Longevity Articles

The Ultimate Checklist For a Healthy Lifestyle

The Ultimate Checklist For a Healthy Lifestyle

Having good health is not an accident — healthy and long lives result from consistent habits, day after day. Even if your health is not-so-great at the moment, there’s always an opportunity to turn it around, no matter your current age. To start taking hold of your health and longevity today, keep reading for ten things to add to your ultimate healthy lifestyle daily checklist. Commit to these ten simple daily health tips backed by science and watch your health turn around.  

10 Things to Add to Your Healthy Lifestyle Daily Checklist

People who remain active with age, avoid diseases, live long lives, and generally have good health tend to follow relatively similar healthy lifestyle habits — whether they know they’re doing them or not. Follow their lead and adopt some (or all) of these lifestyle tips to start living your healthiest life yet.

1. Move Your Body

It’s no secret that exercise is good for us. From swimming to sprinting to simply stretching, there are manageable movements for just about everybody. The benefits of exercise are wide-reaching, supporting our heart, brain, muscles, bones, metabolism, weight, mood, sleep quality, and even lifespan.

Major health organizations, like the American Heart Association, recommend exercising for 150-300 minutes per week. But, recent research has shown that just 10 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity may be sufficient to experience exercise-related benefits, including the most substantial advantage — reduced risk of death. While the same study does suggest that exercising for 35 minutes per day is the most beneficial for longevity, aiming for just over ten minutes per day can be a reasonable and achievable goal.

2. Antioxidants, From A to Z

From alpha-carotene to zeaxanthin, plant-based compounds called polyphenols act as antioxidants, fighting oxidative stress in the body — the accumulation of inflammatory and reactive molecules that damage cells and DNA. A buildup of these harmful compounds significantly accelerates the aging process internally, in our innermost organs, and externally (think: sun damage and wrinkles on your skin). 

So, eating a diet rich in these plant-based antioxidants can reduce this oxidative damage and lead to extended lifespans and healthspans. Polyphenolic antioxidant-rich foods and compounds have been shown to support several aspects of health, including cognitive function, cardiovascular health, fertility, liver function, and immunity

Polyphenol-rich foods to add to your daily healthy living checklist include berries, leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, herbs and spices, extra-virgin olive oil, dark chocolate, beans, beets, green tea, coffee, and red wine. Some of the antioxidants found in these foods and beverages include resveratrol (red grapes and wine), curcumin (turmeric), quercetin (apples and onions), anthocyanins (berries), sulforaphane (broccoli), ellagic acid (berries and pomegranate), and catechins (green tea and cocoa).

plant-based compounds called polyphenols, act as antioxidants, fighting oxidative stress in the bod

3. Minimize Ultra-Processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods are often loaded with ingredients that are highly modified from their original forms — like fresh corn-on-the-cob turning into super-sweet high-fructose corn syrup. Highly processed foods are typically high in added sugar, sodium, refined oils, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. 

These foods, which commonly include snack foods, chips, cookies, crackers, desserts, processed meats, many frozen meals, and most fast food items, can impact cognition significantly and even shorten telomere length. ​​Telomeres are the protective "endcaps" on our chromosomes, serving as a proxy for how fast we are aging internally — also known as biological age. To support a healthy and long life, steer clear of ultra-processed foods and aim to consume their whole-food counterparts as much as possible.

4. Support NAD+ Levels

NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a compound known as a coenzyme, meaning it helps other enzymes function correctly. This vital molecule is needed by virtually every cell in our bodies, aiding hundreds of processes ranging from brain cell growth to repairing DNA to assisting mitochondria — our cells’ energy powerhouses — to generate energy from food. 

Essentially, NAD+ plays a critical role in maintaining cellular and metabolic functions, which translates to better health and longevity of our cells, organs, and bodies as a whole. But unfortunately, NAD+ levels are known to decline as we grow older, contributing to accelerated aging and disease development. You can support your NAD+ levels by adding NAD+ precursors like NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) or NR (nicotinamide riboside) to your healthy lifestyle daily checklist.

5. Maintain Muscle Mass

Most adults gradually lose muscle mass with each passing year — unless they work to maintain them. Not only does increased muscle mass strengthen bones, support healthy body weight, and increase metabolic function, but having strong muscles can reduce the risk of bone-breaking falls and premature mortality in older adults. 

But you don’t have to pump iron and join a bodybuilding club to support muscle mass — even small daily exercises can prevent the typically seen age-related loss of muscle. While lifting free weights or barbells is certainly beneficial for muscles, you can also support muscle growth with bodyweight exercises like push-ups (regular or modified) and squats or resistance exercises using an exercise band.

