Although aging is a natural process, premature aging is a disease caused by a lifestyle of poor diet, too much stress, and not enough sleep and movement. Sure, we can prolong our lifespan by surgeries and medication but living until 100 while depending on pills and crutches, unable to enjoy life to the fullest, is not what we are after.
We want to be fit, healthy and happy until our last day, preferably without having to spend all the precious time and money on expensive procedures and products.
So, instead of focusing on extending our lifespan just for the sake of living longer, we are aiming to extend our health-span or the number of years we live healthy, fully functional and fit.
Our top ten anti-aging hacks
Here are our top ten anti-aging hacks that are science-based and either completely free or inexpensive. We have purposely left out the obvious anti-aging habits such as abstaining from alcohol, cigarettes and sugar, avoiding excessive sitting, screen time and unnecessary use of medication.
- Forest Bathing
- Cold Showers
- Collagen daily
- Get in the sun
- Stretch and watch your posture
- Exercise regularly
- Eat fewer calories and more nutrients
Let's dig a bit deeper into each one
Hack#1: Forest Bathing
Shinrinyoku (forest bathing) is a type of moving meditation where you let your senses to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of the rustling trees. It’s been incorporated into the Japanese healthcare since 1982. A weekly dose of forest bathing is being prescribed as a complementary therapy for conditions such as high blood pressure, insomnia and immune disorders and to speed up recovery after surgery.
Why is wilderness better than a local park? It’s due to a unique combination of factors in a forest environment such as reduction of noise and air pollution as well as organic plant compounds released by trees that reduce inflammation (the main culprit in premature aging) and boost our immune system. The benefits last for up to six days. So you better go hiking or trail running every weekend to stay young and healthy forever.
Hack #2: Cold Showers
Having a cold shower every morning and evening is the cheapest and quickest anti-aging hack. It helps to reduce inflammation and makes you calm but alert. This is because cold exposure stimulates the Vagus nerve.
Vagus never is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system; it connects the brain to the gut and other vital organs. It’s a parasympathetic nerve, which means it’s responsible for switching you in the ‘rest and digest’ mode aka calming you down and reducing stress and inflammation. The Vagus nerve also transports the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA from your gut to your brain.
Regular exposure to extreme cold (think ice bath, cryo chambers and exercising in the snow) will also turn on the longevity gens and increase the brown fat, a mitochondria-rich adipose tissue that’s linked to longevity and health.
Furthermore, icy cold water improves circulation in your skin, makes you sleep better and boosts your immune system.
Hack #3: Daily Collagen boost
As we grow older, our collagen production decreases gradually while the breakdown increases, which is why our skin loses its firmness and starts wrinkling, our joints start aching and we experience more tendon-related injuries, our digestion and nutrient absorption becomes less efficient and our bone density may decline. A daily dose of collagen will slow this process down. You need around 5g of collagen every day to see the benefits.
Beware of the main collagen slayers such as sugar, processed foods, alcohol, chronic stress, excessive UV rays and tobacco smoking. Unless you eliminate or minimise those, no amount of collagen supplement will save your youth.
Hack #4: Get in the sun
What? Sun exposure causes premature ageing of the skin! Yes, it does if taken to excess. However, never exposing your skin to the sun will eventually lead to vitamin D deficiency.
When you don't have vitamin D, it's pretty much like having an infection in the body. Plus it affects your bones, mental health and energy levels. Low vitamin D also causes muscle pain, bone and back pain, and extreme fatigue just to name a few nasty symptoms. It causes your calcium to be drawn out of bones and deposited in your arteries. So, without vitamin D, you will feel old even if you are just 20.
Hack #5: Stretch and watch your posture
We all know we should stretch to keep healthy and mobile and to prevent injuries but why exactly for anti-aging? When you sit in a slouched position all day long, your intestines, diaphragm and vagus nerve are constricted and can’t function properly. Without going into too much detail this often causes acid reflux, gas, bloating and constipation AND…it impairs your gut function. When your gut is inflamed, your body can’t absorb the nutrients it needs to keep rejuvenating and you start ageing prematurely. Moreover, a synthesis of many important anti-aging compounds such as NAD+, the so-called fountain of youth, depends on our gut function.
