Right Where We Are

Data from the National Vital Statistics System suggest that life expectancy in the US in 2020 was 77 years; currently the CDC reports that men have a bit lower life expectancy at 74.5 years and women higher at 80.2. Researchers out of Stanford and MIT studied longevity as it relates to where people live, noting that these rates vary dramatically across geographic locations in the US. There were many contributing factors to the study of longevity by location; however, the researchers cited previous work presenting that many predominant factors fell under the category of health capital including health behaviors such as smoking, diet, and exercise. They present that behavior is key, and those living in the identified less healthy geographic areas, often have poorer health behavior patterns.

Keeping in mind that it is not likely that we can move to areas in the US with the greatest longevity rates as a means of increasing our lifespan, we can create our own “longevity haven” right where we are. There are many areas in the US where movement out of doors is not accessible due to inclement weather, unsafe environments, or lack of green spaces. This is a serious challenge for those who endeavor to incorporate the baseline recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate movement on most if not all days of the week. If an inexpensive gym facility is an option for you, view it as an investment in yourself that has high yielding dividends in the form of more years of living on the planet. Simply walking on a treadmill, maybe listening to your favorite podcast, e book, or sermon, can have a profound impact on your short term and long term health and quality of life—it does not have to be that complicated to work. If a gym environment is not for you, we are really blessed with access to over 1000 exercise Apps that can be utilized in the comfort and safety of your room. Recent research found that those who utilized an exercise App were more active and more likely to exercise during their leisure time.

Beyond our movement patterns, we have our feeding patterns to contend with that similarly have a profound effect on our ability to remain disease free. Nutrient dense foods such as vegetables and fruit have long been recommended as immune enhancing food products that should comprise half of our plate at every meal. Once again, this is much more easily said than done for reasons of economics, accessibility, and convenience. One salient option involves incorporating frozen fruit and vegetables that can be equally and sometimes more nutritious than some fresh products, as they are flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness. Our freezer can be our saving grace as we stock up on these frozen options when they go on sale, and use them overtime in a variety of ways. An inexpensive crockpot filled with vegetables, lean protein, and heartwarming goodness is a timesaving and moneysaving option for self and family.

If you are facing the long winter months, lack of outside access, and high stress living that is indigenous to our high-pressure society, remember you are just a five-minute session of meditation away from de-stressing and refreshment. The data clearly show that meditation can reduce stress and reactivity, improve outlook and resilience, and literally rewire the fear centers of your brain. There are over 2,500 meditation Apps and a number of them are free--all just waiting for you to find a quiet moment pretty much anywhere (bathroom, closet, parked car) to treat yourself to a beautiful act of self-care.

Sometimes our circumstances can feel overwhelming, and although we don’t feel particularly well or like we are thriving, major shifts in lifestyle and behavior are out of the question—not to mention we are not moving to the areas in the country where people live the longest. What we can do is make small, accessible shifts in our behavior towards a celebration of self and life, creating our own “longevity haven” right where we are.