The Secrets to a Long, Healthy Life


Happy older couple in carWhat’s the secret to a long, healthy life? According to a man celebrating his 100th birthday whom I saw interviewed on television some years ago, the secret is to “just keep moving.” It makes sense. Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion states that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion while bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. The centurion who shared his secret to a long life subscribed to the former element of this law. However, many people subscribe to the latter, and thus don’t live long and/or healthy lives.

I don’t know how to characterize the human resistance to the physical laws of nature. All I do know is that it’s is slowly killing us. Case in point is our seeming refusal to believe that Newton’s Law of Motion applies to us, even when confronted with the realities of our own lives. If we’re being honest with ourselves, though, we know that we feel better when we’re more active, and lethargy breeds more lethargy. In fact, people who have health issues including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer tend to benefit from any activity they get. Google it, you’ll soon see for yourself. On balance, when we are less active, we tend to want to stay that way, which can lead to weight gain, mental sluggishness, mild depression and more. Admit it, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s hard to determine which is worse in the U.S. (and many other places in the world): our increasingly poor diets or the decrease in the frequency of physical exercise we get. But both are epidemic in the U.S., and both can be categorized as inaction, or lack of motion. With mass marketing, high rates of mass processed foods being pushed on us, and the growing belief system that everything can be made better with a pill, we as a society are moving away from the very basic principles of free will, personal accountability and addressing issues at their root cause. It’s easy to do – everyone’s doing it, right? The sheer volume of people who eat what’s convenient, take pills to manage symptoms and walk around like zombies creates the illusion that all of this normal, if not downright accepted. We no longer can distinguish between the concepts of need and want. And who can blame us when the words to most fast food chain jingles are more easily called up in our memories than the names of the last three fresh produce items we purchased? Honestly, how did we let ourselves be led by the nose down this dreary, inactive and unhealthy path?

But, see, that’s still where the power lies: in ourselves. We have a choice, we have the power and we are still in control of our lives. The illusion is that external forces dictate our every decision, but that’s simply not true. WE LET OURSELVES GET HERE. And if that is true, then we also have the power to reclaim our lives and decide what they should look like.

If you need a few tips to put your body and mind – and your choices – back into motion, try these:

Plan, don’t react. We can’t plan for every possible situation, and we shouldn’t. Yet planning a way to address and manage the priorities in your life is an essential element to attaining overall wellness. Define your priorities and then make sure they, above all else, get the bulk of your focus and attention. In a short period of time you’ll find that you start reacting less to unimportant or disruptive elements that will invariably crop up.

Drink plenty of clean, filtered water. Seriously, it’s important. Our bodies are mostly comprised of water – it’s in our cells, it facilitates our vital functions. Just because we’re not thirsty doesn’t mean we don’t need water. So drink 6 – 8 cups a day (no, I’m sorry, coffee, juice and soda do NOT count). You will be dazzled by how much this simple act improves your health and well-being.

Be more active, take care of your body. You don’t have to join a gym or lose ten pounds in order to meet the criteria of being more active. However, you should add simple activities in to the course of your normal daily routine, at a minimum.

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Park a little further away from your destination (as long as it’s safe) and give yourself a little extra walk to and from the car.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • When getting up from a seated position, don’t use your arms. Instead, suck in your stomach and use your legs to lift you up.
  • Get up at least once an hour and stretch.
  • Do light exercise (sit-ups, lunges, squats, walking in place, etc.) in front of the TV instead of sitting on the couch. If you live with other people, invite them to join in.
  • Swing your arms when you walk. Seriously.
  • Dance. Yes, dance. Turn up the volume on your favorite song and shake that groove thang. No one needs to know, it can be our little secret.
  • Go for a walk – before work, at lunch, in the evening.
  • Watch your posture. If you tilt your shoulders back, tuck your body in and hold your body upright, you’ll strengthen your core muscles and improve both your breathing and posture.

Get enough sleep. This is the area of wellness that eludes many people. Sleep is tricky, evasive and one of the best gifs you can give yourself. Plan sleep into your daily schedule and always (and I do mean always) budget a minimum of seven hours for sleep – then plan the rest of your 24 hours around that seven hour window.

See additional sleep tips here.

Eat more. Yes, eat more…more fresh fruits and vegetables (organic and locally-grown is even better) and more lean proteins (think fish, skinless chicken, turkey and grains high in protein like quinoa) instead of higher fat proteins like red meat and processed, deep fried meats. That is, instead of the foods you’re eating now, not in addition to them (but you knew that already).


Without health we have nothing, so think of all of the simple actions noted above as an investment in you. What’s the worst thing that can happen?

Be well, and enjoy your long and healthy life.

By Catherine Mason 

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