Hack #6: Exercise regularly
Sitting is the new smoking. Humans are simply not designed to sit around all day every day and one hour of a daily strenuous physical activity is an absolute essential to keep us reasonably healthy. Exercise increases blood flow, makes us stronger and mobile, and improves our cardiovascular health as well as mental health and cognitive performance just to name a few of the very many benefits.
Exercise also changes our gut microbiome and raises NAD levels thus switching on the longevity genes. The intensity, not the length of exercise is the determining factor in this case and walking around won’t cut the deal. We need to push ourselves regularly to achieve the required outcome – healthier, fitter and longer life.
How do you know you are working hard enough? Your breathing should be deep and rapid and you should not be able to say more than a few words. If you can chat, you aren’t working hard enough. You simply need to be huffing and puffing. This is the body’s hypoxic response that induces just enough stress to activate the body’s defences against ageing.
A regular sweat session will turn on the genes that make us young again on the cellular level. These longevity genes extend the telomeres, boost the activity of mitochondria and induce growth of new micro-vessels that deliver oxygen to cells.
Hack #7: Eat fewer calories and more nutrients
According to current science, we Westerners consume much more than we need daily. Besides being too high in energy, a typical Western diet is also low in nutrients. This imbalance between energy and nutrition intake seems to be one of the causes of the obesity epidemic and premature ageing. Let's use an extreme example of somebody who only eats packaged foods and fast food…This person eats way too many calories, which makes them gain fat but they also suffer from a chronic lack of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) that are only found in fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and other plants, meat, fish, seafood, poultry etc. Due to ingesting too many calories but not enough nutrients, nothing in the body works the way it should, which shortens both the lifespan and the health-span.
By eating less we don’t mean deprivation, malnutrition and starvation. We are talking about eating until you are half full and having breaks from food instead of constant grazing.
Studies conducted over decades since the last century demonstrated repeatedly that that calorie restriction without malnutrition leads to longevity for all sorts of life forms. Even just a 12% reduction in calorie intake over two years resulted in significant improvement in health, and a slowdown in biological ageing based on changes in blood biomarkers. Eating just enough food to function and stay healthy switches on sirtuins, the longevity genes. The residents of Okinawa (one of the Blue Zones) are a great example of this. Their diet is low in calories and high in nutrients and they are generally small and lean.
Eat less, move more!!! Can you eat whatever you want as long as you exercise a lot? Unfortunately not. As they say; you can’t outrun a bad diet.
Hack #8: Fasting
Calorie restriction and fasting are probably the two most tested methods to increase health-span and prevent premature ageing. We can observe this in Ikaria (another Blue Zone) where people fast regularly all year round.
It doesn’t matter what fasting or fasting-mimicking method you choose. Almost any periodic fasting diet that does not result in malnutrition is likely to up-regulate the longevity genes thus resulting in a longer and healthier life. You can skip breakfast or diner every day; fast for 16 hours and eat within 8-hour window every day (the 16:8 method); eat 75% fewer calories for 2 days per week (the 5:2 diet); skip food for 24 hours each week or do a water fast for one week every three months.
Hunger is good! Being hungry is necessary to turn on the genes in the brain that release the longevity hormones and turn on the longevity genes.
Staying away from food for 12 hours each night is not fasting; it’s an absolute health essential!!!
Hack #9: Sleep
Sleeping at least 7 hours each night is one of the best and most pleasant anti-aging strategies. We all know it but we often forget. Less sleep equals less time to recover and repair and less growth hormone, NAD+ and other anti-aging and cell-repairing compounds. Lack of sleep also negatively impacts your gut health and hormones.
Get your recovery AND beauty sleep!
Hack #10: Mindset
Besides giving you wrinkles from frowning, worrying will shorten your lifespan while being happy will lengthen it. Several studies found that an older individual with a more positive outlook toward ageing lived many years longer (up to 10 years!) than the pessimistic ones.
There’s also a scientific proof that our thoughts modify our gene expression and we can heal ourselves (or make ourselves ill) by meditating, visualising and by changing our thought patterns and attitude.
You are simply as young as you feel. Youthful mindset, mindfulness with everything you do and regular meditation will keep you young forever.