There’s never been a better time than right now to begin to rewind your biological age – so that you get younger physically. Ageing is a phenomenon that affects us – as a totality. So our bodies, minds, emotions all age – but not at the same rate. However, each one of these disparate elements, or parts of ourselves, affects the others. For example, if you have an aged mental outlook, this would affect your physical body and all its systems and this would cause your body to age prematurely. Fortunately, the reverse can be true and by readjusting your mental outlook, you can have a profound affect on your body – and it also works the other way around – by exercising your body in such a way that you are giving your body ‘youth cues’ you can initiate a profound anti-ageing effect upon your mind.
My best advice to you – right now – is to engage in a little ‘mind/body gymnastics’ in order to re-set your mental outlook and I’m going to show you just how to do this by harnessing the power of summer to set a really effective mind/body anti-ageing or – as I prefer to call it ‘rejuvenation’ - campaign in motion.
Nutrition and Hydration to get your bod looking awesome – and your mind in tip top shape:
Have you heard the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, it is true – let me explain a bit further: It is crucial to exercise – our lives depend on it – but many of my clients bemoan the fact that while they absolutely beast themselves at the gym, they still can’t see any muscle definition. This is because – and this applies especially to us ladies – we need to reduce body fat in order to actually see the muscles that are lying underneath. There truly is no amount of exercise that you can do which will cause your abs to show, or your pert glutes to pop, it they are softly hidden under a layer of fat. So, while we will come on to the best exercises in a moment, I want to talk about what we should be consuming in order to actually look leaner and have more muscle definition – as this is what will help you look and feel sleeker, sexier, and enable your mind to function far better!
So, happily, the foods that we are more inclined to eat in summer hold the key. Think cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon, in fact the whole rainbow of colourful salad veggies and fruits. As long as you incorporate sufficient protein – in the form of pulses, tofu, tempeh and small portions of nuts etc. you will have no need to count calories – as this way of eating is termed “calorie poor, nutrient rich”, which means that you are getting enormous bang for your buck in terms of healthy nutrition, while consuming few calories. In fact, not only will this approach to eating help you to look and feel fabulous – it is going to be instrumental in helping you rewind your biological age. Here’s why: from an anti-ageing perspective, the approach with the best research and most compelling evidence is a caloric restriction programme (CR). There is now ample evidence that CR really does slow, halt and even reverse ageing. The latest and most compelling research proving the health benefits of a plant based diet is drawn from the Seventh Day Adventist 2 study which started in 1980 and has tracked over 96,000 people. Check out the website for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.org), which sets out exactly how to safely (and deliciously) swap to a plant-based diet.
Another huge advantage to eating lots of juicy fruits and veggies is that they provide tremendous hydration This is crucial for optimal health, but also helps to actually make us look younger, by plumping skin and getting rid of fine lines from the inside out. Importantly, optimal hydration enables our brains to function better – so that our thought processes are more efficient.
Exercise - mindfully
Lots of research points to the idea that all exercise, no matter what type, is more effective when undertaken outdoors. Summer’s here – what are you waiting for? Set achievable goals – if you’re unfit – walking is the very best exercise you can do. Aim for at least 30 minutes four to five times a week. This will help strengthen your bones, thus staving off and even healing osteoporosis. You’ll build muscle and burn fat too. Walking is also linked to improved mood and enhanced cognitive function. Crucially though, it is vital to also do resistance training – going to a gym is fine – but many councils have outdoor gyms and exercise equipment and this is way more effective. Don’t forget too that you can perform isometric exercise, which is an extremely effective system of using your own body-weight to load your bone and muscle. When you exercise, involve your mind – visualise the exercise, see your muscles working and getting stronger. By harnessing the power of your mind’s eye, you’ll gain so much more than you would if you just fling a few weights around.
Last but not least – get some sunshine!
Sunshine is vital for health – it helps to set our metabolic clocks, regulates our hormones and by reacting with the melatonin in our skin forms Vitamin D3 – a hugely important anti-ageing/rejuvenation nutrient.
Low blood serum vitamin D3 levels are associated with a variety of health issues that have a huge impact on the rate at which we age. These include multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancers – especially skin cancers. Previously, it was thought that sun exposure was the direct cause of many skin cancers but we are beginning to question this concept. Low levels of Vitamin D are found in people with skin cancers – even in people who had little sun exposure. This leads researchers to question whether constant over-use of sun protection is actually healthy – I believe it isn’t. It seems that the best ‘dosage’ of sun to get your Vitamin D levels up is about 20 minutes morning and evening without getting burnt. My advice would be to ask your doctor for an NHS Vitamin D test (it’s just a finger prick blood test). This will ascertain whether your serum levels are low, and if so, you’ll need to supplement with Vitamin D – however, make sure that you take D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the form that our bodies can actually utilise best.
Many people believe that they are completely defined, limited and even imprisoned by the deck of genetic cards they were
dealt at birth. You often hear people exclaim that because their parents or grandparents had diabetes, heart disease or some form of cancer, they would be likely to develop the same problems. It’s even worse when people discover that they have some genetic predisposition, like the ‘BRCA’ gene in women that may possibly cause them to develop breast cancer. This makes these women feel like they have no choice but to opt for some medical intervention that can compromise their health or be they may even be coerced into surrendering their vital body parts to surgical mutilation for fear of what “may” happen.
The study of how our diet, stress management abilities and exercise levels affect our genetic expression is called epigenetics. It is this relatively new field of science that clearly demonstrates that we are most definitely NOT at the mercy of our genetic inheritance and we can take steps – easily, simply and sustainably - to protect our health.
