The secret to effortless ageing might be simpler than you think. While we all know that too much sun accelerates the ageing process, and a lack of (beauty) sleep can make the skin look dull and lifeless, there are also a few common lifestyle mistakes or habits you could be repeating daily, that are making you age faster. Steer clear of these, and you’ll be well on your way to slowing down the clock.
Avoid these to delay ageing…
1. You eat too much sugar
There’s no doubt that a sugary doughnut or soft drink wakes you up, but it can cause energy crashes and accelerate ageing in the long-term. In fact, sugar can be more ageing for the skin than a lifetime of lying in the sun, says dermatologist, Dr Patricia Farris.
How sugar ages the skin
“The link between sugar and premature ageing lies in a process called ‘glycation’. This chemical process happens when blood sugar levels become excessively high,” Dr Farris explains. “Sugar molecules then circulate in the blood and bind to other components to form substances known as protein-sugar complexes – also called advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs.
“These can be found in virtually all organ systems around the body – from the kidneys, brain and nervous tissue to the skin – and trigger an inflammatory response, causing tissue damage and premature ageing,” she adds.
Try to cut out white sugar, especially fructose, in all forms. Read food labels and stick to whole foods found in their most natural state.
2. Then you go on crash diets
Starving your body of essential nutrients and filling up with diet foods and empty kilojoules will accelerate the ageing process, not to mention weaken your immune system and contribute to dehydration.
“You are what you eat,” explains nutritional therapist and health writer, Ian Marber. Your body needs to get the most from the foods you eat.
How dieting ages you
Every cell in your body relies on a healthy balance of antioxidants and foods from the major food groups including fats, carbohydrates, proteins and plenty of fruits and vegetables to replicate.
To slow down the ageing process and look younger for longer, focus on nutrients which fight ageing, says Ian. These include:
- Zinc (found in seafood, chicken and oats).
- Selenium (found in mushrooms, Brazil nuts, seafood and brown rice).
- Vitamins A, E and C (found in many fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, avocados, nuts, seeds, carrots, spinach, pumpkin and tomato).
3. You sit for too long…
A study from the University Health Network found that people who sit too much every day, either working at a computer, watching TV or simply being sedentary, are at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and shorter life spans, even if they exercise.
How sitting ages you
According to Dr David Alter, the study’s senior scientist, “Despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease.”
This is because our bodies are designed to be on the move, constantly, yet our modern day lifestyles and conveniences don’t allow for it.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to reverse this trend. Simply standing more and getting up every 30 minutes from your computer to walk around, counts.
The trick is to find ways to move throughout the day even if you’re not exercising. In fact, scientists have determined that “exercise snacking” where you do three 10-minute bursts of exercise a day, can have the same health benefits as one long session.
4. Then, you exercise too hard
Exercise is one of the best ways to beat daily stressors; however, the type of exercise and amount you do also count.
When you put your body under stress through prolonged, intense exercise (such as marathon running) or you never take breaks between hard workouts, your body produces hormones which help you adapt, explains author and nutritional expert, Patrick Holford.
These include adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA. All of these work together to help us react to a situation with a fight or flight response – improving oxygen and glucose supply to the brain and muscles.
How too much exercise ages you
However, if there’s no balance between breakdown and recovery, the body becomes stressed. Prolonged stress through intense exercise can speed up the ageing process, increasing inflammation in the body, as well as a risk of disease and upsetting overall hormonal balance.
Patrick advises avoiding too much stress by taking days off between hard exercise sessions, as well as performing some daily deep breathing or learning to meditate. Yoga and Pilates are also wonderful forms of exercise to balance the body and mind.