Five Surprising Ways To Live Longer

If we get down to the nitty gritty… we all want to live a longer life. So, how do we do that? A 2018 study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular exercise, not smoking and keeping alcohol to a minimum could add over 10-years to your life. This isn’t hugely surprising and we’re all trying our best with the above, but what else can you be doing? 

One of the best ways to find out how we can prolong life is to study the places where people live the longest, these are called the world’s ‘Blue Zones’ and include Sardinia, Loma Linda in California, the isolated Greek Island of Ikaria, Nicoya in Costa Rica and Okinawa in Japan. Fit Squad DXB personal trainer and nutrition coach Devinder Bains explores what we can learn from the people in the Blue Zones… 

Increase your carbs

The people of the Japanese Islands have less cancer, heart disease and dementia, and women there live longer than any women on the planet. For every 100,000 inhabitants, Okinawa has 68 centenarians – more than three times the numbers found in US populations of the same size. And this could be down to a carb-rich diet that consists largely of sweet potato, as well as green and yellow vegetables, but very small amounts of meat and fish in comparison. This supports a study of 15,000 people by Harvard Medical School in Boston that found low-carb diets (fewer than 40 percent of calories from carbohydrates) were associated with an increased risk of premature death, with consumption of 50 to 55% of calories coming from carbs being the ideal option. It’s worth noting that the study found very high carb diets weren’t advisable either (over 70% of calories) and of course, remember to choose healthy, unrefined carbs over sugary, processed foods such as cakes and biscuits.

Have a laugh

The men of Sardinia, who are some of the longest living in the world, are famous for their witty humour and regular afternoon group outings to mock and laugh at each other. The men, who live and continue to work well into their nineties, often doing physical jobs like goat herding put an emphasis on ending the day with friends and ‘having a laugh’. Laughter promotes positive mental health, lowers the stress hormone cortisol, triggers the release of endorphins and increases blood flow – all factors that can help prolong life.

…And a glass of wine

Add a glass of red wine to all that laughing. Or rather, two small glasses of Cannonau wine a day, as the Sardinian men do, and you could be extending your life even longer. Cannonau is made from a special grape variety in Sardinia generally known as Grenache and seems to have the highest levels of polyphenols (antioxidants linked to heart health) of any wine. It is also rich in anthocyanins (commonly found in berries), which are naturally occurring compounds with antioxidant effects as well.

Get some sun

The people of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica know a thing or two about living past a 100-years-old, with many still working into their late nineties and saying it gives them 'purpose in life’. They also seem to have found the perfect balance of getting a sensible amount of sun ever day. Covered by dry farmland and lush rainforest, this Caribbean hotspot has a tropical climate that gives just the right amount of sun exposure to Nicoyan locals who enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle, helping their bodies produce Vitamin D for strong bones, healthy body function, as well as fighting osteoporosis and heart disease – all components that aid longevity.

Stay social  

From the Seventh Day Adventists of Loma Linda in California to the Greek population of Ikaria, those living in the five Blue Zones have strong community at their heart and hold the importance of social interaction in high esteem. Family values extend to grandparents and grandchildren living in the same home in many of these areas and socialising is so important that in many of these communities people meet every evening with friends and neighbours. New research from the University of Lethbridge’s Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience says positive social interactions can be an antidote to stress and, on a biological level, boost levels of the bonding hormone oxytocin. They also found a positive link in the biological correlation between oxytocin and longer lifespan: concluding that face-to-face interactions and physical contact, such as hand shaking and hugging, as necessary for human well-being and long-term health.

Every one of these Blue Zones areas has the following two things in common: firstly, that the people that thrive there have an active lifestyle, be that physical jobs, lots of walking outdoors or generally adding exercise to their every day lives and secondly, they live on healthy, predominantly whole-food based diets. A personal trainer could help make regular exercise and a healthy diet an integral part of your life: Book your free consultation now by calling or WhatsApping us on +971 55 542 7231 or emailing us at info@fitsquaddxb.com

Read next: Five ways to get the perfect night’s sleep 

Devinder Bains