6 Weeks to a Younger You

Is there a secret for living a long, healthy life and looking fabulous along the way? Sure: Be lucky enough to have good genes. Never smoke. Don't gain weight. Wear your seat belt and don't text or drink while driving. Surround yourself with supportive friends and loved ones. Make lots of money. Oh, and of course you also need to eat healthy food, get plenty of exercise, and avoid stress. Easy, right? As if. We'll help make it more manageable.
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Week 1

How many times have you started a diet or joined a gym only to give up on it a few weeks later? A total health makeover seems overwhelming because it is. The key to long-term success is to take your lifestyle changes in small doses that are easy to swallow. "The most important tip is to start a healthy habit you can stick with for the rest of your life," says Robert Kane, MD, director of the Center on Aging at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

To give you a nudge, we've put together a six-week plan of little life changes that will tune up your body, brain, and spirit. Adopting good habits can set you up to stay energetic and vital for decades to come, says Michael F. Roizen, MD, a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board and coauthor of You: Staying Young. The bonus is that you'll also feel, and look, younger -- starting now.

Week 1 BODY

Step it up.

The Internet has made life easier, but sitting at your computer for hours every day isn't exactly a workout. In fact, a recent study showed that more than 80 percent of jobs in this country are sedentary, which has contributed to the rise in obesity. Little changes can make a difference. Meghan Baruth, PhD, a researcher at the University of South Carolina, suggests using technology to boost your physical activity.

How to start:

Clip on a pedometer or download a pedometer app to your phone to count your steps. Get up and walk around whenever you're on a call. At the office, walk down the hall to talk to colleagues rather than e-mailing them. Wear your pedometer all day and see how many steps you can rack up, says Fabio Comana, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "Then aim to increase that by 10 percent. So if you normally take 3,000 steps, try to get in 3,300 every day this week -- or more."


Brighten your plate.

Eating several servings a day of deeply colored fresh vegetables and fruits can cut your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers -- and can even decrease cognitive decline, says recent research. The fiber in these foods helps you feel full and keeps your digestion moving, while the antioxidants improve your skin. Try all the colors of the rainbow for different benefits, suggests Richard Flanigan, MD, author of Longevity Made Simple. How to start: Go to your farmers' market and buy at least three fruits and veggies you haven't tried before.


Get it on.

Having sex regularly can add years to your life. An orgasm releases chemicals that make your skin glow, relax you, and promote better sleep. Plus researchers at Princeton found that animals that have plenty of sex grow more brain cells. Well, we're all animals, right? So do it for your body and mind! How to start: Put sex on your calendar this week and keep the appointment no matter what. For more benefits, aim for two to three times a week, says Dr. Roizen.


Reward yourself.

One reason you reach for cookies instead of carrots when you're in a bad mood is that your brain has been taught that dessert makes you feel better. As you start to develop new healthy habits, you need to reinforce the message that going for a walk or eating fresh veggies is now the thing that gives you pleasure. How to start: Reset your dopamine levels. This brain chemical influences desire and decision making, says Dr. Roizen. So if you reach this week's goals, treat yourself to a new novel or a 10-minute chair massage at the nail salon. That positive association will help make the habits stick.

Continued on page 2:  Week 2


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