There are four lifestyle factors that are proven to determine your weight, posture, overall health, and the ability to feel joy often.
The four lifestyle factors that will improve your daily quality of life are:
- anti-inflammatory diet
- abundant, deep sleep
- strategic physical activity
- positive thinking
A Body of Research
Medical scientists are concerned that today’s children in the US might be the first generation expected to live shorter lifespans than previous generations.
Autoimmune diseases – such as Alzheimer’s, MS, osteoporosis, and diabetes – have become the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. The CDC reports that 100 million Americans now have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Tom O’Bryan, author of The Autoimmune Fix, explains that millions of people suffer from autoimmunity but don’t realize it.
Autoimmune often begins with weight gain, brain fog, mood problems, skin irritations, and fatigue – but can sometimes take decades for a distinct diagnosis to arise.
O’Bryan asserts that autoimmunity is actually a spectrum, and many people experiencing general malaise are already on it.
The good news is that many autoimmune conditions can be reversed through a series of lifestyle upgrades.
For example, many who remove sugar, grains, and dairy from their daily diet experience a dramatic improving of symptoms.
Health advocate Chris Kresser reports that 1 in 2 Americans has a chronic disease.
“Our only hope,” explains Kresser, “is to figure out a way to reverse disease instead of just suppressing symptoms. We know now that 85% of the risk of disease comes down to environmental or behavioral factors. That means only 15% of disease risk is genetically driven.”
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What follows are those lifestyle factors that have the greatest impact on reducing the risk of accelerated aging and disease. If you want to dig even deeper into the science behind these recommended lifestyle factors, see the additional sources listed below this article.
1. Begin an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
“Human beings evolved in an environment of food scarcity,” states Kessler. “We are hard-wired to seek out foods that are calorie-dense, and to seek out ‘rewarding’ foods that make you want to keep eating that food. Stocking up on calories would allow us to survive a period of famine in our ancestral environment, but set us up for failure in this modern era.”
Consumption of products the body finds irritating can create inflammation – a scenario in which a body becomes hyper-vigilant and starts attacking healthy tissues mistakenly.
An anti-inflammatory diet is a strategic course of daily eating that reduces ingestion of irritating foods.
For example, in an ideal era, gluten is a protein that would typically be tolerable for most people – but because modern lifestyles are problematic for the human body overall, many have compromised immune systems and consequently gluten is becoming a further irritant to many.
Additionally, grains and flours contain lectins – the irritants plants create to discourage insects and other predators – that can antagonize an intestine’s lining and microbiome in bodies with an already fatigued immune system.
Eat more real food.
It’s beneficial to eat more grass-fed meats and vegetables, while simultaneously eating less processed or refined store products that come in bags, wrappers, and cans.
Just about any body composition problem you have is a diet problem, not a training problem.” –– Chris Shugart
Additionally, it’s a good idea to start thinking of your gut as a garden in which you grow good things and keep out the pests.
“The purpose of the gut is to serve as a selective barrier that determines what gets in and what stays out,” explains Kresser. “Everything we eat is either absorbed or eliminated as waste, and if the barrier becomes permeable in a non-selective way – meaning it loses the ability to make appropriate decisions about what gets in and out – then food proteins that would otherwise be benign, instead get absorbed as large particles before they’ve had a chance to breakdown to smaller particles, and that can wreak havoc.”
TIP: Some fiber has a mechanical effect of pushing waste matter through the bowels in a timely way, however other fiber can be can also be used as food by our beneficial gut bacteria. Vegetables are a source of fiber, but be sure to also include some fermented foods and resistant starches.
TIP: For resistant starch, I puree sweet potatoes once a week and store them in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator. Cooling a starch after cooking is what helps make it “resistant” and helpful to your gut.
Resistant starch won’t breakdown and absorb to become glucose. It’s a way to feed your good bacteria without experiencing a blood-sugar spike. I eat a few tablespoons of this each day. It tastes fine, but I don’t think of it as food – I think of it as medicine.
Nutrition is a modifiable habit and an anti-inflammatory diet is a lifestyle factor that impacts wellness.
Dane earned a masters degree in Counseling Depth Psychology from Pacific Graduate Institute. His past professional adventures include being a Therapist and Discharge Planner at a Dual-Diagnosis Hospital Inpatient Treatment Program, Digital Marketing Director for a real estate brokerage and decades spent as a professional fitness and Pilates trainer. Today, Dane is a Relationship and Healthy-Lifestyle Advocate and he curates the Quality of Life Newsletter – a weekly update for creative types who want to increase their daily joy.
2. Sleep More Deeply Each Night
One-third of Americans are averaging less than 6 hours sleep a night, which – in turn – impacts their hormone production, brain chemistry, willpower, and the ability to feel satiated.
“You could easily be missing out on a half-hour of sleep regularly and not realize it,” explains Sleep Researcher Dan Pardi. “When I first started to track my own sleep, I had been telling everyone I was getting 8 hours a night. Turns out – after I measured it for two months – I was getting 7.”
