Chances are, you are not running two and half mile sprints uphill every day. But that’s OK. Because while exercise is important, there’s an even more simple way to stay thin, live longer and avoid a lot of the conditions that afflict people as they age:
Just stop eating so much.
It’s The Calories, Stupid
At first glance, research that finds eating less leads to a better life seems like common sense. Of course taking in fewer calories will make you thinner. However, it’s the sheer scope of the benefits that are pretty amazing.
For example, a 30 percent reduction in the amount of food consumed each day led to longer lives in many different experiments with lab animals that ranged from worms and rats to monkeys. In fact, the monkeys not only lived longer, they stayed far more active and looked better (less saggy skin and brown hair instead of grey as they aged, for example).
All of this comes from studies commissioned by the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
But there’s more. The monkeys in the experiment at the NIA – and a similar experiment at the University of Wisconsin - also had a 50 percent reduction in cancer and no problems with diabetes.
That’s cool for monkeys. But what about people?
A Very Brief History Lesson
In the age of fast food joints on every corner and giant pizzas delivered to your door – two things an alpha male should avoid as much as possible – people probably have forgotten that our distant ancestors knew porking out wasn’t a good idea.
In ancient Greece, Hippocrates was among the first to record the fact that his obese fellow countryman tended to die sooner than the skinny ones, according to the BBC.
They also report that in the 15th century, Italian aristocrat Alvise Cornaro decided to take in only about 1,000 calories a day. He ate a wide variety of food but stopped when he hit that amount each day. No stress eating for Cornaro. He was 40 when he started and lived to 84, an impressive number back in those days.
Point is, the idea of calorie restriction isn’t new.
The CALERIE Study
Those looking for more modern, research-driven facts can turn to the CALERIE study commissioned by NIA and run at Duke University. CALERIE stands for Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy.
Researchers cut down the intake of 218 healthy study participants, ages 21 to 50, by 25 percent over two years. Like the monkeys, the results were dramatic: those who reduced calories had an improvement in good cholesterol, a 25 percent reduction in the molecules that form tumors and 40 percent drop in insulin resistance. Oh, and lower blood pressure.
So exercise and eat healthy foods – that has benefits outside of weight loss. Even run uphill for two miles if you are that kind of guy. But if you want to live a lot longer, push away the plate sooner than you do now. It’s a simple move that could add years to your life over the long haul.