Living Longer: Role Models for Health and Longevity

Secret of Living Longer by Tom Venuto

As I was standing at the newsstand today, I couldn't help but notice the headline on the cover of the latest issue of National Geographic, The Secrets Of Living Longer.

As I flipped through the cover story feature inside, two photographs really got my attention...

"Who You Calling Old?" says the caption under a photograph of Frank Shearer, age 100, as he kicks up the spray water skiing near his home in Washington State.

Tom Venuto, co-author of Fit over 40
Tom Venuto
Also inside (and on the cover) is a photograph of 84-year old Okinawan, Fumiyasu Yamakawa, standing on his head in a Yoga posture. The story explains that this is part of his training for his annual decathlon (where his favorite events are pole vault and high jump).

As I continued to read, the parallels between this story and the findings Jon and I uncovered when we were doing research and interviews for our Fit Over 40 book were striking.

Geographic writer Dan Buettner posed the question, "What if I said you could add up to ten years to your life?"

Great question, isn't it?

The fact is, there are simple steps you can take to dramatically increase the probability that you will live a longer and healthier life. Lifelong fitness and health are not accidents. Genetics help, but lifestyle choices under your control are far more important.

Although the "secret to long life" still seems to be a mystery to many, the truth is, it's a fairly simple matter and more people are coming to agreement about how it is done.

In the National Geographic story, journalist Dan Buetter wrote about the research that has been done in recent years to uncover the keys to longevity in three of the healthiest, most long lived groups in the world: Okinawans, Adventists (California) and the Sardinians.

These groups boast a higher rate of centenarians and suffer a much lower incidence of degenerative diseases that kill thousands of people in other parts of the industrialized world.

Sardinia, an Italian island with a population of 1.6 million, has the world's highest percentage of people who have reached the 100-year-old mark. Five of the world's 40 oldest people live in Sardinia and some 135 people per million live to see their 100th birthday, (the Western average is closer to 75).

Comparing the Sardinians to the other two groups, there were many differences in backgrounds and beliefs, some as diverse as vegetarian diets to higher fat and protein "Mediterranean" diets. However, there were striking similarities across all three groups.

Let's look at some of them.

Okinawans (Japan)

  • Keep lifelong friends
  • Eat small portions (low calories/don't overindulge)
  • Eat fish
  • Stay physically active & keep working
  • Find purpose in life

Adventists (California)

  • Eat nuts, beans, grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Do not smoke
  • Observe the Sabbath
  • Have faith in a higher power
  • Strong social and family ties

Sardinians (Italy)

  • Drink red wine (in moderation)
  • Devotion to family
  • Eat high omega 3 foods (pecorino cheese for example)
  • Stay physically active and n ever stop working

All three groups

  • Do not smoke
  • Put family first
  • Get physical activity every day
  • Stay socially engaged
  • Eat fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains
So that's it? Those are the secrets to long life? Could it possibly be that simple? What about research in genetics? Haven't there been some breakthroughs in high tech laboratories? What about pharmaceuticals? Have any new drugs been developed that add years to your life without side effects? Isn't supplement science advancing by leaps and bounds? Isn't there something more "cutting edge?"

After all, you've heard this type of simple, "trite" advice since you were a kid; this is nothing new, so it couldn't be of any consequence, right?

Well, perhaps there is far more to it than these simple lifestyle factors, but while the scientists are busy in their laboratories looking for "Big breakthroughs" (which they can SELL for BIG $$$$$), could these simple steps be a good place for all of us to start?

Could we look at people who are walking, talking, living breathing role models of health and longevity excellence and simply do what they do?

Are you currently doing what they do?

  • Are you physically active - consistently, year round, year after year?
  • are you a non-smoker?
  • do you eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains?
  • Do you control stress?
If not, how could you expect the same results in your life, (unless you are one of the few lucky, genetically blessed ones?). In Fit Over 40, Jon Benson and I set out to do something similar to what the anti aging researchers did in Okinawa, Sardinia and California on an even more practical level and with greater emphasis on the important physical activity and nutritional factors which contribute so heavily to making you look and feel younger.

The simple process of "modeling" is the investigative tool that enabled us to trace the effect of longevity back to its causes.

Jon and I researched, profiled and interviewed more than 50 men and women over age 40 who had achieved remarkable health and fitness, often against incredible odds (such as terrible genetics, open heart surgery, paralysis, multiple sclerosis or diabetes), across a wide variety of demographics and personal backgrounds.

As in the three groups profiled in the National geographic story, there were differences in the role models we studied as well, but, again, there were resounding similarities.

Let's compare this to some of our own findings from Fit Over 40

What our 50 over 40 role models had in common:

  • Eat natural foods including fruits, vegetables
  • whole grains along with lean proteins
  • Eat good fats (omega 3)
  • Eat small portions frequently (5-6 meals per day compared to 3 large ones or skipping meals)
  • Stay physically active
  • Participate in some type of strength training program, most often, w eight training
In Fit Over 40, We delved even deeper into the lifestyles and mindsets of the fit and ageless. We discovered that there are numerous beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that are almost always found in men and women over age 40 who are extraordinarily fit and healthy.

I listed 18 of them altogether in my chapter of Fit Over 40 called, "The Excellence Mindset." Here are just a few of them, most of which, match up with the results of the studies on Okinawans, Sardinians and Adventists. (To see them all 18 of them, be sure to grab a copy of Fit Over 40).

  • I value and enjoy good friendships, and I will continue making
  • new friends
  • I have a strong sense of purpose and meaning in my life (I have connected with my core values)
  • I stay busy working or engaged in something that brings me satisfaction
  • I cope well with stress
  • I laugh a lot and have a great sense of humor
  • I let go of resentments and forgive everyone for everything
The bottom line, and grand conclusion we can draw from of all this is:

"Success leaves clues," as Tony Robbins likes to say.

It's not a mystery anymore - we already know how to live a long and healthy life: You don't need to dig through the latest research or wait for the next "breakthrough"; All you have to do is find and model real people who have already done it!

Longevity researchers have studied three groups of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, all of which have extraordinary health and longevity, and found that they all have certain things in common. You can duplicate these things in your own life

In Fit Over 40, Jon and I studied more than 50 exemplars of health, fitness and longevity and we found the same thing: Dozens of men and women from diverse backgrounds, achieved extraordinary health and fitness from age 40 to age 80+, and again, they all had certain things in common, you we can duplicate these things in your own life!

By studying what they did and duplicating it in your own life could you add ten years to your life? If you're suffering from obesity, fatigue or health problems, could you begin to feel better, look better and turn your life around, starting today?

Why not put some of these simple and proven keys to health and longevity to work in your own life - today - and find out?

Until next time, "A kent' annos!"

That's the Sardinian greeting (and toast) that means, "May you live to be 100!"

Article by: Tom Venuto, Co-author of Fit Over 40: Role-Models For Excellence At Any Age and Author of

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