Zoe Bingley-Pullin: My secrets to a long happy life
If you’re born in Australia this year, you can expect to live for 83.5 years. Lucky you, as you’ll statistically out-live the Swedes, French, Germans and Kiwi’s. Back in 1950 a person could expect to live for 68.7 years, so we’ve come a long way.
But living a long life is quite different to living a healthy, long life. Do you really want to live those extra years unwell and unhappy?
Play your health cards right and you can be living longer living stronger, disability-free until advanced old age. Remember genes are one factor but adopting good lifestyle practices are even more important in the quest to help you stay mentally and physically fit.
A life of fun and freedom – you deserve it!
Retirement; the golden years, should be spent enjoying your independence, travelling the world, quality time with family, lunching with friends and generally doing what you want to do. But to make this retirement dream a reality, first you need good health.
So, when’s a good time to start on optimising your older-age health? Some experts suggest 45 years, because decisions about lifestyles taken from that age will have a big impact on your health. In fact, you’re never too young to establish good habits so maybe put down that extra glass of wine or biscuit! Likewise, you’re never too old to start either.
Make it happen with just two simple strategies
The secret to living longer living better isn’t much of a secret really. It comes down to fitness and food.
#1 Let’s get physical!
Olivia Newton John was right. All it takes is just 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (brisk walking is fine). Unfortunately less than half the Australian population meet this guideline!
Moving your body can:
- Minimise loss of bone density
- Prevents weight around the belly
- Improve strength, balance and flexibility
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers
- Feel mentally stronger
- Faster recovery from illness, injury and surgery
#2 Feed your body + mind
You know this is the other crucial part. A healthy diet has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, bowel cancer and breast cancer. And if you needed any more reasons; reducing tooth decay, improved mental health, and the prevention of dementia!
It’s easy to eat well by:
- Increasing fruit and vegetable intake
- Reducing processed foods
- Opting for wholegrains rather than refined carbs
- Watching your portion sizes
- Lowing over consumption of alcohol
- Eating a wide variety of foods from all the food groups
- Cooking more, eating out less
- Ditching the vitamins and opting for real wholefoods
Living Longer Checklist: how well do you score?
Here’s my blueprint for how to live longer, and be healthier into old age. How many of these can you check off right now? What changes do you need to make?
- Don’t smoke! Smoking is enemy #1 for health. Try the Quit line for help.
- Move your body every day – no need for hard-core workouts, just plenty of gentle exercise is fine.
- Swap processed foods for wholefoods –the more ingredients and numbers on the label means the more processed it is. Don’t buy until you recognise every ingredient.
- Have a sense of purpose – a reason to get up in the morning can add 7 years to your life expectancy! Studies also show that engaging in spirituality or religion can help you live longer.
- Reduce stress – easier said than done, but techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga or taking naps will all help.
- Moderate your calorie intake – watch your portion sizes and don’t over eat. Enough said!
- Eat more plants – less meat, more plant-based foods, including beans, lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds is the answer.
- Have a tribe – we are social creatures so a strong social network and sense of involvement, whether in paid work, volunteer work or family contributions is a great way to feel valued.
- Moderate alcohol intake – limit to 1-2 glasses per day with some alcohol-free days.
- Keep up your fluids – how much water to do drink? You need 2-3 litres each day, so drink water or herbal tea as part of your daily routine.
- Work your mind - cognitive training and leisure activities improve intellectual function and delay dementia onset. Try crosswords, puzzles, a language, knitting, travel, music, computer skills, cooking – the possibilities are endless!
- Laugh – having a sense of humour will help you stay energetic and joyful.
- Get a health check - be proactive and see your doctor, dentist, optometrist and skin cancer clinic specialist annually.
- Look on the bright side – we all experience challenges but having a good perspective helps us cope better. Try to see the silver linings, practise gratitude, acknowledge your feelings but accept the things you can’t change.
- Present food beautifully – ‘plating up’ has become the norm. Watch a few cooking shows for inspo.
Spend time in nature – green therapy is now a thing, scientists have proven that our emotional and mental state can be improved by immersing ourselves