Bingeing on your favorite shows
Calling all House of Cards fans—your love for TV marathons may chip away at your brain. According to a study published in a 2016 issue of Neurology, a lack of physical activity during middle age has been linked to a smaller mind later in life. "We found a direct correlation in our study between poor fitness and brain volume decades later, which indicates accelerated brain aging," said study author Nicole Spartano, PhD, with Boston University School of Medicine in Boston. Similar research recently published in JAMA Psychiatry discovered that large amounts of television viewing and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with a decline in cognitive function during midlife. On the other hand, these weird brain exercises might make you sharper.
Depriving yourself of sleep
Beauty sleep is a real thing, according to science. Physician-scientists at University Hospitals Case Medical Center gathered 60 women between the ages of 30 and 49; half of the volunteers fell into the “poor quality sleep” category. The ladies who snagged less slumber showed increased signs of skin aging, including fine lines, uneven pigmentation, slackening of skin, and reduced elasticity. “Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerated skin aging,” said lead study investigator Elma Baron, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. These are the morning routines of people with great skin.
Being too inactive day and night
In Australia’s largest ongoing study of healthy aging, researchers analyzed the lifestyle behaviors of more than 230,000 participants. They concluded that sleeping too much (more than nine hours per night), sitting too much (more than seven hours a day) and not working out enough (less than 150 minutes a week) can quadruple someone’s risk of dying prematurely. “Our study shows that we should really be taking these behaviors together as seriously as we do other risk factors such as levels of drinking and unhealthy eating patterns,” said lead author Dr. Melody Ding, senior research fellow at the School of Public Health from the University of Sydney.
Thinking 'old' thoughts
“The number one thing that can age someone—and the studies support this—is feeling old,” says Robi Ludwig, PsyD, author of Your Best Age is Now. “When we feel younger, we’re more hopeful, we have more productive workouts, and we’re more in touch with the possibilities life has to offer, which makes us more optimistic.” In fact, a 2016 study in Health Psychology concluded that people who feel older than their actual age are more than likely to be hospitalized. “The younger we can feel, the better it is for us,” adds Ludwig. These are the daily habits of people who act younger than their age.
Blowing off meditation
Quieting the mind has major anti-aging benefits. Study experts from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center found that people who meditate had a larger volume of gray matter in the brain—the area responsible for memory, emotions, seeing, hearing, speech, impulse control, and decision making. Previous work from the same researchers indicated that those who meditate have stronger connections between the brain regions and show less brain deterioration.
Sleeping on your back or belly
Snoozing on your side—also know as the lateral position—seems to be associated with a lower risk of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A group of international scientists observed that when rats snoozed on their side, a pathway that removes waste chemicals from the brain worked more efficiently. Build-up of these wastes can contribute to poor neurological health; more research is needed to see how these findings translate to human brain health. These other sleep-routine tweaks can make you healthier.
Not giving yoga a try
Saying “om” may keep you younger longer. Study authors from Jadavpur University in India found that practicing yoga can boost the production of two hormones related to youth and longevity: GH (growth hormone, which produces new tissues for skin and muscles) and DHEAS (dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate, which is linked to the immune system and heart health). While these substances naturally decline with each passing birthday, the researchers discovered that volunteers who practiced regular yoga (six days per week) for 12 weeks either maintained or increased their levels. Namaste, indeed. Don't miss these secrets yoga teachers won't tell you.
Believing that “it’s all downhill from here”
“Assuming that your best years are over is a very dangerous idea—and one that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you let it,” says Ludwig. “You will seek out reasons that it's true in order to make yourself right.” We’ve been conditioned by a youth-obsessed society to believe that people of a certain age are no longer interesting or relevant. “But these are old, outmoded ideas,” adds Ludwig. “The challenge is on us to rebel against these myths.”