Help Your Kids Live Longer Healthier Lives

The secret to a longer, healthier life is out. It’s maddeningly simple. Eat less, exercise more.

Study after study confirms that low-calorie diets and active lifestyles not only prevent medical problems ranging from heart failure to cancer, they also extend lifespans.

That’s why Christopher Westphal tells his friends, and the readers of the Boston Globe, to stick with this simple formula to live longer. Westphal is a genetics researcher studying aging. He’s on the front lines of the modern medical search for the Fountain of Youth, and hopes to find it hidden in the human genome.

But the best modern science has to offer can’t compete with the advantages offered by a simple, healthy lifestyle.

The benefits of this lifestyle, especially the low-calorie aspect of it, are more pronounced the longer you do it. Note to parents: teach this to your kids. They’ll benefit most from a life of small meals and strong bodies if they start on that path from day one.

Citing extensive research on exceptionally long-lived communities like the Seventh Day Adventists and the Okinawans, Westphal makes it clear that time after time, the thing that helps people live longer and stay healthier is a low-calorie diet and an active lifestyle.

Yes, modern medicine performs miracles, and can snatch people back from the clutches of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Those are powerful weapons against mortality, but for most of us they’re not the most important.

Westphal writes:

For most of us, active lifestyles and less food will have a more profound effect than taking more medicines. Hard as it is, we should walk, run, and bike more, and reduce our food intake. The best way we can increase our chances to live healthy, longer is simple: eat less and exercise more.

For parents, there’s a two-fold lesson here:

  • Eat less, exercise more: Do this for yourself. Living healthier means you’ll get to enjoy more of your life with your children, and presumably one day your grandchildren. You’ll also be modeling to your kids that moving their bodies and eating sensibly is just part of what grown-up people do.
  • Encourage your kids to do it, too. Focus on family meals featuring simple, healthy foods. Encourage your kid to exercise with you. Go on family bike rides, or take a yoga class together. Walk to do your errands and shopping as a family. Make your active life part of your family life.

There’s been some backlash to the focus on childhood obesity recently, from writers rightly concerned about the impact on children’s (and parents’) self-esteem if they fall short of their “ideal” weight. This isn’t about weight or looks, at all. It’s about health. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but eating less and moving your body more really are the closest thing we have to the Fountain of Youth.

Photo: Umair Moshin

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