Time creeps up on us all, but while there’s nothing you can do about your chronological age, when it comes to your biological age – determined by the health of your cells, organs and blood – you really can turn back the clock.
A recent study published in the journal Aging found that making a few diet and lifestyle tweaks has the power to leave you three years younger in just two months.
“Biological age is very dependent on lifestyle but by making some changes to your sleep, exercise and diet, it’s possible to make your body years younger,” says wellness guru and nutrition expert Penny Weston, from welcometomade.com
“And you can make a difference no matter what age you currently are.”
A recent report found that fewer than half of those aged 18 to 24 get enough exercise, while less than 10 per cent of over 55s are active enough.
Everyone aged 18 to 65 should get moving at least three times a week for 50 minutes, but that doesn’t have to mean becoming a gym bunny.
“Walking for 30 minutes every day gets the blood flowing around the body, strengthening bones and improving cardio fitness, which helps heart health,” says Penny.
“Brisk walking is better for getting the heart rate going, but even a gentle walk is worthwhile. Cardiologists recommend increasing the pace then slowing down again to let your heart rate recover, so you’re not exerting yourself for long periods of time. Exercise daily, even for a short time, and it will build up your fitness more efficiently than going for the burn twice a week.”
Give me strength
“People are often intimidated by strength training but it’s very beneficial,” adds Penny. “You are making the muscle stronger and this can slow the ageing process at a cellularlevel, increasing energy, preventing injury and even helping with cognitive ability as it engages your mind while you train.
“The key is to find a routine that’s sustainable.
“There’s no point taking it to the extreme and building up muscle if you’re going to stop suddenly when you get fed up by the effort involved.
“Holding positions using your body weight, such as with pilates or yoga exercises, works on your muscles and core.
“The longer you hold the position the greater the strengthening effect, preventing muscles from deteriorating.
“Even 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference to your flexibility and posture.”
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We often receive mixed messages about how much water to drink but, says Penny, it’s essential for staying wrinkle-free.
“People who are dehydrated develop visible facial lines,” she says. “I always try to drink three litres of water a day. If you have to, set an hourly alarm on your phone to remind you. Aim for a full glass every hour.
“But stop drinking an hour before bedtime otherwise visiting the bathroom will affect your sleep.”
Ditch the diet
We’re always being told to eat this and avoid that. But Penny says: “It’s best not to follow any diet.”
She explains: “If you restrict certain foods, eventually you’ll rebel against it. Instead, try to make sure everything you eat has nutritional value. If you love bread, don’t stop eating it but choose wholegrain varieties rather than white.
“I love the Mediterranean diet, which is full of colourful veg and good fats, essential for fighting inflammation, which is the main cause of disease in the body. It’s also full of antioxidant vitamins, which fight ageing. But don’t see it as a diet, just follow the principles.
“Definitely try to avoid high-sugar foods though, as sugar really does age the skin. And aim for plant protein such as lentils and tofu rather than meat, which can be fatty and lead to weight gain. If you do want to eat meat, choose organic, locally produced cuts which are better quality.”
Sleep on it
“Sleep deprivation speeds up ageing,” says Penny. “Anything under seven hours on average for adults will make skin cells age faster and stop the body from repairing itself.
“Lack of sleep also means you’re likely to develop other health issues, such as Alzheimer’s, strokes and heart disease.
“Try to manage anxiety in the daytime so you don’t wake in the middle of the night stressing. Find a good bedtime routine and stick to it. Try a good skincare regime to relax you or take a warm bath. And turn your phone off an hour before sleeping.”
All in the mind
Stress can cause wrinkles to form because high amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone, break down the skin’s collagen and elastin.
“Whether work related or personal, stress can undo all the good work you’ve put in place, such as eating healthily,” says Penny.
“It makes you eat poorly and look for a quick sugar high, and can make you stay up late, making you lose vital restorative sleep.
“Try to put things into perspective and focus on the positive. Practise gratitude by writing down things you’re thankful for in your life.
“Meditation works wonders and you don’t have to sit in the lotus position for hours – five or 10 minutes is enough to reset your mind. If you’re busy, listen to meditation on your phone when you’re walking or drinking a morning coffee.”
“In years gone by, we worked 15 hour days and boasted about never taking a holiday, but it’s come full circle,” says Penny.
“People have realised self-care is essential – it gives us the contentment and strength we need to perform well in our everyday tasks.
“Find time to do whatever makes you happy, whether it’s reading, socialising or exercising.
“Make sure you are well rested, resilient and have the right sort of fuel going in your body, then you’ll be doing all you can to roll back the years, to live better for longer.”