow not only from your mother, but from five professionals who have devoted their careers to health, well-being and longevity. Here is a sampling of their pearls:
There’s no need to run marathons or ride a bike from here to Austin to stay in good shape, says physical therapist Bill Case. Instead, walk vigorously for 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week. And exercise a minimum of 10 minutes each day to build strength and improve balance, flexibility and posture.
(Exercise when you can. Case likes the stork stand for balance. “Do it when you’re standing in line at the grocery store,” he says. “Pick up one foot, and slightly bend the leg you’re standing on. It will stimulate your ankle, knee and hip joints”).
Judicious amounts of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, and wine and beer can have beneficial health effects, says Penny Wilson, a dietitian at the Ironman Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. But don’t go overboard, says Wilson, who suggests women limit themselves to one alcoholic drink per day and men limit themselves to two.
Wilson has encouragement for the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese - and are intimidated by the prospect of dieting. “Even a 10 percent weight loss can reduce the chance of getting diabetes and lower cholesterol levels,” she says. “I had one overweight client who lost just 10 pounds and he came in one day so excited because his knees quit hurting. Little steps, little losses, can result in big gains.”
Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, says Dr. John Cianca, medical director of the Chevron Houston Marathon. It’s important for bone health.
The axiom is true: You are what you eat. Cianca adds: Take in what your body needs, no more, no less.
While most Americans don’t exercise enough, some exercise too much. “Recognize your boundaries,” Cianca says. “Some people are not built to do certain things. And, as you get older, you can’t do the same things at the samel level.”
And one more thing, he says. If you are running a marathon or engaging in some other extreme sports event, let your body rest afterward.
“Don’t run a marathon one day and do 10 miles the next. Take it easy. Make up the calories and fluids. And get additional sleep.”
“Bats are even longer-lived,” Austad says. “They live into their 30s and 40s in the wild, and they manage to preserve their muscle strength, agility, hearing and memory. They fly 50 to 100 miles a night, and they have to find their way back home again. We’re hoping to discover the biological tricks they use to stay young, then use them to improve our own health.”
None of this is ready for prime time, he says. “Until then, we’re stuck with doing everything our parents told us.”