The Lazy Person's Guide To Longevity

If you plan on maximizing your chances for super longevity and dramatic youthfulness, you'll need to put in a little effort... but not as much as you may think.
08/20/2012 01:36 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2012

If you plan on maximizing your chances for super longevity and dramatic youthfulness, you'll need to put in a little effort... but not as much as you may think.

For example, did you know staying fit is much easier than getting in shape? In other words, after some initial effort, you can slack off and maintain your health benefits.

How about diet? Slacking off here will set you back. But once again, you don't have to be a maniac. Falling off the wagon a couple of times a week won't kill you, but a steady diet of Twinkies will.

In that vein, it's a good plan to put in the effort on basic health maintenance:

The human body needs to be taken care of in a variety of ways for best performance over the long term. Exercise. Keep the weight off. Try to avoid stabbing yourself. It's a considerable disadvantage that in our formative years, that sort of maintenance just happens as a natural consequence of being a child.

But the additional work that has to go into maintaining health as an adult comes as an unexpected chore.

So: many of us get successful, then get fat, and then suffer age-related conditions more frequently and sooner... and then on average... die younger.

This isn't rocket science. Most people know what they are doing to themselves, even if they aren't up to speed on the details of the biochemistry involved. But the siren song of life in a time of wealth and plenty lures you in. Medical science will probably save you from yourself someday... but don't count on it for a while.

So maintain yourself. You stand on the verge of a golden age in biotechnology, one that will offer open-ended healthy, youthful lifespans to those who claw their way over the threshold.

Slacking on your health is turning your back on that future. That makes it harder for you to live long enough to benefit from rejuvenation biotechnologies that are clearly envisaged today.

So let's review the basics of the "Big Two," diet and exercise. These are the two most important of my 7 Steps to Longevity.

1. Diet. I have a whole chapter devoted to diet in my book, Smart, Strong and Sexy at 100?, and here are some basics:

a) Eat less. The average American adult devours over 3,000 calories a day. We should be averaging around 2,000.
b) Replace processed foods, soft drinks, sugars and white flour with fresh or frozen organic fruits and vegetables.
c) Limit or eliminate grains and dairy.
d) If you eat meat, make it free-range.
e) Eat at least 30% of your food raw, preferably more.
f) Fast intermittently. For example, one day a week.

2. Exercise. This is #2 in importance behind diet.

a) Ideally, get 20-30 minutes of high-intensity exercise, six days a week. If you want to train longer than 45 minutes at a time, lower your intensity.
b) Balance resistance training with cardio training.
c) The best exercise is what you are willing and able to do consistently, not what you want to do -- but don't.
d) If you're not one of those who train seriously to stay in shape, then pick one or more activities that you enjoy, and do them regularly. Those could be sports, active hobbies, brisk walking, cycling or even gardening. "Movement" is key. Maybe substitute the word "activity" for "exercise" if that makes it easier for you.

Remember, you don't have to be a fanatic. Have fun. Eat and exercise moderately today... and we'll see you in the future.