One recent study even showed that performing just one muscle contraction at maximum effort for three seconds per day, five days a week, significantly improved muscle strength. If lifting weights is not an option for you, adding brisk walking as one of your healthy lifestyle habits can substantially build leg muscle strength and endurance over time.

6. Hydrate

Hydration is a vital and often overlooked component of a healthy lifestyle — even though it affects virtually every aspect of our lives. Being well-hydrated can benefit cognitive function, energy levels, skin quality, mood, temperature regulation, digestion, detoxification, and joint health. 

While there are differing opinions about how much water to drink in a day, using your body weight is a good guideline. Divide your body weight (in pounds) by two, and that would be the ideal amount of ounces of water to drink daily. For example, a 160-pound person should aim for 80 ounces of water — with potentially even more if you lead a highly active lifestyle.

Hydration is a vital and often overlooked component of a healthy lifestyle

7. Shorten Eating Windows 

Recent research has indicated that forms of intermittent fasting are beneficial to healthspan — and may even lengthen lifespan, as seen in studies with animals. Time-restricted eating (TRE) is a form of intermittent fasting that limits the number of hours per day for consuming calories. 

While the benefits of shorter eating windows are wide-reaching, one stand-out advantage is increased autophagy. Autophagy is essentially an internal housecleaning and recycling system —  our body’s way of clearing out dysfunctional or damaged cells, cell parts, and proteins. A reduction in autophagic ability goes hand in hand with aging and its associated conditions. Conversely, boosting autophagy is often linked to longer health- and lifespans, which can be activated by periods of fasting. 

While the number of hours varies, a typical TRE diet may include an eating window of 8 hours with a 16-hour fast, whereas a more extreme version could be 6 hours of eating with 18 hours of fasting. At the bare minimum, to qualify as TRE, eating should be restricted to ten hours per day, rather than the 16-plus hours spent in a post-consumption state that is the standard of the average American.

8. Sleep Better 

We all know the acute effects of not getting enough sleep one night — irritability, mood swings, and low energy. But chronically poor sleep quantity or quality can affect more than just your next-day moods: it’s also linked to weight gain, disrupted satiety hormones (read: increased cravings and food intake), mental health disorders, poor immune health, the development of cognitive or cardiovascular conditions in later life, and even shorter lifespans. However, while adequate sleep is good, more sleep is not always better — these health risks increase both in those who sleep too little and too much. The sweet spot for snoozing seems to be between 7 and 8.5 hours per night.

9. Master Your Microbiome

Once thought to just play a role in digestion and absorption, the ecosystem of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts is now known to do much more. These gut bugs can be helpful, harmful, or neutral, but the overall diversity of our microbiomes can impact everything from immunity to cognition to weight to mood. Recent research also shows that having more diverse gut microbiomes is linked to longer lifespans. 

One of the quickest ways to alter your microbial makeup — for better or worse — is through diet. While high amounts of sugar, alcohol, and ultra-processed foods are known to be detrimental to our gut bugs, daily intake of fiber-rich, fermented, plant-based, and antioxidant-rich foods are beneficial to our bacteria. Probiotic-rich foods that provide healthy bacteria to our guts include cultured yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Another piece of the puzzle is consuming prebiotic-rich foods, which the beneficial bugs feed on to stay alive and thrive, like onions, garlic, apples, leeks, and less-ripe bananas.

10. Mind Your Mental Health

Protecting and nurturing your mental health is an often-overlooked aspect of living healthy — but it’s just as important as physical health. People with untreated mental health conditions are more likely to have poor cardiovascular and cognitive health, increased weight, and poor sleep.

All of the previous nine items on this healthy habits lifestyle checklist help support mental health — especially exercise, which has been shown to improve mood more than medications in some cases. Other ways to support mental health include practicing gratitude and mindfulness, doing yoga or meditation, spending time in nature, reducing screen time, or talking to someone — whether a loved one or a professional. 

Harness Healthy Habits to Improve Everyday 

The things we do — or don’t do — every day become our habits, which become our lives. People who consistently maintain healthy habits, like exercising, eating antioxidants, getting good sleep, and mastering their mental health, are more likely to lead long, healthy lives. Try working these healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine — and stick with them — to see if your well-being improves. As expert habit researcher and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, James Clear states, “Habits are not a finish line to be crossed; they are a lifestyle to be lived.” 

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