Your quality of life is largely dictated by one factor: your physical health. And when it comes to building and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we all know that eating right and working out are more or less the keys.
But there’s more to being healthy than choosing brown rice over white and hitting the gym five days a week.
To take your health to the next level, you’ve got to think details, like meditation, flossing, and sex frequency (don’t worry: research says the more, the better). If you’re ready to live to 100, start off with these 14 habits.
Best Thing #1: Meditate
Meditation may seem like a passing trend, but the newly-popular practice touts some serious health benefits. Om-ing is optional, but regularly taking 10-20 minutes to unwind and focus on yourself is one of the greatest secrets to longevity. “Meditation is going to help with stress reduction, better sleep, lower blood pressure, improved immunity, and improved cardiovascular function,” says Carol Bailey, a certified health coach at the Eleven To Twelve Fitness Center in New York City. It’s also going to make you feel much better because you’re disconnecting from all the stimulation of life.”
Best Thing #2: Sleep
It’s no secret that most hard-working women are sleep deprived, but just because it’s common does not mean it’s OK. Sleep makes or breaks a healthy lifestyle. All that time and effort you spend eating right and working out won’t be as effective—and your physique will actually be harder to maintain—if you’re not getting seven to eight hours a night. Catching up on sleep on the weekends won’t work either.
Research from Rochester University suggests that insufficient sleep disrupts our brains’ ability to flush toxins from the body and as a result, can impair brain function. So, when you show up for work after a bad night’s sleep and you’re unable to focus on anything—that’s why.
Best Thing #3: Drink Warm Water With Lemon
What you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, which is why many experts suggest starting off with a big glass of warm water with lemon – and lemon water flushes out toxins and is extremely beneficial for the body.
Warm lemon water serves as the perfect ‘good morning drink’, as it aids the digestive system and makes the process of eliminating the waste products from the body easier. It prevents the problem of constipation and diarrhea, by ensuring smooth bowel functions.
Best Thing #4: Drink Green Tea
Drink more green tea. Just do it. Aside from water, green tea might be the best beverage for your body. Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that regular consumption of green tea can improve memory and cognition in women. Green tea is also credited with a host of other health-boosting benefits, like firing up your metabolism, lowering blood pressure, preventing bad breath, boosting immunity, and acting as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Best Thing #5: Floss Every Day
Flossing won’t just make your pearly whites brighter, the habit will improve your health on a much deeper level. “If your gums get infected, the bacteria in your mouth can enter the bloodstream and lead to inflammation throughout the body,” says Bailey.
Best Thing #6: Take Probiotics
Check in with your gut—a healthy digestive system is often seen as the window to your overall health. One way to boost good gut bacteria and keep things running smoothly: take a daily probiotic supplement. “Probiotics help with digestion, and they’re good for your immunity,” says Bailey. “Fixing the balance of good bacteria in the gut can even improve your mood. A lot of our serotonin is actually produced in the gut, so there’s a big connection between what’s happening in the gut and how we feel.”
Best Thing #7: Warm Up Before Workouts
Static stretching before a workout doesn’t do your body much good. In fact, research from Stephen F. Austin State University found that exercisers who did static stretching before lifting had impaired strength compared to those who performed a dynamic warm-up, a muscle-warming routine that includes moves like walking lunges and high skips.
Get in the habit of performing a dynamic warmup before any kind of workout and you’ll not only enhance your performance, but also help prevent injury.
Best Thing #8: HIIT Up Your Workout
According to research from Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Birmingham, high-intensity interval training (HITT) can result in the same benefits as those you get from endurance training—but you’ll spend a hell of a lot less time in the gym. While breaking a sweat of any kind is vital, HIIT improves your fitness while also fighting heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Best Thing #9: Avoid BPA
BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical used to produce many common household products, like water bottles and food cans. In recent years, the compound’s effects on health and human development have generated quite a bit of controversy, and for good reason.
Research has found links between exposure to BPA and reproductive disorders, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. While the FDA reports evidence on both sides of the debate, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Purchase typically-canned items, like tomatoes, in glass containers instead, and if you’re sticking with plastic containers, check for a recycle code of 3 or 7 on the bottom—those may be made with BPA.
Best Thing #10: Clean Up Your Skincare Regimen
Your skin is your largest organ, so you’ve got to take care of it like you would any other part of your body. That means applying sunscreen daily and being picky about the products you use. “Look at your hair and skincare products, and clean up those products so you’re not putting chemicals on your skin,” advises Bailey.
Check labels for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and toss products that contain these compounds. Sulfates not only strip your hair and skin of necessary moisture and protective barriers, but they also become toxic when combined with other ingredients commonly found in skincare products.
Best Thing #11: Wear Sunglasses
Slapping on sunscreen is incredibly important when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. However, it’s easy to forget about protecting our eyes. The only way to do so is by wearing sunglasses.
Remembering to throw on your shades every day will guard against sunburn, cataracts, and even skin cancer. Choose sunglasses with 99-100% UV absorption or UV 400, and maybe draw some inspiration from your 60’s oversize shades—the bigger the glasses, the better the protection.
Best Thing #12: Get More Fiber
Fiber is a key component of any healthy diet, and by now we’ve all learned it doesn’t just come from a morning bowl of Wheaties. There’s actually very little that fiber can’t do. A diet high in fiber will keep your body running smoothly for a long time, really—research shows that those who increased their intake actually live longer.
What’s more, a study published in Nutrition found that fiber may aid weight loss. Shall we go on? Fiber also regulates digestion, has been shown to help moderate inflammation, reduces blood pressure, cuts your risk for diabetes, and lowers bad cholesterol. And these are just the beginning benefits…
Best Thing #13: Go Green At Every Meal
If you don’t have something green on your plate at every meal, you’re cheating your body out of essential nutrients. According to the USDA, antioxidant-packed dark leafy greens may be some of the best cancer-preventing foods.
They also help with weight management and regulate the digestive system. If you’re short on time (or just lazy), try supplementing with a green powder like spirulina. It’s a type of green-blue algae that’s rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, iron, and beta-carotene.
Best Thing #14: Have More Sex
You don’t need anyone to tell you to have more sex, but it doesn’t hurt that research is piling up about the benefits of getting busy. Regular time spent behind closed doors can make you look and feel younger, reduce stress, boost immunity, enhance sleep and improve cardiovascular health. What’s more, a 25-year study from Duke University found that the more sex you have, the longer you’ll live. Girls, I think we’ve discovered the fountain of youth.