Living a long and healthy life is a goal for most people. Still, the path to mental and physical longevity can be confusing, especially with so much conflicting information out there. The truth is, there are practical steps that you can take to improve your chances of living a full and active life long into your golden years, and they aren't fad diets or strange new exercise crazes.
We tapped Pritikin Longevity Center's experts on fitness, nutrition, psychology, and medicine to find the best mental and physical longevity tips.
Meet the Expert
- Kristen Farrell Turner, Ph.D., is a psychologist at Pritikin Longevity Center.
- Lon Ben-Asher, MS, RD, LD/N, is a nutritionist at Pritikin Longevity Center.
- Carol Espel, MS, is the fitness director at Pritikin Longevity Center.
- Danine Fruge, MD, ABFP, is the medical director at Pritikin Longevity Center.
Psychological Hacks for Physical and Mental Longevity
Kristen Farrell Turner, Ph.D., a psychologist at Pritikin Longevity Center, provides psychological tips for improving your physical and mental longevity, emphasizing prioritizing what matters to you and then making a plan for success. Here are her tips:
- Live according to your values: Make decisions about food, money, time, relationships, work—and prioritize certain things over others according to what is important to you in your life.
- Let emotions inform you, not rule you: Emotions are a valuable source of information. Therefore, mindfully incorporate your emotions into your decisions; do not mindlessly react to them.
- Set up your environment for success: Do not bring food such as sweets into your house that you have decided to limit or eliminate. Put that Peloton right in front of the TV. Leave notes for yourself (e.g., “I don’t need ice cream to de-stress. Take a few breaths and go for a walk!”) wherever there is tempting food in your house. Make it easier for yourself to make the changes you desire.
Nutrition Tips for Physical and Mental Longevity
"It is well known that following a healthy lifestyle is key to increasing our longevity and lifespan. In particular, what we put into our bodies gives us the best opportunity to improve or maintain our quality of life as we continue to get older," says Ben-Asher. Here are his top nutrition tips.
- Minimally processed foods that are plant-based or plant-predominant. "This diet has been shown to be the most effective in preventing disease and promoting health. It is recommended to include more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and unrefined carbohydrates, beans, lentils, legumes, and incorporate lean protein sources such as fish," says Ben-Asher.
- Significantly reduce if not eliminate highly processed, packaged foods, sugar-sweetened desserts and beverages, refined flours, and other nutrient-poor convenience foods found at fast-food restaurants, as well as high fat sodium processed meats and red meat consumption.
"The standard American diet continues to be a huge culprit in the ever-growing prevalence of obesity and chronic disease conditions. We should avoid consuming foods that provide very little nutritional value but provide a significant amount of calories and excess sodium," advises Ben-Asher.
The majority of minimally processed food sources are very nutrient-dense, have a high fiber and water content, are generally low in sodium naturally, and provide the greatest amount of satiety which keeps us full and staves off hunger. But, unfortunately, this is not the way many people choose to eat.
Fitness Tips for Longevity
Carol Espel, MS, the fitness director at Pritikin Longevity Center, explains that exercise benefits are far-reaching, including "better heart and respiratory function, better weight maintenance, bone health, and so much more." Here are her top tips.
- Regular exercise is strongly linked to longevity and better health outcomes. So whatever type of movement you choose, make sure you enjoy it to participate in it regularly.
- Meditation: "The science behind stress and meditation is real. Our guests at Pritikin report that the meditation techniques they learn from our instructors are beneficial even in as little as three to five minutes. It isn’t hard. Like anything, it takes a bit of practice," she says.
"The power of simple, regular breathing techniques has been shown to improve sleep and stress," Espel adds. Getting a handle on your sleep routine and stress levels is vital for your health and longevity.
More Longevity Tips
Pritikin's medical director, Danine Fruge, MD, ABFP, provides four practical tips for physical and mental longevity backed by scientific research.
- Find your spiritual connection and serve your fellow man, which longevity research shows can add 14 years to your life.
- Redefining your sense of purpose at different times in life can add 6 years to your life.
- Leave the table light: The healthiest populations do not overfill their stomach and do not eat when they’re not hungry.
- Enjoy movement, especially in nature, as often as you can. Even short breaks to stretch or stroll can be a powerful benefit for your long-term health.
Striving for longevity is a worthy goal, and as you can tell, it doesn't take a complete turnaround of your current lifestyle. Don't stress if you aren't practicing these tips just yet. Build slowly, adapting the practical tips from longevity experts—move your body, connect with others, fill up on nutrient-dense, whole foods, and find a deeper connection to your inner self through spirituality, meditation, or helping others. Then, start where you are now and build upon those healthy habits; after all, you have your whole life ahead of you.