The 4 Pillars of Longevity (What the Books Don’t Tell You)

I’ve been doing a deep dive into longevity. 

As I watch my friends, family, and colleagues age, it’s clear that some are doing it better than others. Part of my deep dive is understanding the difference so I can pass it on to our patients.

And let’s be honest: I’m 52. That looks and feels a lot different than 32. I might be looking for the “holy grail” of anti-aging for myself, too. 🙂 

I’ve read the books, watched the documentaries, and scanned the research. Inevitably, the same themes come up over and over. You could easily name most of them if I asked. 

What the books never seem to tell us, however, is what interventions do the most for increasing your life span (or, more importantly, health span). Is eating blueberries just as important as daily exercise? Which is more important, your relationships or your cholesterol meds?

No one seems eager to say. Everyone is happy to tell you their seven things or five principles but will stop short of telling you which ones matter most and by how much.

In their defense, we aren’t entirely sure. Research is murky, and longevity is perhaps the murkiest. After all, it takes a lifetime to discover how long someone will live. Longevity research takes the longest of all.

But we know enough to make excellent guesses about what matters most.

In order of importance, the following four things are what you must do to age with as much overall health and wellness as possible. This list is in order. From most important to least. They all matter, but they’re not all equal. 

Here are the four pillars of longevity:

  1. MOVE your body. Every single day. This means daily ambient movement. It means weekly weight-bearing exercise. It means flexibility and mobility. It means getting off your butt every day, whether you want to or not. Whether it hurts or not. Whether you have the energy or not. You must move
  2. CONNECT to people and purpose. This means making relationships important and doing something of value. Continue to work. If you don’t want to work, then volunteer.  Don’t want to volunteer? Help out the younger generations of your family. Stay involved with people in a purposeful way. You need a reason to live longer.
  3. EAT whole food. You all know what I mean by this. It’s not rocket science. The simplest way to express this is to cook. Use fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, meat, and whole grains to prepare your own food as much as humanly possible. Eat real food that you cook at home.
  4. TAKE your supplements & medications. There is plenty of good research supporting the value of what scientists call “exogenous compounds”. Talk to your ND to see if any are right for you. Help your body do its job.

Remember, these four things are in order of importance. 

Ask yourself:

  • Am I doing it backward? Many people have their focus flipped. They want the pill that grants long life, or the superfood that melts the weight away, but they are sedentary and unfulfilled. You can’t out-supplement your couch or your unhappiness. Work from the top down. If you’re not moving your body, don’t expect your vitamins to save you.
  • Am I focused on just one thing? There is no single compound, food, or 10-minute wall pilates routine that can undo aging for a sedentary, lonely human who lacks purpose and eats the standard North American diet. You need all four things, not just one of the things.

We’ve all heard the stories of the 99-year-old who drinks, smokes, and eats fries every day. What I can tell you after over 20 years in practice is that I have never met this person in real life. The oldsters I know who have amazing healthspans do ALL four things every day. And they started as early as they could. 

Four simple things. One long life.