The desire for immortality is as old as we are. Look at Gilgamesh, the oldest story we know, about a Babylonian king trying to live forever.
If he was around today, he’d be frantically searching Google ads for everything from Peloton to essential oils. Or, he’d be investing in Big Tech solutions so he and Jeff Bezos could upload their brains into a giant robot.
Unfortunately, modern science says we’re not really any closer to immortality. Even though we’ve made leaps and bounds with cancer and heart disease, we haven’t solved them. Even if you can avoid these major limiting factors, the human system seems to inevitably break down and become less resilient.
The good news is, longevity has never been better understood. Modern science estimates the human body, in an ideal, semi-hypothetical situation, could live up to 150 years.
With our knowledge and science we can slow the aging process down, meaning a good quality of life is possible for longer than any generation previously. Look at Clint Eastwood, making movies at 91!
That said, there’s a tremendous amount of pseudoscience around longevity. What we’ll try to do here, instead, is to really focus on scientifically proven methods to live longer.
Some of these will not be terribly exciting, but they have been shown to work.
Exercise won’t surprise you as a tip for longevity. The minimum number is 5 hours a week of vigorous exercise. Almost any type of exercise here is good, unless you’re free solo rock climbing or wrestling alligators.
Swimming is a fantastic, low-impact activity while tennis, soccer or other team sports help keep you socializing (more on this below). It’s good to mix it up, vary your sports, and keep challenging yourself.
That said, don’t be too vigorous. If you want to be able to run late in life, daily sprints in bad shoes on concrete will end that dream in a decade.
Take care of your knees, your joints and your tendons. It’s less about kicking your own ass and more about doing whatever it takes to keep active.
Naturally, you should avoid sitting. Modern Americans sit for around 10 hours a day, on average. Try bringing this down to 4. While more walking helps, even a standing desk is better than nothing if you must stay in front of the computer. Keep moving!
Hopefully, you’re getting enough sleep each night. Even if you can get by on 5, make at least 7 hours a priority.
You already know most of this: more fruits, but especially more vegetables. A serving of nuts a day doesn’t hurt, and whole grains are good. A little bit of alcohol, like a wine, beer, or single shot every now and then can be good for you, as is a morning coffee.
But really, it’s the greens. They should be the bulk of your meals.
Many young athletes think they can eat and drink whatever they like as long as they keep working out. But this will catch up to you.
Getting in the habit of eating vegetables will serve you the rest of your life. To this end, the smartest thing you could do is learn how to make veggies tasty. If you hate them, you’ve just been cooking them wrong. Baking a sheet of veggies with some olive oil, salt and black pepper is ridiculously easy and about a million times tastier than most anything boiled.
As for what to avoid, you already know this, but we’ll spell it out. Avoid too much sugar.
Don’t eat processed meat. Don’t eat red meat every day… you’re not Fred Flintstone.
What this comes down to is what’s sometimes called an “anti-inflammatory diet.” The goal of this diet is to avoid creating situations for tumor cells to develop.
As for more extreme diets, there’s some research about caloric restriction, or occasional fasting, being good for you. The key is “occasional.” It makes sense: your ancestors wouldn’t always have a meal. Fasting can help kick-start your metabolism and maintain a healthy insulin level.
It turns out, when you feel hungry, you’re not always hungry. If you wait an hour or so, you’ll stop feeling so ravenous, assuming you’re getting enough calories per day. Though, if you’re working out really, really hard, this might not be smart. Try an intermittent fasting routine to see if it’s right for you.
Don’t smoke. It increases your mortality risk by up to 40%. That’s bad odds. Also, avoid tanning, or direct sun exposure without mineral-based sunscreen or shade. Especially if you’re light-skinned... you don’t want to be on a first-name basis with a dermatologist.
Avoid it. Meditate. Do yoga.
Whatever it takes to decrease your overall anxiety level in a healthy way. You should be making this as big a priority as exercise.
Though, that said, some stresses are good for you. There’s some interesting research about saunas, or hot tubs, and “heat shock” being healthy for circulation. But it’s not nearly as important as diet, exercise, and the next one...
This may be the biggest surprise. When you study places where people live to be 100 often, the biggest takeaway is how much time they spend socializing, especially with good friends. Perhaps they give us a reason to stick around. This is part of the reason why team sports, like tennis or soccer, are extremely good to do as you age.
Regular, constant socializing, more than almost anything, dramatically decreases your risks of alzheimers, dementia, or other mental diseases.
Now, this one might be harder than anything else for you if you’re more introverted. But it’s really worth making the effort, and simulacrums of socializing, like videogames, aren’t nearly as good for you. We could easily do a whole post about this, but look into local hobbies in your area if you don’t get this regularly. Everyone knows it’s tougher once you get out of school.
Well, that’s it. We’re sorry to tell you that there’s no magic pill... yet. But the good news is, all of the things listed above also make you feel good. Which is just as important as living longer. It doesn’t matter if you live to 100 if you spend the last 30 years miserable.
To get the most out of investing in yourself though, you have to start as early as you can. Good luck!