Aging is part of the human experience—it happens to us all. The first gray hair, age spot or physical limitation—these are hallmarks of the aging process and often frightening reminders that our lives will, at some point, come to an end. Add to these aging benchmarks our youth-obsessed culture, and it’s no wonder Americans have mixed feelings about growing older. That’s what makes Bob Greene’s latest book 20 Years Younger and its positive message about aging all the more poignant. Most of us know Bob Greene as Oprah’s long-time personal trainer and frequent guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is an exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer specializing in fitness, metabolism and weight loss and has written numerous best-selling books on health and fitness including The Best Life Diet, which was a mainstay on The New York Times bestseller list for 31 weeks. The anti-aging topic of his latest book has been on his mind for more than a decade. It’s a distillation of scientific research, experience and the findings of some of the world’s foremost experts. This month, Bob shares what you can do to look and feel decades younger.
When we first get acquainted, Bob tells me about his five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. “I became a father at age 50,” he says. And I joke that he was really age 30, 20 years younger. “That’s right! Actually, that’s the whole premise of the book. The fact that I feel a lot of pressure to stay 20 years younger,” Bob says. It’s clear that Bob is serious and this quest to find what slows the aging process is highly personal for him. The exciting news is that despite our genetic makeup, our lifestyles largely determine our aging process, and Bob has narrowed the most profound areas of impact down to four categories or “pillars”: exercise, nutrition, skin care and sleep. He also mentions a fifth element, which has more to do with outlook—having a positive view of life and aging. “A healthy outlook is very important,” Bob says. And there are a number of healthy actions one can take to further support the four pillars. For example, Bob has found infrared sauna to be a helpful tool that can complement your workout.
When it comes to looking and feeling younger, exercise is number one. The research shows that exercise helps maintain and improve cognitive function and supports immune and cardiovascular health. “We really are built to move,’’ Bob says simply. He explains that most of the diseases we struggle with today, if not all, have a component that is hypokinetic. That is, diseases are accelerated when the body does not get enough physical activity. “Nothing ages us faster than disease for the most part,” he explains. Aerobic and strengthening exercises on a regular basis are your best weapons against aging. He cites many studies that show the cognitive enhancement that results from aerobic exercise, no matter the age. Metabolism, immune function and cardiovascular health are all positively affected by exercise. And if you need help maintaining an exercise routine, full spectrum infrared sauna can be helpful. The infrared spectrum consists of near, mid and far wavelengths. The near infrared wavelength is designed to help speed up muscle recovery, which can help you from missing workouts. As a daily exerciser for his entire adult life, Bob is a walking, breathing example of a man who has a physiological age of a man 20 years his junior. Let his success serve as inspiration!
When put in the context of aging and taken out of the context of dieting and weight loss, what you choose to eat takes on an entirely new meaning. The 20 Years Younger program emphasizes foods that slow or prevent the aging process—lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies, herbs and spices, lean meats and fish, healthy fats and plenty of whole grains. “The program suggests eliminating the foods that really age us like saturated and trans fats, high-sodium foods, sugars and processed food,” Bob says. Keeping caloric intake down is important too—research shows that those who consume fewer calories generally live longer. Bob tells me plainly, “The more food, especially processed food, that runs through our bodies, the lower our life expectancy.” The winning strategy seems to be making the calories you do consume count by slowly replacing empty calories with more wholesome, nutritious ones.
FATS Quality calories include the healthiest fats possible as they are essential to our well-being. Bob recommends quality fats such as olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil and ﬂax oil. “These types of oils enhance our lives and make us satisfied with our meal and also bring us great nutrition. It’s an essential component to healthy living,” he explains.
Bob heartily recommends ﬂaxseed oil. Having a healthy ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids allows the body to operate more efficiently—having a poor ratio is a factor in aging. An ideal ratio is 1:1 or 3:1 omega-6s to omega-3s. However, Americans typically have anywhere from 16:1 to upward of 20:1. “Omega-3s have basically been factored out of the food chain. Animals don’t graze like they used to naturally,” Bob explains. Even the longest-lived cultures such as the people of Okinawa average a 3:1 ratio in favor of omega-6s. Flaxseed offers a great way for people to get omega-3 essential fatty acids into their diet. He says, “As much as we are told to eat fish for their omega-3 content, the quality of fish has deteriorated. Flaxseed oil and ground ﬂaxseed are extremely important and essential if you are a vegetarian.”