Sleep is a dynamic and complex process. Our brains and bodies move between sleep-stages during the night. Each stage – and the transitions between stages – has a purpose, such as memory formation, hormone release, and immune system calibration.
Set a firm intention to sleep better each night.
Many find it helpful to start simply by deciding on a fixed bedtime.
Keep in mind that the human brain behaves more impulsively at nighttime, and it’s easy to keep stretching 30 minutes past your bedtime.
Knowing ahead of time that you’ll be tempted to stay up past your bedtime will make it easier to recognize when you’re about to do it and to put a stop to it.
Some also find it helpful to use a sleep-tracking app, such as Sleep Cycle.
Keep in mind that some people with adrenal challenges (and there are many of us) experience evenings in which we are at first tired, however, if we miss that first sleepy-window our bodies move from tired to “wired” and then it becomes harder to fall asleep quickly and deeply. Try not to miss your first “sleepy window.”
There are specialized cells within the human eye that receive information about light and then communicate with the “master clock” inside the brain that lets other parts of the body know what time of day it is.
While for most of human history our bodies were naturally calibrated with waking at sunrise and settling-down at sunset, today we’re not exposed to enough bright light during the day, and exposed too much to artificial light in the evening. “Desynchronized circadian rhythms can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancers, metabolic impairments, and system-wide, totally pervasive issues,” reports Pardi.
Possible solutions include:
- blackout curtains
- light-blocking sleep eye-masks
- beeswax ear plugs
- removing stimulants from the daily diet
- getting outdoors each day for fresh air and sunlight
- removing electronic devices from the bedroom
- amber-colored light bulbs for nightstand lamps
- installing the Flux app on your laptop computer
The timing, intensity, and duration of sleep are all modifiable habits – and sleeping well consistently is a lifestyle factor that impacts wellness.
3. Move Your Body in Specific Ways More Often
A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology established that how students rated themselves on their future careers depended on the posture they kept when they wrote the positive or negative traits.
Students in the upright, confident position trusted their own thoughts, while students told to sit in poor, slouchy posture did not trust their own thoughts.
Aligned Posture Helps You Appear Confident and Competent
Experiments within the study also revealed that sitting in a collapsed, helpless position makes it easier for negative thoughts and memories to appear within a person’s mind – while sitting in an upright, powerful position makes it easier to have empowering thoughts and memories.
When researchers cross-referenced time seated with health outcomes, they found that those people who sat the most doubled their risk of developing diabetes and had a 147% increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease. Another study in Australia establishes that, after age 25, each hour slouched watching tv decreases a viewer’s life expectancy by almost 22 minutes.Slouch no more! Aligned Posture = chest/shoulder mobility + strong posterior muscle chainClick To Tweet
For four years I had a job that involved sitting at a computer for 50 to 60 hours a week. It did terrible things to my spine.
It even influenced my ability to digest food properly.
At the end, I was left with a kyphotic “hump” at the top of my spine.
When someone showed me a candid photo of myself in profile that they had snapped, I was distressed to see how terrible my posture had become.
Fortunately, I was motivated from that point forward to work more sensible hours.
I also sold on Craigslist the designer chair I had been sitting in those 4 years. I got a standing desk instead, and began attending pilates and yoga classes each week.
Perhaps what helped most was improving the mobility of my chest and shoulders while simultaneously strengthening the muscles of my posterior chain – such as my rear deltoids, rhomboids, and lower back muscles.
If you’re hoping to sculpt your physique into a new and improved silhouette by creating a more aligned posture, reducing adipose tissue, and developing muscle tissue in key areas, it might help you to know some of the latest research in hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy is the act of creating muscle tissue within the body.
Unfortunately, sometimes hypertrophy and longevity work against each other.
In other words, what’s good for sculpting muscle in your body might not be good for your overall healthspan.
This is why it’s important to understand the unique needs of your own body instead of always relying on formulas based on nutritional averages for the general population.
Changing Your Body Composition
It can be helpful to remember that muscles are more sensitized to protein intake after exercise.
The first two hours after your workout are the most sensitive, so you’ll want to consume quality protein within that timeframe. (If you had a large pre-workout meal, then post-workout protein is less crucial – as that earlier protein is likely still available to your body.)
Keep in mind that excess protein can covert to glucose within the body, so to avoid detrimental blood-sugar spikes you need to find that right amount of protein that fits your body uniquely best – not too much, but not too little.
Hypertrophy specialist Dr. Brad Schoenfeld reports that “research gives you guidelines but it’s not going to tell you exactly what to do. There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter prescription that’s going to work for everyone.”
For many people 20 grams of quality protein post-workout is plenty to support muscle tissue and overall health. However, someone with light body weight and a different metabolism and activity level might require less, while a 6-foot tall professional athlete might benefit my having more – even as much as 50 grams of protein post-workout.
Seeing your medical doctor every 6 months for standard blood lab work can help guide your nutritional decisions.
For example, if your fasting glucose number is low and your kidney markers are in normal ranges, that could be an indication that you’re on the right track. Ask your doctor.
