Every now and again, a new diet or fad pops up promising to increase longevity in the pursuit of a happier and healthier life. But the problem with fads is they are shiny only for a certain period of time. By the time you buy-in and build a routine, something else appears promising even more benefits.
So fads works and fads don’t work, but maybe we should listen to the advice of someone who was actually a longevity expert.
Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara lived until 105 before his death in 2017. Hinohara, then the chairman emeritus of St. Luke’s International University and honorary president of St. Luke’s International Hospital in Toyko, had reportedly continued working just months before this death and was considered one of the pillars behind Japanese medicine.
The New York Times’ obituary ran through some of Hinohara’s ways of living, which promotes certain lifestyle choices that can be implemented today:
He imposed few inviolable health rules, though he did recommend some basic guidelines: Avoid obesity, take the stairs (he did, two steps at a time) and carry your own packages and luggage. Remember that doctors cannot cure everything. Don’t underestimate the beneficial effects of music and the company of animals; both can be therapeutic. Don’t ever retire, but if you must, do so a lot later than age 65. And prevail over pain simply by enjoying yourself.
Here’s an explainer on some of Hinohara’s philosophies.
Take the stairs
As time can be hard to come by, often that means exercising is sacrificed as a product. Even if you have ambitions of a workout out after the workday, you might often feel tired or too bogged down to mentally get yourself ready for a workout.
If that’s the case, start small. Hinohara was a big advocate for everyday physical activity and it can come with something as simple as opting for the stairs instead of an escalator.
“I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving,” Hinohara said.
Aside from the physical benefits of walking as opposed to standing still, studies have shown that taking the stairs goes well beyond just getting your legs in better shape. A recent study found that walking up a flight of stairs can boost brain health and even slow down brain aging.
Push off retirement for as long as possible
As Americans dream of the day when they can retire, Hinohara was an advocate for never retiring. Even if you want to, he said to do it later than age 65.
Why? Because you live longer. Here’s what he told The Japan Times in 2009:
“There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. The current retirement age was set at 65 half a century ago, when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68 years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old. Today, Japanese women live to be around 86 and men 80, and we have 36,000 centenarians in our country. In 20 years we will have about 50,000 people over the age of 100.”
He even suggests giving back later in life.
“It’s wonderful to live long. Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it,” he said.
Hinohara’s outlook could prove the way of many Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic has many reconsidering their retirement.
Keys to living longer
Hinohara knew one common thing among people who lived longer.
“All people who live long — regardless of nationality, race or gender — share one thing in common: None are overweight,” he said.
So what was his secret? Here’s what he said his diet was:
“For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”