While Bob has developed extremely healthy habits in terms of exercise and nutrition throughout his adult life, his skin care has been lacking. He chuckles when he tells me that he grew up before the advent of sunscreen. And with very fair skin, he had noticeable damage from the sun. So he decided to go to the experts for solutions. Through a series of happenstances, he ended up in Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer’s office. In a short time working with Dr. Lancer, Bob saw a dramatic improvement in the health of his skin, and he decided to partner with Dr. Lancer for the book. Their anti-aging regimen includes daily polishing (exfoliating), cleansing and nourishing the skin. Pretty simple. Dr. Lancer has developed a line of high-quality skin-care products and Bob was so impressed, he partnered with the brand. It’s called Lancer Rx. “Each product uses the very best of the best ingredients. I don’t put my name on or endorse anything that I don’t think is the best,” Bob says. The AM/PM Nourishing treatment is a potent, anti-aging treatment supercharged with a multipeptide complex and essential age-defying ingredients. Of course, exercise, good nutrition and plenty of sleep—the other three pillars—affect the radiance of the skin as well. Some studies have shown that infrared saunas also help to improve skin tone and help reduce wrinkles.
Sleep is the fourth pillar of the 20 Years Younger pro-gram. And it’s another one that Bob has done well to maintain. “I’m vigilant about protecting my sleep. My phones are off at a certain time. There’s not one bit of light—I’ve used blackout curtains most of my adult life. When I went Chicago to work with Oprah, I lived in a high-rise and there was a doorman. If somebody needed me after-hours, they had to go to the doorman because my phones were turned off.” Bob consulted Dr. Ronald L. Kotler, an expert in sleep disorders, for this section of the program. Dr. Kotler recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night and, if you fall short, to play catch-up whenever possible. Going to bed and waking around the same time; turning off the television and computers before bedtime; avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or a big meal before bed; regular exercise at the right time of day; a relaxing sauna to clear your mind of stressful thoughts—these are all suggestions to ensure restful sleep.
THE POWER OF INFRARED SAUNA
When you are Oprah’s personal trainer and a best-selling author like Bob, you have access to the latest fitness and health technologies. Bob has chosen to promote Sunlighten™ infrared saunas because of their superior quality. Although Bob’s anti-aging pillars are in four distinct categories, he emphasizes how they are all interconnected. Practicing them all produces the phenomenal results the book’s title suggests. Regular infrared sauna can be a great support to any workout program. “Sunlighten infra-red saunas can be an excellent enhancement to the 20 Years Younger program,” he says.
Keeping the body warm and getting a good sweat are important pieces of the health/anti-aging puzzle, according to Bob. “I’ve always valued heat. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in the gym. I was the one who always ended my workout with a sauna,” he explains. Today, with technological advances and use of infrared heat, which warms the body’s core temperature more effectively than traditional saunas and without warming the air to uncomfortable temperatures, the benefits are magnified. “With infrared heat, I’ve felt even better,” he says. Infrared heat warms the body like the sun, yet it is completely safe. On the exercise side of it for adults, heating up the core temperature of the body is very relaxing. That’s a benefit that we know is there,” Bob explains.
Infrared sauna supports other program pillars such as skin care and sleep as well. “Northern Europeans know the benefits of sauna on the skin. It’s all interconnected,” says Bob. When infrared sauna heats the body’s core temperature, it also sup-ports the cardiovascular system, which increases blood ﬂow in the body and improves complexion. Perspiration allows the body to naturally rid itself of impurities and toxins. Detoxification benefits the entire body including the skin. “Sweating is a good thing—from sauna or exercise. I studied the benefits of sweating in school. The body can receive so much enhancement from it,” Bob explains. Stress is a factor in aging, and relaxation is the antidote. “There’s a relaxation benefit after you come out of the sauna. There’s the relaxation factor you get just from the heating of the body,” Bob says. This relaxation benefit carries over into sleep. Exercise (not before bed) and stress reduction are key factors in attaining deep restful sleep. And on a general level, Bob has found that warming the body with infrared heat can show relaxation. Infrared sauna is a tool available to help you look and feel 20 Years Younger.
In addition to the four pillars, Bob believes having a positive view of aging helps you stay, ironically, younger. “When someone asks my age, unlike most people who round down, I’ll round up. I’ve never had a problem. It’s almost like I’ve earned those years. I’m very happy about the aging process,” Bob says refreshingly. He points out that there are many positive aspects of growing older. As you realize you have less time, he believes you make more of an effort to live each moment to the fullest. He points to the Asian cultures that revere the elderly as an ideal we can embrace. And he encourages the beneficial relationships between old and young—the refreshing outlook younger people provide and the wisdom and experience older folks have to offer.
I must admit, talking about the positive side of aging, it just feels right to embrace it fully. People get more interesting as they get older, and elderly people do have so much to offer. They are like wise and wonderful old trees. And with the four pillars Bob offers—exercise, nutrition, skin care and sleep—and a positive outlook, the next 20 years are looking pretty good.
For more information about Sunlighten saunas, click www.Sunlighten.com
20 Years Younger is available online at Amazon.com and at major booksellers.
The editors of Healthy Living magazine recommend:
Barlean’s Organic Flaxseed Oil and Forti-Flax (ground ﬂaxseed), www.barleans.com
Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract, www.kyolic.com
Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, www.bragg.com
Article by Kim Henderson from Healthy Living Magazine 2012