As a person who is of Sikh heritage, I have a soft spot for fellow Sikh Fauja Singh—also referred to by his humorous nickname: the “Turbaned Tornado”.
The 112-year-old Indo-British Singh is an international sensation for breaking age barriers, and his inspirational disposition.
Singh took up running after the death of his son back in August 1994. In the beginning, he started jogging as a way to help him cope with his grief.
In 2000, at age 89, Singh decided to start taking running seriously.
He suddenly catapulted to fame three weeks before his 101st birthday when he ran the London Marathon in seven hours and 49 minutes.
“I’ve completed eight other marathons in the past 12 years including the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which I ran when I was 100 years old,” Singh said back in 2013.
Singh is a huge inspiration to many around the world. He’s also a lesson in longevity.
What are some life habits people like Singh maintain so that they stay fit and age year after year and decade after decade?
Here are five habits they’re completely committed to.
1) They make sure that quality sleep is at the top of their “To Do” list
When it comes to aging gracefully, you have to start with sleep.
Ask Jennifer Lopez.
No one can dispute that the 54-year singing and acting looks phenomenal.
Her fans often want to know more about her beauty secrets than the secret to her success.
Lopez shares her beauty secrets with her 235 million followers on Instagram now and again.
One piece of beauty advice was devoted to her beauty sleep.
“As I slept more and took care of myself, I realized it was about pro-living versus anti-aging,” she said.
“Sometimes I wake up and say, ‘Wow! I just lost 10 years off my face!’ That’s what a good night’s sleep can do for you, and it accumulates over time. So go get your sleep!”
Experts around the world can confirm what Lopez is saying.
Researchers in Sweden asked a study group to look at pictures of sleep-starved people vs. ones who had eight hours. “The well-rested people seemed healthier, less tired—and more attractive.”
Stephanie S. Gardner, MD says that sleep is critical for the body to repair itself and recharge.
“A lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your skin in particular, including: hanging eyelids, swollen eyes, dark under eye circles, paler skin, more wrinkles and fine lines, droopy corners of the mouth, [and] increased skin aging.
If vanity compels you to get more sleep, then we don’t think that’s a bad thing.
2) They treat their body like a temple
We all know in theory that our body is a temple: that if we nourish and take care of it, it will do the same for us—especially as we age.
“Viewing my body as a temple is something I have absolutely no problem doing, but treating it as such is much more difficult,” says Shannon Ables from The Simply Luxurious Life.
“However, as I get older, I become more and more appreciative of what my body can do for me and because of this I am reminded of why—proper maintenance, regular attention, and discipline—are so important.”
While it’s true that you are what you eat, that doesn’t mean that you have to change your diet all at once, says the team at FamilyDoctorOrg.
“Try making one small change at a time. For example, instead of eating two slices of white toast for breakfast, replace one of them with a slice of whole grain bread. If you drink orange juice every day, eat an orange three days a week instead. Eat whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice.”
It’s all about substituting healthy alternatives like low-fat popcorn instead of potato chips.
Experts say that fiber is especially important to incorporate into our diet as we age.
“[Fiber] helps with weight loss, reduces the risk of diabetes, pre-diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer. [It also] lowers your blood cholesterol level.”
The staff at FamilyDoctorOrg say that men over age 50 should get about 30 grams of fiber per day; and women over 50 should get 21 grams per day. Brand, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are all good sources of fiber.
Many nutritionists recommend the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. The diet promotes foods such as fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
Of course, stay away from sugary and processed foods as much as you can.
Last but certainly not least, get heavy-handed with the H20. Not only does drinking water flush out toxins, but staying hydrated will also give you more energy.
3) They exercise their brain as well as their body
We know that regular exercise can keep our body looking and functioning at optimal levels.
“Similarly, our brain’s cognitive reserve—its ability to withstand neurological damage due to aging and other factors without showing signs of slowing or memory loss—can also benefit from exercise, both physical and cognitive,” says Samuel Mackenzie, MD, PhD.
Mackenzie adds that just as weight workouts add lean muscle to your body and help you retain muscle in your later years, “targeted brain exercises may help increase your brain’s cognitive reserve.”
So what are some of these brain exercises?
Mackenzie says that one thing you can do on the regular is to test your recall.
“Make a list—grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind—and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall.”
Mackenzie recommends making the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation.
Doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language or musical instrument can really keep your mental game strong.
Some brain activities to engage in while working out could be incorporating fun brain stimulating games on listening to informative podcasts whenever you go for a walk, for example.
But if these things seem like a bit of a stretch—at least for right now—things like taking a different route home from work regularly or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand can also be effective.
4) They also listen to what their body is trying to tell them
Tuning into our physical and emotional feelings is something most of us are “too busy” to do in our day and age.
Men are especially guilty of neglecting what their body is trying to tell them, says Dr. Martin Miner.
“Becoming acutely aware of your own physical and emotional feelings is something many men neglect to do, and it has a negative impact on their health as they age,” says Michael Wood, CSCS.
“Take command of your feelings and life, and learn to take actions that steer the ship the way you want to go.
This includes going to see your doctor or other health care professional even when you’re not feeling sick, says Michael Wood, CSCS.
“Seeing a doctor regularly can help a doctor find problems early or even before they start,” he says.
5) They work at their social game
I have an older journalist acquaintance who has said on social media that she has made a couple of now-close friends from the Pilates class she has been participating in for the past couple of years.
She says the class also helps her get some much-needed socialization because she works from home, and her husband, also a journalist, has a demanding career that takes up a lot of his time.
She also hosts tea parties every couple of months and gets her good china set out.
As we age, paying attention to our friendships and our social calendar is just as important as taking vitamins or signing up for yoga classes, says the staff at Wesley Life.
“Scientists and health professionals have only recently started to focus on social health and how meaningful relationships can positively impact health,” they say.
“However, this research is already proving how vital connections are, no matter your age.”
From the pandemic, we learned how many people had a difficult time dealing with loneliness and social isolations.
“More than one-third of adults over the age of 45 report feeling lonely, placing them at greater risk of rapid cognitive decline, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, and even premature death.”
Making new friends can certainly induce major anxiety.
“Most adults haven’t necessarily had to make new friendships, and doing so is not a skill that comes easily to everyone,” says the team at Wesley Life.
It’s pretty common for our social circles to get smaller as we age.
“Friends can strengthen our immune system, help us recover more quickly from illness, sharpen our memory, and even help us live longer,” says Bonnie Vengrow from Aetna, a professional health platform.
Friends can also motivate us to adopt healthy habits, adds Vengeow.
She tells the story of 67-year-old Marshall Cummings who, similar to my acquaintance, began working out with friends he made at the gym.
“One day, I met a man in the locker room who used to be a gymnast when he was younger and we hit it off,” Cummings says.
“He gave me pointers on working out, and one day a week we’d do supersets together. That’s when you do three exercises in a row without stopping. I also started lifting more weight because some other friends encouraged me to. I was lifting more than I ever would have on my own.”
Remember: The devil is in the details
How gracefully—or ungracefully—we age is a lot more in our hands than we realize.
Many times, it comes down to the seemingly “small” choices we make.
Reach for an apple instead of a slice of apple pie; go to sleep instead of watching “one more” Netflix episode; go for a Saturday hike instead of spending it watching the game at your local pub.
Treating yourself once in a while is a wonderful thing—as long as it doesn’t become the norm.
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