Wrinkle creams, skin perfecting lotions, enzyme face masks, eye de-puffers, plastic surgery: the list goes on and on! Without a doubt, our culture is bent on pursuing a life “forever young.” Every year, Americans pump tens of billions of dollars into the anti-aging industry.
All these costly products and manic efforts, however, miss the broader truth of youthfulness as genuine health and vitality. We’d do much better to focus on the habits that intrinsically accelerate our physiological aging (inside and out). No cream, solution, or surgical procedure will ever match the powerful and far-reaching benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
Check out eight ways you may be aging yourself prematurely along with the “anti-aging” practices that can reverse these detrimental habits and their time-accelerating effects.
You’re not getting enough sleep.
Getting your “beauty sleep” is more than just an expression. The amount and quality of sleep you get influences the release of human growth hormone (HGH), a key factor in regulating the aging process. Focus on getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to support optimal hormone balance and to allow your body to fully recover from the day’s stresses. Sleep deprivation is itself a potent form of stress for your body. We all know how much older we feel after a night of poor sleep!
Start tracking your sleep first, and work your way toward that 7-8 hour goal. To maximize normal hormone secretion, limit the use of blue light emitting electronics at least two hours before bed, and make sure your bedroom is dark. Try for an earlier bedtime as well, and be consistent with your “sleep clock.” Finally, avoid sleeping face down to help prevent pulling or stretching of the skin overnight.
You don’t drink enough water.
It’s said that roughly 4 out of every 5 people in America are dehydrated. The trillions of cells in your body all need water in some capacity. When they have less than optimal hydration, they don’t function as well as they should. Among its numerous benefits, adequate hydration can help maintain healthy moisture in our skin, making us less prone to wrinkles. (Water is cheaper than wrinkle cream!)
Start tracking how much pure water you’re drinking now. Estimate your personal water needs (half your body weight in ounces), and figure out how many water bottles you need to fill up each day. Start working toward that goal.
You don’t strength train consistently.
It’s a well known fact that as we age, we naturally start to lose muscle tissue. As we lose muscle, our skin becomes looser. Likewise, a reduction in lean mass affects our stature as well as our overall health and potential longevity. Prioritize strength training as a consistent part of your fitness routine to maintain (and build!) your muscle mass over time. Keep it simple with the basic movement patterns: push, pull, bend, twist, squat and lunge. If you experience joint pain, move to a more stable surface and change the tempo of your routine. Slowing your movement will help build joint stability and still deliver the full benefits of strength training.
If you’re just getting started with strength training, commit to a session at least once a week. Gradually work up to strength training 2-3 days per week. Balance your exercise routine with individually appropriate cardio practices, strength training and recovery time to ensure you aren’t doing too much in any one area. Speak with a fitness professional about individualized guidance or group support to optimize your program.
You’re eating too much sugar.
Our diets have an enormous impact on the way we look as well as feel. High sugar intake is a key dietary culprit in how we age on the inside and outside. Elevated glucose not only negatively impacts our energy, body composition and hormone balance but also increases rates of glycation, which inhibits the regeneration of collagen and contributes to the subsequent wrinkling and sagging of our skin.
Focus on a clean diet. Eat foods that support your metabolism and complexion, including whole, natural foods like fruits and vegetables, high quality animal protein, and essential fats from foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
You’re not managing your stress.
Stress can age us quickly! I always use the examples of the American presidents. If you compare photos of them before they serve their term(s) and those taken after their term(s), you’ll notice a huge change over the course of 4-8 years! We can’t always avoid stress, but we can learn how to manage stress better. In doing so, we will decrease the impact that the catabolic stress hormone, cortisol, can have on our bodies and our looks.
Take time to meditate. Get massages. Practice self-care, and identify what helps you to de-stress the most. Learn to effectively communicate with others and to accept when you can’t control given circumstances in your life or work. The more you learn to let things go, the less stressed you’ll be.
You’re not detoxifying.
We are all overly exposed to toxins each and every day through our environments, diets, cosmetics, household products, etc. Although we have internal organs that support detoxification, our toxin loads have become so high that we routinely overtax these organs. You can support natural detoxification through a clean diet, lymphatic massage and sauna time. For intensive detoxification support, which can kick-start weight loss as well as enhance overall health, talk with a dietitian about Life Time’s D.TOX program.
Try a dry sauna if you haven’t before. Spend up to 15 minutes at a time, a few times each week to support full body detoxification. Use the opportunity to relax your mind. Meditate or just enjoy some quiet time. You may find that using the sauna becomes an effective stress management strategy!
You’re too sedentary.
Movement is essential for maintaining and optimizing your body’s metabolic functioning. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean having a great workout first thing in the morning. It means moving as much as possible throughout the day. When you sit for an extended period of time, your body actually starts to grow “fuzz” in between your muscles that makes it harder to move out of that position. Think of when you wake up or when you’re fresh out of a cast after an injury. The same principle holds for sedentary living. Remember, sitting is the new smoking!
Start tracking your steps to get a feel for how much you move every day. A pedometer can be a great tool to assist you with this. Your end goal should be 10,000 steps per day. If you find yourself far from that number, break down your goal and gradually increase your steps each week to make it more achievable. Plan breaks during your day to get up and walk!
You’re not focused on prevention.
Instead of spending money on products that are focused on external “fixes” and that are filled with toxins, know that effective anti-aging efforts begin internally. Hormones, stress and toxicity all affect the rate of aging. One significant and cost-effective measure would be to assess your metabolism and hormone levels by getting comprehensive blood testing done. In doing so, you can identify imbalances and then direct your time and effort focusing on these areas in both your lifestyle changes and your health care.
Knowing the state of your personal health is the best “first” step in preventing accelerated aging. I recommend getting basic blood work done at least once a year. A great test would look at all areas of metabolism including thyroid balance, glucose and insulin, inflammation, stress hormones, sex hormones and detoxification measures. All of these areas are part of the Longevity and Vitality labs – our most comprehensive blood panel for both members and nonmembers.
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