Can you actually add lean muscle without adding fat at the same time?
“It’s absolutely possible to “recompense” – to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, especially for overweight people new to training. It’s more difficult for experienced athletes, and generally you’re not going to maximize muscle gains unless your gaining some small degree of fat simultaneously.”
This is why bodybuilders are often either on a “bulking regimen” or a “cutting regimen.”
The more years an athlete trains, the better understanding he or she acquires of their body – and they often begin to develop a “sense” of how to increase caloric intake enough to add lean muscle to their bodies without adding too much fat at the same time. Even so, counting calories and tracking macros can prove extremely helpful.
Women sometimes think that they don’t want any added muscle; they believe they just want to lose fat. However, in the absence of fat, it’s muscle that gives the body shape and makes the skin taut. There are plenty of women who are “skinny fat,” meaning that while their body-fat percentage is technically low, their heart, lungs, skeletal system and musculature might be weak and even unhealthy. It’s important to make resistance-training a part of any self-care regimen, particularly after the age of 50.
Researchers have established that exercising smartly can lengthen the number of years you are able to live in good health – in other words, working out improves your healthspan.Can you actually add lean muscle without adding fat at the same time?Click To Tweet
By testing the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during a workout, scientists have established that cardiovascular health, endurance, balance, muscle strength, nerve conduction and reflexes all improve with exercise.
In one recent human-physiology study at King’s College London, 125 middle-aged people who like to bicycle were tested and their results were far superior to that reported for the general older population and well within the norm reported for healthy young adults.
Remember, a longer healthspan means aging with the fewest number of impairments and the least deterioration of functioning. Consistent, strategic exercise makes that possible. It also helps improve your posture.
Maintaining proper spinal alignment, strength, and flexibility is a modifiable habit and good posture is a lifestyle factor that impacts wellness.
4. Think Positive Thoughts Daily
A growing, scientifically valid body of research is showing that optimistic people are generally better off in life than pessimists:
- For people over the age of 50, every 10-point increase in a person’s score on an optimism scale results in a 19% reduced risk of early death.
- Johns Hopkins scientists have established that cheerful people with a family history of heart disease are one-third less likely to have a heart attack than those who have a negative outlook on life.
- UCSF researchers were able to prove that people with immunodeficiency disease who practiced positive thinking carried a lower load of virus than those who think negatively.
- A Denmark hospital study concluded that those patients whose moods were overall more positive were 58% more likely to live at least another five years.
- The Yale School of Public Health demonstrated in their large-scale study that having a positive viewpoint produces a beneficial influence on health outcomes and longevity.
Negative thoughts are often repetitive – they are variations of similar thoughts you’ve had many times before.
You can learn how to pivot.
Pivoting is a conscious mental process in which you objectively witness yourself having a negative thought and then replace it with a positive one.
It takes a bit of practice, but you will get better at pivoting over time if you maintain a clear and focused desire to become a person with a brighter, more positive outlook on daily life.
Lifestyle factors are changeable patterns of behavior and ways of living that can significantly influence wellness.
Each of the above four lifestyle factors can improve how you feel, the posture of your spine and how you appear to others, and – perhaps most importantly – the length of your healthy lifespan.
Combine all four of these lifestyle factors for maximum impact.
Falling Behind: Lifespan in US Counties Put Into International Context – https://pophealthmetrics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1478-7954-9-16
Doctors Weighs In on Grain Consumption – https://www.amymyersmd.com/2017/06/the-problem-with-grains-and-legumes/
John Hopkins Medical Researchers Say Positive Thinking Means Better Health – https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_mind/the-power-of-positive-thinking
Joe Rogan Experience Podcast with Chris Kessler – http://podcasts.joerogan.net/podcasts/chris-kresser
Scientists Establish that Positive Thinking Improves Health – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/well/live/positive-thinking-may-improve-health-and-extend-life.html
Chris Kessler and the Revolution to Reinvent Healthcare –https://unconventionalmedicinebook.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Kresser-book-unconventional-medicine-free-preview-chapters.pdf
Sleep and Aging – http://blog.dansplan.com/the-state-of-the-art-in-sleep-and-aging-guest-bryce-mander-ph-d-uc-berkeley/
Results from Journal of Physiology Studies on Exercise and Healthspan – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/01/09/exercise-improves-your-healthspan-but-why-that-is-remains-a-mystery/?utm_term=.b3a78cc40f57
The Current Science Behind Happiness – http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/positive-thinking/
Circadian Biology and Human Behavior Around Sleep Patterns – https://www.amymyersmd.com/2013/06/tmw-episode-10-sleep-expert-dan-pardi/
Proven Strategies for Hypertrophy – http://daily.barbellshrugged.com/schoenfeld/
Why Diet Improvements are a Tough Pill to Swallow – https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/tip-an-inconvenient-truth-about-your-diet
Established Connections Between Mood and Posture – https://www.fastcompany.com/3041688/the-surprising-and-powerful-links-between-posture-and-mood