Diet and Epigenetics
Routine, healthy lifestyle choices - especially plant-based, whole-food nutrition, stress management techniques and physical activity can dramatically alter how genes function and may reduce our physical deterioration, and morbidity from heart disease, cancer, immune disorders, and depression while even slowing down the aging process. Conversely, risky lifestyle choices can ultimately promote similar disease and breakdown in different people regardless of their genetic backgrounds. Examples of this are the growing pandemics of obesity, heart disease, colon and reproductive cancers in Japan, China and other parts of Asia, which did not exist when those people were eating more of their ancestral, plant-based diets. However as these people continue to saturate their diets with more animal protein, saturated fat, dairy products and refined sugar - similar to people in Western nations - they continue to develop the same devastating chronic diseases despite their obvious genetic differences from non-Asians living in the West.
Remember: Research is showing time and again that a plant-based whole-foods diet is the safest, most health-promoting way to eat. There are plenty of resources on the internet that you can refer to if you’d like to know more about transitioning to this way to eating.
Stress and Epigenetics
Stress management techniques promote well-established epigenetic effects on genes associated with disease and aging. There are repeating units of DNA (telomeres) at the ends of chromosomes that protect and stabilise chromosomes and genes during the process of cell division and growth. These telomeres are like the hard cap (aglet) at the end of shoelaces that protect the shoelace from fraying and falling apart. However, these telomere caps shorten and are worn away by the cumulative effects of cell division as a cell ages and moves toward death. A good way of conceptualising this is if you imagine taking a photocopy of a photocopy – repeatedly - and how the image degrades over time. The enzyme ‘telomerase’ is responsible for the lengthening of telomeres when our DNA is replicated during the growth and repair of cells. And, the shortening of telomeres and a reduction in telomerase are associated with ageing.
Chronic stress promotes shortening of telomeres and a decrease in the activity of the enzyme telomerase. Telomere length and telomerase activity were measured in white blood cells of mothers taking care of chronically ill children and compared to mothers of healthy children. The longer a woman spent looking after a sick child the more stressed she was and the shorter were her telomeres. In the most stressed out women, their telomere shortening and decreased telomerase activity suggested that they had aged at least ten years more than the least stressed women of similar chronological age.
The good news is that the practice of even short periods of routine meditation and stress management activity can dramatically reduce the impact of stress, improve mental health, and reduce the genetic aging process. In one recent experiment, caregivers of dementia patients suffering with symptoms of depression had significant increases in telomerase activity following just 12 minutes of daily meditation for 8 weeks. This increase in telomerase activity was accompanied by improvement of mental and cognitive function as well as a decrease in the symptoms of depression.
Take home message: Visit RelaxationResponse.org/steps for complete (and free) instructions for how to do Dr Herbert Benson’s “Relaxation Response” meditation. It is the most thoroughly scientifically studied form of meditation that has been shown time and again to improve health on all levels, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – and reverse ageing in various ways including the lengthening of our telomeres.
Exercise and Epigenetics
Exercise creates an epigenetic effect with respect to our metabolism. This can improve both muscle growth and stamina. Exercise has also been shown to promote the genetic production of chemicals that stabilise telomeres and slow down the aging process. Therefore, people who exercise more consistently are more likely to decrease the shortening of their telomeres and have telomeres that are less ravaged by time and aging compared to people who are more sedentary.
In a 2013 study, women who participated in 129 minutes of exercise a week for 6 months, compared to women doing just 21 minutes per week, had 43 genes that showed significant changes. Three of these genes were directly correlated with an increased survival from breast cancer. Patients who exercised longer had a greater expression of tumor suppressor genes, resulting in more than a 60% reduction in the risk of breast cancer death compared to the limited exercise group.
Take home message:
Exercise regularly and mix it up: weight and resistance training, walking and mind/body work – including yoga, tai chi, qigong are all wonderful genetic manipulators!
Finally - Your genetic blueprint can predispose you to any number of positive and negative conditions and changes. But what you choose to do, and the environment that you create on a routine basis in your life, goes a long way to determining how your genetic background expresses itself and whether any of your negative predispositions become concrete outcomes. You don’t have to drown in your own gene pool!
Visit the British Society for Lifestyle Medicine (BSLM.info) for great information on all aspects of healthy living and holistic anti-ageing, and information about how to train to become a BSLM Lifestyle Medicine Consultant.
Meditation - one of the few PROVEN ways to protect and even repair & lengthen your telomeres (those caps on the end of your chromosomes that stop them 'unraveling').
Longer telomeres are associated with being younger - biologically.
There are many different types of meditation - and I do a mixture of these depending upon my mood - and what I feel I need on any given day.
I tend to gravitate towards Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditations most of all, although Yoga Nidra is excellent - especially of I'm having trouble falling asleep.
I also love to practice the Relaxation Response - created by the Grand-Daddy of Mind/Body Medicine, Dr Herbert Benson. I had the huge privilege of training under him at Harvard Medical School's Benson Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine.
Watch for meditation downloads coming to this site very soon!
How do you meditate? I'd love to hear what works for you.
Jayney Goddard is one of the world's leading experts in the field of complementary medicine and natural healthcare. Her passion is natural anti-ageing; Jayney teaches people how to rewind their biological clocks so that they are more resilient to the diseases of ageing. The strategies Jayney uses are grounded in excellent science and have been shown to halt and even reverse those conditions we associate with ageing.