Try These Health and Performance Goals to Increase Longevity

Sleep is one part of the Performance Triad and is necessary to perform optimally. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

Most people don't begin to worry about longevity until they feel the sting of a life lived hard. This is especially true for those in the tactical professions. If you plan to make the tactical professions (military, police, fire, EMS) a career, realize that you will be old longer than you are young.

There are some simple things that you can do now to help prevent the aches and pains of aging from catching up to you. Understanding what recovery means and the many ways you can help yourself recover from yesterday's and today's challenges will help you engage tomorrow's demands that much better.

Achieving longevity in life requires that you actively pursue recovery techniques that include the following things:

Nutritious consumption of foods and drinks

Nuts, fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of proteins and good fats (animal or plant-based) are nutritious and provide many of the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties we need to remain healthy throughout our life. Every meal you eat helps you recover from today's and yesterday's physical, mental and emotional stresses and prepares you for tomorrow's challenges.

If you eat properly and sleep well, that will cover 90% of your recovery needs in a day. The missing 10% can be achieved from smart training, stress-reducing activities and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Consistent and proper sleep and relaxation

Our number one stress reducer is our ability to get sound and restorative sleep. Deep breathing can help us metabolize stress more effectively, so learning how to breathe and sleep can be the gateway to better health and a longer life.

Deep sleep helps the mind and body recover from the stresses of life by releasing the recovery hormones testosterone, HGH (human growth hormone), dopamine and serotonin. For that hormone release to occur, you must be in the deep sleep phase called REM (rapid eye movement).

Physical activity that includes resistance, cardio, flexibility and mobility training

Consistently engage in activities that both challenge your current fitness level and help you reduce daily work and life's stresses. A program of strength training, cardio training (non-impact options for overweight individuals), and flexibility and mobility training cannot be neglected as we age.

If you want to have longevity in your job and keep the ability to move well later in life, arrange your training days and weeks to include these activities. Long-term consistency is what wins in life's game of longevity.

If you are aging in or outside of the tactical professions, check out some of the new rules for training in your 40s, 50s and beyond. Also, make sure that you get your annual health screening and blood work done . These tests can help you reverse what would be a near-certain health scare in the decades to come.

Control of body weight

Americans are overweight (and or obese) at a rate of more than 70% adults over 20 years old. Avoid too many treats and overeating. Most Americans can reduce their caloric intake by up to 50% and still not jeopardize their nutrition.

This act alone can increase lifespan and make living older more enjoyable. Face it, life is easier when you are stronger and lighter. The strategy is part portion control and part increasing your daily physical activity. As we age, you no longer can outwork your diet, and weight gain is much easier than it was in your teens and 20s.

Enjoy Your Workday and Life

Stress and anxiety at home and at work are our biggest premature killers. Attitude is everything. Find and keep relationships with like-minded people who enjoy stress-relieving and healthy activities such as fun social gathering, exercise and hobbies.

Finding ways to enjoy your work life is easier said than done. If you know you are unhappy with what you are doing, find other activities that make you happy and more fulfilled with your life. These could be fun hobbies with family and friends or giving time to charitable organizations.

Be on the lookout for training or a new job opening. That change is going to be life-changing for you and your ability to reduce stress and recover from life shortening stress levels. Things that give you hope and an optimistic view of the future are critical at some point to reducing this major stressor we all have in our lives.

Here is a valuable list of potential bad habits to avoid, reduce or eliminate.

Smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs

Eliminate smoking from your life and reduce your total alcoholic drinks per week to a moderate level (1-2 drinks or less daily). Though there are healthful benefits to drinking a moderate level of alcohol, there are no moderation standards for smoking tobacco or doing narcotics.

One of the worst effects of being drunk is the fact that even though you may be passed out, you will not sleep deep enough to produce the stress-busting hormones needed for recovery of life and work stresses. It can derail your physical performance training completely as well. If you are trying to maintain a high level of physical performance for your job, this is a way to literally burn the candle at both ends by staying in a chronic state of over-stress and overtraining.

Caffeine to excess

Drinking coffee or tea during the day can be quite helpful with alertness, productivity and mood. However, too much of a good thing does not make it better. The very stress, nervousness and anxiety that you are trying to avoid can be enhanced by too much caffeine.

Caffeine also can affect sleep, which is our number one recovery tool. Jeopardize sleep, and your stress levels and inability to recover from prior physical and mental stresses can become chronic and extremely unhealthy for you. If you want to fall asleep quickly, avoid caffeine 5-7 hours prior to bedtime.

There are many ways to balance longevity-producing habits. When you are young, start off with a few of the above sections and gradually start paying more attention to more of the longevity-boosting considerations. Eventually, you will need to address all of the above to continue moving with any efficiency and reduced pain.

However, just because you are feeling the aches of a life well-lived now does not mean you cannot turn it around and feel like you did 20-30 years ago. You just have to be consistent with the above recommendations.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Show Full Article
Military Fitness